Mobile operators are now ranked in the top three, alongside banks and supermarkets, when it comes to customer loyalty in the United Kingdom, according to research by Ipsos MORI and The Logic Group.
The study found that mobile operators have stolen a march on fashion/clothes shops, bars/pubs/clubs, petrol stations and restaurants/cafes/coffee shops in garnering the loyalty of 53% of the British population.
However, despite the high levels of loyalty in the sector only 17% Brits say that they are members of mobile operator loyalty schemes - suggesting that UK network operators are missing a huge opportunity to strengthen their customer relationships.
"It is slightly surprising that in a market where competition is driven by being able to offer the best priced contracts for the popular handsets, it is the network operators and not the handset manufacturers that actually benefit from greater customer loyalty," said Antony Jones, CEO for The Logic Group. "It does mean there is now a great opportunity for mobile operators to increase custom with greater loyalty schemes and offerings."
With real incomes under pressure and High Street footfall in decline, retail shopping behaviour is undergoing a rapid change, as British consumers start to use mobile handsets for more than just voice calls.
While 39% of population uses their mobile phone to access the internet, one quarter (24%) of the consumers surveyed said they quite openly use their mobile phone to check product details, prices and reviews while shopping in-store. There is also a gradual consumer acceptance to interacting with brands and stores through mobile technology, as 20% request loyalty schemes and offers on their mobile.
"Mobile interactions are going to play a key role in future loyalty schemes, with the ability to pay, collect, save and share - all through the one device. Mobile operators are in a strong position to enable modern loyalty schemes, while creating a secure and participative environment," added Jones.
The research also uncovered a slow pace of brand interaction and acceptance of social media loyalty programmes among British consumers:
- In the past six months, 22% of the public visited the Facebook site of a company they are loyal to (this is projected to rise to 27% over the next 12 months).
- 8% have followed a company they are loyal to on Twitter, and 16% will have done so in 12 months' time.
- Only 7% have requested loyalty scheme offers via social networking sites (16% will have done so in 12 months' time).
And, as new payment and loyalty solutions become available on mobile, more consumers anticipate using these:
- One year from now, 17% of consumers expect to have used their phone to pay for things (only 7% have done so in the past six months).
- The same number (17%) expect to have used their mobile phones in place of a loyalty card to identify themselves when making a purchase (only 6% have done so in past six months).
"From the customer's point of view, social media is changing the way they interact with companies. For businesses, using platforms such as Facebook gives a greater opportunity to influence and engage with customers along their purchasing journey, whether that is responding to an enquiry or offering special loyalty deals to followers" concluded Jones.