Loyalty & The Omni- Channel Consumer

Consumers today are accustomed to and demand the world at their fingertips. They use the mobile internet to get what they want be it info, price comparison, entertainment on the go or other products and services.

It’s fast becoming normal for consumers to complete a purchase in a different channel to the one they started with, the average consumer will move between the bricks and mortar and the online store using their mobile devices to check competitors prices in real time as they make their purchase decisions.

The key for consumer facing businesses is to offer a joined up cross – channel experience to allow them to capture these “omni-channel” customers.

The last five years have seen a dramatic shift away from PCs in favour of mobile devices and tablets as the primary vehicle for internet usage. However as more and more companies take a ‘mobile first’ approach, successfully launching services that take full advantage of the capabilities of mobile and that are tailored specifically to the mobile mind-set, significant numbers of new ‘mobile first’ customers will be tempted to enter the market.

This is more than evident in the loyalty and rewards sector where nine out of 10 of the British public use loyalty cards, with Tesco Club card and Boots being amongst the most popular and where consumer facing companies like Starbucks have 10 million active users of its mobile app, with its customers loving the rewards and offers they can get for being loyal to their favourite coffee shop.

Starbucks are well known for their loyalty schemes so it is no surprise that their app is extremely popular. The app is well designed and functional, making it clear  from the home screen how many points you have and allowing you to easily find the nearest place to spend them. They have integration with Passbook which uses the phones location services to open up Passbook as soon as you enter any of your favourite stores, allowing you to pay without even having to unlock your phone. The rewards include many different discounts depending on how many points you have and the app makes it extremely easy to understand what you need to do to get to the next set of rewards.

Many companies offer their consumers an (generally online) account with offers that can be spent or redeemed across multiple businesses in different sectors. The problem with a lot of these is because they are generally card free rewards schemes it becomes difficult for the brand to stand out from the crowd with their own unique identity or to understand who these customers are.

Where a brand does offer a loyalty scheme via mobile or plastic card they automatically have the vehicle to develop a brand awareness and a unique presence that the consumer can reach out to and use regularly. Some retailers have a plastic card and an app and both work in a similar way by identifying the user and subsequently the logic that defines what offers or rewards that user can have.

However, it’s not just a case of “build it and they will come” you can’t just expect to launch a loyalty scheme and then sit back and wait for users to be brand loyal overnight. It’s essential that you communicate to your customers exactly why they should sign up to the scheme and by doing so, what they will get out of it. Too often customers are left to ponder what they actually gain from signing up to a card based loyalty scheme unless they sign up in store and the cashier is offering them 25% off the purchase etc..

But what then? How are you going to make them come back and use their card again?

The answer is to keep them engaged and knowledgeable about your brand, the scheme and the rewards and offers they can expect to take advantage off on a regular basis. This is where you need to invest in a “cross channel experience” for all your customers, keeping them informed and engaged across all the channels at your disposal, SMS, email, Social, In App Push and On-line channels like your website or video content.

Each of your omni – channel engagement methods has to bring the consumer a relevant reward or piece of information but it’s no good using a “spray and pray” approach to your marcomms, you need to contact your audiences at the right time, offer them something that they want, when they need it i.e (half price suntan lotion in July etc..)so having a good understanding of your data is extremely important.

Ultimately a retailer needs the consumer to have their app open or their card ready from the minute they walk towards the till with their purchase and the retailer needs to make it easy for the shopper to utilise their card or app at the till point.

EPOS (Electronic point of sale) systems can utilise today’s technology to offer exciting redemption possibilities to enable companies to seamlessly redeem coupons or vouchers at the till point. Regardless of if I am standing there with a bar code on my phone and handing it to the cashier to scan using a bar code scanner, or if I am swiping my phone over an NFC enabled device or simply just repeating a code sent to my phone via SMS  to the cashier for him to type into the till.

If your ePOS system is connected to your loyalty provider either via API or straight into the cloud you can receive this customer redemption data in real time and make future marketing decisions based up on it as well as being able to monitor success or failure of the offers and rewards in your scheme and manage increased footfall and revenue expectations.

When we talk about loyalty and the retail consumer, were talking about companies understanding the behaviours of today’s consumers in an Omni-Channel world. Shoppers expect quick, seamless customer experiences that cross the divide between physical and online environments, that utilise the very same channels that we engage with every day and provide offers and rewards that are highly targeted, time specific and ultra-easy to redeem.

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