In today's business climate, margins have been squeezed ever lower thanks in part to the volume and accessibility of pre-purchase information available, and the growth of online price comparison tools, according to Janet Titterton, business planning director for Collinson Latitude, who here explains how brands can continue to increase and sustain profits and ensure their customers don't make their purchase decisions based purely on price.
The key to driving engagement is simple, says Titterton. In a word, it's "relevance". In order to retain loyal customers as well as increase engagement from new ones, organisations need to adopt a customer-centric approach, rather than business planning driven from an internal focus on the organisation itself.
Through building an understanding of your customers, such as their persona, their mind-set and even their geographical location, you can then offer products and services that are tailored for their individual needs. This customer centricity also needs to span multiple touch points (such as online and in-store experiences); whether or not customers stay engaged in the long term will be a reflection of whether their interactions with these touch points were positive.
Delivering relevance through a customer-centric view requires organisations to look at customers holistically, across all the channels they use to engage with a brand as well as the full product and service portfolio. Not recognising a customer who has purchased multiple products is the single most annoying aspect of customer service for many of us.
At the core of intelligent marketing is customer data; however this data is only a valuable asset if mined and utilised to drive customer relationship management in a relevant and tailored manner. The retail sector is one that provides many leading examples of effective use of transactional and behavioural data to drive engagement and deliver personalised communications and experiences. The travel industry is a sector that, despite the maturity of loyalty programmes, has lagged behind personalisation with the exception of their most frequent flyers. Some brands, such as Cathay Pacific and IHG, are demonstrating innovation through dynamic and highly targeted CRM that is being rolled out to their wider customer base, or their key channel partners, not just the top tier.
Rachel Start, director of products and services for National Air Service (NAS) Group, says "We are all customers, so what do we look for? A personalised greeting, offers based on previous purchases, no re-entering of personal data every time we book and reward for repeat purchases. It's not rocket science but the larger the business the harder it becomes and we need to utilise technology to assist our front line staff to deliver. At NASair (or any airline), flight is merely the means of getting to the destination, not the reason for travel. We are one of only two airlines in the region offering a full service mobile website and are issuing personalised offers and rewards to our regular customers; this is just phase one of our programme to differentiate ourselves from our competitors."
Geolocation is based on the need to understand a customer's physical location in order to make an offer relevant and increase the chance of engagement. By gathering this information, organisations can trigger products and services based on preferences at a particular place and point in time. With the growth of geolocation, a range of propositions has emerged, from rewards based offers (for example, O2 with its Priority Moments is still a leader in this field), to leisure and entertainment services (for example, Skout is a location-based dating app).
"Brands are increasingly emphasising the need to better understand their customers, and we offer them ways to build on the knowledge of their customers through loyalty and reward programmes underpinned by platforms with rich reporting functionality, enabling insight to be gained from data - not simply transactional data but lifestyle, and preference data too," says Titterton.
There is a huge difference between the offers that a young female traveller will be attracted to on a business trip in an airport, to sitting at home online planning the family vacation. Understanding your customer and seeking to provide them with relevant products and services should drive your partner strategy. For example, Samba Financial Group has recently launched an international merchant offers programme as an enhancement to its already successful Samba Bonanza programme. This programme offers credit cardholders in the UAE and KSA the ability to enjoy significant benefits in key international cities worldwide.
Geolocation is the trend that most of us need to recognise will drive significant revenue in the years to come, and serving offers that reflect the needs of individual customers when they would like it, is the engagement model we should be aspiring to.
So don't underestimate the power of relevance as the key tool to drive engagement. Increased engagement will both serve to deepen customer relationships and build foundations for sustainable revenue.