The digital age has changed loyalty forever as consumers discover brands and make purchasing decisions across different devices and multiple channels. The old way of amassing points on cards still has a place, but the modern marketer must think well beyond eventually offering some form of reward to their long-term customers.
These were the findings of a recent report “Reinventing Loyalty: Understanding Consumer Behaviour in the Experience Era,” from Adobe and Goldsmiths, University of London. With the study also providing the central theme for this year’s Adobe Symposium in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich and Munich.
The study proposes a the new “A,B,C,D” model that highlights how loyalty has transformed and what marketers need to do. Namely, (a)daptive experiences are essential for personalisation. Brands must (b)e wherever customers love to be, and (c)hoices must be filtered for them. (D)ifferentiation is a must to offer unique experiences that stand out in the customer’s mind.
Across the U.K, France, Benelux, and Nordic countries, attitudes vary slightly, but between three in four and four in five consumers reveal they are loyal to brands that can tailor experiences to their needs and preferences.
Adaptive experiences, then, are all about knowing customers and being able to treat them as individuals. It is about personalisation—taking what you can offer and building it around a customer to ensure the person feels like an individual.
The key is to do this with transparent use of data—a vital point for three in four consumers —so experiences are not only individual but consistent across devices and channels.
Be Where Customers Love To Be
We are all living busy lives, and so convenience is crucial in building loyalty. In fact, between 50% and 70% of millennials (aged 25 to 34) across the key European markets surveyed reveal convenience is a key factor in their purchasing decisions.
While marketers have often drawn up customer journeys that were imposed on consumers, digital journeys do not always fit the mould. Around 45% of consumers will take a week to research and pick out the product or service that they feel is right for them.
Hence, organisations need to be present on whatever channels and devices customers switch between to offer the right experience, at the right time, all through using real-time data.
Choices Filtered For Customers
Being relevant to consumers and helping them make the right decisions built around their preferences is where marketers now need to concentrate because digital has made it easier for people to be brand-agnostic.
The Adobe-Goldsmiths’ research shows around half of all consumers are confused by the amount of choice on offer through comparison sites, search engines, reviews, and social media. At the same time, around half are willing to try out new brands they have not heard of.
This makes it vitally important for marketers to act on data insights to ensure their messaging helps consumers pick out the offer that best suits their needs in a crowded digital marketplace. The scale of the task means it is an area where artificial intelligence is set to play a leading role.
Differentiate To Stand Out
Consumers are increasingly seeing their purchasing decisions as extensions of themselves, and so brands must offer a personalised service that helps them stand out from the crowd. The Adobe-Goldsmiths’ research found that four in five consumers reveal they are loyal to brands that offer “delightful experience.”
Virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence are warmly welcomed by consumers, particularly the younger and more affluent cohort. However, the researchers caution against using the latest “shiny technology tool” for the sake of it. All focus must be applied to building outstanding experiences across multiple touch points that not only offer customers what they want but also help the brand differentiate itself.
Technology might be so advanced that it allows a customer to preview what a new armchair will look like in their living room. It might also alert marketers to which offer should be emailed over to customers at precisely the right time to help them realise a brand truly “gets” what they’re looking for.
Artificial Intelligence Is Key
Of the technologies available to brands, it is AI that Adobe-Goldsmiths’ researchers believe will take brands to the next level in engendering loyalty in the digital age.
More than half of consumers surveyed were open to the idea of helping AI get a detailed insight into their wants and needs so long as it helped brands mould their service around them to make their lives easier.
The key attribute for AI is the technology’s ability to test creative ideas and messaging in real time and then turn this feedback into actionable insights that allow marketers to better serve their customers as individuals.
In a world where engagement between customers and brands has become extremely fragmented across a mix of noisy channels and devices, the answer is clear. Brands must learn how consumers think, act, move, and feel to understand how to best serve them as they navigate an overwhelming abundance of choice.
Throughout this new frontier in brand-and-customer relationships, one thing holds true. Customers will always be loyal to brands that offer them truly delightful, innovative experiences.
It is for this reason that understanding loyalty in the digital has become a true game-changer.