Loyalty & building better experiences: Three takeaways from the 2019 Retail Marketing Conference

New digital marketing tools are always emerging, while the means of engaging mobile-enabled customers are becoming increasingly complex. Given this challenging dynamic, what are the most effective ways for retailers to profitably connect with customers and drive loyalty?

Seize Digital
Author: Sean Keith
New digital marketing tools are always emerging, while the means of engaging mobile-enabled customers are becoming increasingly complex. Given this challenging dynamic, what are the most effective ways for retailers to profitably connect with customers and drive loyalty?
These were some of the discussions taking place at the Retail Marketing Conference in Toronto last month, from which three takeaways emerged: 1) personalization is critical, 2) the “give vs get” mentality is on the rise, and 3) experiences that build emotional connections with customers are a key focus. 
Considering these takeaways, individually or as a whole, they represent what is a significant opportunity for retailers to better understand their customers and boost their performance marketing effectiveness. Here’s how to get started:

Key takeaway #1: Leverage data for better personalization 

Personalized offers incentivize a majority of consumers (69%) to make spontaneous purchase decisions, according to our recent report on digital’s impact on the consumer shopping journey. To deliver these types of offers, retailers need to combine their own data from customers’ transactions, visits, and in-store and online engagement, with third-party data. 
Our research also shows 25% of American, Australian, British and Canadian consumers use social media to browse and discover products. Tapping into customers’ social media behavior allows retailers to better understand their customers’ wider preferences and motivations – beyond just a retailer’s individual product or brand preferences. 
Digital marketing solutions are available that can connect social data with other marketing channel data (for example, email, SMS, and loyalty mobile apps) and centralize the data into a single platform. Connecting data in this way gives retailers a complete picture of their customers across many channels, allowing for more personalized offers and promotions.
Collecting and associating data in this way also benefits retailers as it allows them to identify what customer profiles and segments are driving the largest proportion of their revenue. 

Key takeaway #2: Encourage customers to identify themselves using loyalty programs

Who are those important, most valuable customers? The loyal ones. Loyalty program members usually spend the most (and most often). When retailers think of loyalty however, they often think only in points or rewards. But thinking about loyalty purely in a transactional way isn’t always productive, as now, more than ever, loyalty should be viewed as a way to incentivize customers to share their data and perhaps also get some emotional value from their engagement. 
Whether that’s offering a discount on their favorite items or exclusive access to their favorite brand’s new product, customers are increasingly aware of the value their personal information holds and expect to get something in return to give up their data – be it transactional and/or emotional in its nature. 
According to The Digital Imperative, 31% of consumers agree rewards have significant influence on their purchase decision. Additionally, 94% of consumers say 'relevancy’ is the most important factor in deciding whether to redeem an offer or promotion.
Whatever the reward, the growing ‘give-to-get’ mentality is mutually beneficial for both customers and the retailers who sell to them; customers get more of what they want and retailers continue to drive revenues and collect data from their most loyal and profitable customers.

Key takeaway #3: Create experiences that drive emotional connections

Once retailers adopt this give-to-get mentality towards their loyalty marketing, how should they capitalize on the data they’re capturing? An effective way is to create experiences tailored to customers’ preferences to increase engagement on an emotional level. In practice, these experiences will vary from business to business, and customer to customer. But there’s a common foundation on which all experiences are built – understanding and tracking what resonates with customers at each stage of the buying lifecycle. 
To access these crucial insights, retailers need to establish an ongoing relationship with their customers. Adding more layers of connectivity (for example, in-store social connections or proximity-aware communications) may be one way to achieve this. Our research shows 31% of consumers would be likely to make a spontaneous or unplanned purchase if they received a mobile notification of a discount when they are nearby or inside a store.  A contextual promotion that also leverages customer data – transactional information from the point of sale, the customer’s preferences taken from their loyalty interactions or social media behavior – will be even more effective.
If retailers have technology in place to capture customer data, in as many places as possible, they can paint a more detailed picture about what customers buy, what influences their decision, and when. This is important to both optimize and measure return on investment on experiential initiatives. And it also allows retailers to use this insight to create more emotional connections, engage at the right times and so, drive longer lasting customer loyalty.
This year’s Retail Marketing Conference reinforced the conversations that the Eagle Eye team is having with Canadian retailers every day. They’re already swimming in data. But what’s keeping Canada’s strongest retail marketers afloat is their ability to create a better customer experience by leveraging that data to foster loyalty. 
If you’re looking to forge long-lasting, emotional (and profitable) connections with your customers, you need to ensure your business has the right technology in place to collect customer data and generate meaningful insights from it. Some retailers are already equipped to make this transition. Others should consider an external partner, as Eagle Eye is to Loblaws, Shopper Drug Mart and Esso in Canada, to help enable this more data-driven, tech-enabled approach to performance marketing.