In this heated battle for the consumer dollar, retail marketers are looking to establish a personal and consistent relationship with shoppers through integrated customer loyalty programs that leverage traditional offline and emerging communications channels. Not surprisingly, it can be overwhelming for retailers to figure out where to start.
The success of any effective customer loyalty program can typically be enhanced with marketing automation technology. Marketers tasked with gathering customer data must have an automated, centralized marketing platform from which to work — one built upon a central datamart where customer data and preferences can be stored, tracked and analyzed.
There are a number of prepackaged solutions available. However, the ideal platform should be equipped to work across channels — allowing marketers to easily coordinate with each other and subsequently tailor personalized campaigns that correspond to a customer’s preferred method of contact, be it e-mail, mobile phone or direct mail. Here are some tips on using this technology to your advantage:
Step One: Grow Your Customer Base
Without the ability to entice shoppers to join your customer loyalty program, you have no program. Start off by capturing customer information at the checkout register, asking for e-mails or offering store credit applications.
Once you’ve gotten shoppers’ e-mail addresses, send them a survey through which they can identify their preferences and demographics. This data can be entered or automatically imported into your marketing datamart. You can then start promoting your loyalty program, tapping into their preferences to increase relevance and reinforce the program’s value.
With individual records in place, you can add customers’ purchasing choices in real-time and build an active history. Each additional purchase will further clarify what these customers want, and you can react by tailoring your e-mails or text messages to suit their interests. You will appear especially innovative if you utilize multiple channels to push highly targeted promotions and discounts to customers. If your team has done a good job ensuring data is up to date, you’ll know that Jane only responds to e-mails with sales offers in them, and that Bob always uses the promotion code you enclose in his text messages.
Keep in mind your customers’ location: Advertising that your new store is opening up a block away from their house is bound to trigger some interest. Most importantly, follow up with your customers. If they’ve recently bought an item, especially if it’s expensive or new-to-market, employ your platform to automatically send them an e-mail to ask how they’ve enjoyed the product and how well they were treated at the store.
Step Two: Sell More to Your Loyal Customers
Once you’ve created and populated your customer loyalty datamart, always keep in mind these particular customers have a genuine interest in your products and have proven that interest with their pocketbook. It’s your responsibility to maintain their enthusiasm by continuing to expose them to campaigns and special offers.
For example, one worldwide retail beauty chain deployed an enterprise marketing platform to help expand its customer loyalty program and execute coordinated cross-channel campaigns. It was able to identify individual customer preferences and shopping behavior and initiate a direct-mail campaign offering private sales to its best customers twice each year, a tactic that reinforced customer loyalty and generated greater revenue for the company.
Never underestimate the importance of the cross-sell. A cross-channel marketing campaign won’t be successful if your mobile marketing team works separately from your e-mail and your direct mail teams. Intertwine marketing efforts between your in-store and online channels. For example, e-mail a warranty extension for a product purchased in the physical store, or offer a reduced price on an accessory in-store for a product purchased online.
Manage the multiplicity of your product offerings and their variable life cycles by ensuring the ability to make a promotion on any product extremely targeted in real-time. This can have a dramatic effect on depleting overstock items.
Use your enterprise marketing platform and centralized customer datamart to your advantage. Getting rid of pink bicycle helmets in one region? Search for customers who have purchased a bike in the last few years in close proximity to the store in question and send them last-minute promotions via their preferred channels. Slashing the price gets an already-discontinued product off your shelves and makes loyal customers feel like insiders.
Step Three: Expand Your Outreach
Money begets money, as they say. Once you’ve implemented a successful customer loyalty program and have identified which campaigns generate the highest return on investment, reproduce these campaigns and get your partners on board. For example, say your customers have gone crazy for a particular cell phone. You now have the advantage of being able to tell your manufacturers, suppliers and consumer credit partners that you know exactly what will sell to your customer base, and that you have the metrics to prove it.
Ask the cell phone manufacturer if it would like to take the promotional campaign that was successful in San Francisco and launch it in Boston. Ask a consumer credit company if it would like to co-brand a promotion on college dorm furniture. Provided that the product in question is not region-specific (parkas don’t usually sell well in Texas), reproducing effective campaigns in multiple regions is common sense.
On a final note, don’t get caught up in the idea that a customer loyalty program powered by an enterprise marketing platform can actually maintain customer relationships for you. After all, it’s not human. The market for goods and services is competitive, and the most important part of what we do is customer service. Having the right technology tools in place will help you do excellent work on a larger and more targeted scale. Always remember that your greatest asset is a happy customer.
Patrick McHugh is executive vice president of Neolane. He oversees all operations and is responsible for helping companies understand the strategic value of cross-channel campaign optimization.