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How retailers can learn from the downturn to succeed in the upturn

How retailers can learn from the downturn to succeed in the upturn

Stuart Evans, general manager at loyalty marketing agency ICLP, has five tips to help retailers maximise customer relationships and increase loyalty, based on lessons learned during the recession.

Now is the time for brands to start looking towards the future and ensure customers are at the heart of their long-term strategy.

Recent reports suggest the recession may be slowing and the economy could soon see some famous ‘green shoots’ of recovery. The glimpse of an upturn is not only cause to smile, but most importantly a chance for retailers to evaluate the hard lessons learned from the downturn.

Retailers could be tempted to rest on their laurels if they feel the worst is over. By doing this they will fail to prepare for success when the economy bounces back. Retailers need to evolve their thinking on loyalty as the market changes and not just grab for a quick fix that is unsustainable.

1. Focus on strategy not tactics

Retailers must know who their customers are, capture their data and market to them on an individual basis. Loyalty programmes are a waste of money if they are not part of an overall business or brand strategy.

Clear and focused strategy is what is needed, not knee-jerk reactions.

2. Focus on points redemption not just points collection

It is essential that retailers know who their customers are. There are two kinds of customers when it comes to loyalty programmes; those who earn and burn, spending their points as soon as they have enough, and those who are continually saving them. Those who save them will be more loyal, as they want to keep gaining points.

3. Know how to use the data to win

It is possible for retailers to keep customers during a recession, however this is not achieved by using loyalty as a ‘bolt on’ to their business – this is a sure fire way to lose money in the longer term.

Retailers need to know their customers and pinpoint what they can do for them and vice versa – if they have a loyalty programme, they need to effectively utilise the data.

4. Build relationships rather than price promotions

Retailers should make every effort to understand their customers, so that communications can be targeted to individual needs. Simple actions, such as collecting a customer’s email address or phone number, mean a retailer can track a customer’s behaviour and tailor offers to them.

Otherwise, retailers can be limited to mass price promotion, which is restricted to reinforcing brands that are already discount brands. Even though it is trendy to be thrifty, by understanding what makes your customers tick, a relationship will be more than just a short-term arrangement but a long-term and loyal brand relationship.

5. Move offline trust to online

Consumer trust in purely online brands is hard to build. However, if a brand already has strong loyalty with customers offline this will automatically be transferred to online so customers will be more trusting.

This ensures another important source of revenue and allows brands to have both bricks and clicks. Online brands are becoming more and more trusted, but the most trusted brands were those that have been transferred from the high street to the internet.

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