Even before the current economic and financial downturn, evidence was emerging that suggested consumers were becoming more resistant to big brands’ marketing and advertising messages. As economies faltered and cost became even more critical, the move towards a more pragmatic attitude strengthened. An American survey on 2010 showed a 25% increase in the market share of ‘private label’ or store-brand goods and products.
Many big brands have faced up to these difficult conditions through the implementation of digital marketing strategies to maintain customer loyalty.
When revenues can be expected to decrease, there is an understandable focus on winning new customers. But that is of very little value if a brand cannot retain them. A focus on relationships rather than selling has emerged. Relationship marketing is essentially ‘retention marketing’, and at its heart is the mechanism which strengthens the bond between provider and customer from interaction to interaction. This encompasses a huge array of actions and services.
The flexibility of digital systems has massively improved brands’ abilities to personalise their interaction with customers. On a physical level, this might mean material sent through the post can be individually altered so as to feature products and services most relevant to the recipient. That same principle is employed now by brands that have websites or emails that feature products and content that can be tailored to chime with the individual user and recipient’s preferences. Through buying and browsing, customers provide a wealth of information about what interests them. Brands that utilise it best to add value to a relationship generate the strongest customer loyalty.
The supermarket chain Sainsbury’s launched their Homebase loyalty card in 1982 as a way of rewarding customers for their business, encouraging them to return and compiling information about them. Nowadays there is hardly a high street retailer without a similar scheme. Digital technology and digital marketing have enhanced the scope for this strategy. The principal advantage is in the efficiency with which information can be gathered and customers and products can be analysed. This enables a better system of customer reward and incentivisation.
Partner Loyalty Programmes
Loyalty programmes have proven to be a cost-efficient way of encouraging customer loyalty and many leaders in loyalty are beginning to optimise that efficiency through a partner loyalty programme. Here, brands come together to reinforce each other. Visit a budget airline website and it is very possible that you will see reward points or discounts are available if booking through a particular car hire company or staying in a particular chain of hotels. Expanding loyalty programmes increases their use to customers and the brand’s exposure and trust is boosted.
Social Media and New Devices
Customers are using the internet in evermore varied ways, from the devices they use to go online to the actions they carry out there. The potential for providing beneficial, personal interaction through smartphone and tablet ‘apps’ and through social media sites like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter is great. The social media aspect of digital marketing is in its infancy but already allows brands to interact directly with customers, creating a stronger bond, and harness the power of sharing, increasing exposure and enhancing the value of good marketing.