When it comes to customer loyalty, is the store keeping pace with online?

In the omnichannel retail environment, where digital and physical channels are interconnected, the consumer is spoilt for choice with where, how and with whom they shop. And their expectations across these channels continue to rise.

This has made securing customer loyalty significantly more challenging for retailers. Market competition is intense, and even a single bad experience can be enough to push regular shoppers towards competitors.

In order to cultivate customer longevity in this highly competitive environment, the retail loyalty market has exploded. In fact, market research forecasts that loyalty management spend will surpass $4.5 billion by 2021, according to ABI research.

But while investment is increasing, many retailers are finding their loyalty schemes are more effective in nurturing customer retention and spend online than through bricks-and-mortar. To redress this balance, here are some areas of customer advocacy that retailers need to perfect in the physical space:

Understanding the customer – and their wants

The customer journey has grown increasingly fragmented due to technology and as a result, shoppers arrive in store at various stages of their buying cycle. This means they will have preconceptions of their in-store expectations.

Therefore, retailers need to recognise the differing points at which shoppers visit a store, and shape their bricks-and-mortar operations in a way that addresses several needs. For example,  certain shoppers will know exactly what they want, and therefore convenience and speed are critical to conversion; others will require in-depth customer support and nurturing.

To successfully secure loyalty, the store must be able to bridge the customer journey, and at the same time, align with the interactions shoppers have experienced online prior to their visit.

Making each encounter personal

Hungry to feel a connection with the brands they patronise, shoppers increasingly want retailers to personalise service.

As a result, successful retailers are empowering staff with the tools to tailor customer service. Technology like mobile point of sale (mPOS) is enabling front-line employees to draw on information like purchasing history, stock availability and product reviews to individualise shelf-edge support. Not only that, but this data provides them with the opportunity to cross-sell and upsell, increasing customer value in the process.

Additionally, access to ecommerce data will enable store associates to identify frequent or high value online customers, and reward them in a more exclusive manner in the bricks-and-mortar environment. And given that Kissmetrics data shows that businesses with 40% repeat customers generate nearly 50% more revenue than those with only a 10% repeat customers, being able to recognise and reward these brand advocates is hugely profitable.

To fully integrate omnichannel loyalty into the bricks-and-mortar environment, retailers need to view the point of sale as a point of service – and use customer data to personalise that service.

Even without access to shoppers’ purchasing history, retailers can still leverage their in-store analytics solutions to identify first-time versus repeat visitors, if they are advanced enough to track mobile activity. This way, store managers can begin to identify trends around when loyal customers are most likely to visit, and can begin to market to frequent visitors in a tailored manner.

Creating omnichannel loyalty equality

The good news for retailers is that loyalty membership programs are growing at an annual rate of 26.7%, according to Colloquy data, so the appetite for advocacy is getting stronger. However, the recognition and reward of customer value must be equally balanced across online and offline channels.

The key to enhancing loyalty schemes in the bricks-and-mortar space is to understand shopper behaviour patterns, and have the technology to personalise customer experiences – particularly among high value shoppers.

This way, in-store incentivisation will move beyond giving customers a paper voucher at the end of their purchase, or putting generic loyalty points onto a plastic card in their wallet. It will begin to add real value and relevance, creating a much more compelling case for them to return.

For support with understanding your customers in greater depth, discover more about our ShopperTrak Analytics Suite.

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