Brands have been utilizing loyalty and rewards program within their customer community to keep their customers happy and well away from competition. From loyalty cards, discount coupons to scratch & win offers, brands have been using rewards as an incentive to create a customer base and also keep them loyal to the brand.
In the new digital age, such rewards have been upgraded. Digital rewards are the new ‘in’ thing that bring many advantages to both the customer and the brand. From making it easier for the customers to get their rewards to spreading the word about a brand, digital rewards have given the marketplace a new tool to expand brand reach and loyalty.
Digital rewards are both diverse and abundant. These are a few up-and-coming rewards that are catching the eye of the marketers:
According to a study by Mercator Advisory Group, it was found that in 2015 most of the money spent on gift cards was redeemed as eGifts. With the heavy increase in digital buying, it makes more sense for brands to motivate customers through eGifts.
Moreover, brands can also use eGifts to rewards employees to acknowledge their hard work on projects or commemorate special occasions. This builds the confidence in the employees and helps with brand loyalty.
Coupons and codes
With greater numbers opting for online buying, it makes sense for brands to give their offers and discounts in the virtual world. Coupons and codes that are sent exclusively to loyal customers makes them feel special and helps retain them.
Incentives like cash backs and discounts, mobile wallets have taken online marketing by storm. Creating a niche where customers are incentivised for their buying behaviour has only increased the appeal of mobile wallets.
Benefits of digital rewards program
Increases the brand’s value
The power of digital rewards is that it gives the customer a sense of empowerment. With every amount they save or a prize they win, it helps build an image of a brand that it is not in business for the profits. It builds the image of a brand that genuinely cares about its customers.
Provides the customers with more choices
The brand gives the customers the option of choosing the kind of rewards they want. Either it would be as loyalty points that can be redeemed for discounts or gifts or in the form of promotional codes that are given to an exclusive customer community.
Each reward program is made around the customer, their preferences, previous encounters with the brand and their redemption history. This makes the program more relevant and useful to the customer.
Unlike the days when one had to send a letter to a brand with a token to get a gift, the digital rewards program helps both brands and customers get instant rewards. As soon as a customer provides a preferred action (like, tweet), the customer is provided with their reward. It needs less effort from the customer too.
Get rewarded anytime, anywhere
There is no limit to the application of digital rewards. People can be rewarded just by signing up for a newsletter and this can be done from anywhere. Because of the high mobility of the digital market, people can redeem their rewards just about anywhere.
Brings positive interaction between brand and customer
Everybody likes free gifts. Digital rewards help people collect more rewards doing what they do the most nowadays – being a part of the social media sphere. Reward programs also help in spreading the news about a brand since people share the newest offers with their friends and family.
Incentive to be a loyal customer
With the reward point application, people tend to stay loyal customers to get greater rewards over time. But the rewards need to be good enough to keep the customers interested.
Helps engage on the social media
Facebook and Twitter are where most of a brand’s customer base is situated. Potential customers also reside in the digital sphere. Having current customers talk about a brand on their social media helps in increasing exposure and value. Digital rewards do just that by giving customers freebies when they engage with the brand on social media.
The cost of setting up a digital rewards platform takes less money than the traditional card-based loyalty programs. It is also easier for customers to check-up on their points and look for other offers that are available.
As can be seen, ‘digital rewards’ is the new mantra to creating a brand identity that is more personal and effective.
With RewardPort programs, your brand gets higher visibility among its customers.
A recent study showed that customers are 58 percent more likely to tell others about their experience with a brand than they would have done five years ago. One important outlet for this exchange is the social sphere which gives consumers and businesses the opportunity to reach lots of people.
As the taste of consumers align with new market contexts, businesses must look for applicable ways to engage them beyond building traditional relationships. Most customers expect their vendors to engage with them through digital channels. Interestingly, it is not just one channel but an Omni channel approach. This includes the social media, the web, email and other channels.
Small and Mid-size companies must take advantage of these new outlets to drive their brand. The technological and demographic changes that are sweeping across the economic landscape have changed the playing field. Most customers prefer having their questions or problems resolved without needing to talk with a customer service agent. Furthermore, customers want to engage with a brand on their own terms; either through human interaction or a digital channel. Small and Mid-size organizations that do not offer multiple engagement channels may sabotage their relationship with their customers or remain at a competitive disadvantage.
It is important to have a portfolio of services that connect with your customers when and where they want. The Human and digital channels of interaction must be properly optimized. Every business can get a virtual receptionist team which can double as a virtual assistant. They would screen and transfer calls to a representative of a small business based on agreed schedules. Beyond the administrative functions of this team, they can process orders, make outbound calls, answer customer service questions and schedule appointments.
Another important platform is to run an effective digital engagement system. A good digital platform allows your customers to be educated on your business and product offers, amplify the sales process, resolve service issues, connect with prospects, answer customer questions and so much more.
When your Omni channel platform gives an outstanding experience to your customers, they ultimately become your brand advocates. It is essential to buttress the fact that great customer service occurs on multiple fronts. There is no leading brand that can retain a large share of the market by using one channel to reach its audience. Customers need a relevant, compelling and consistent service to remain loyal to a brand. When your business has many advocates pushing its case in the market, it creates a positive impact on your bottom-line.
On the long run, one positive customer experience reduces the number of service inquiries that you get. The customers who are loyal to your brand begin to share their good times with others. The place of good customer service goes beyond the one on one relationship you share with your customers. It is important to entrench your brand and connect with your market through the multiple channels that are available. With a careful forecast, investment and plan, any business can be able to position their brand as leaders with a viable Omni channel framework.
The online ecommerce juggernaut may seem invincible, but players like Flipkart, Snapdeal, or Amazon have a major Achilles heel. Research shows that exceptional customer service is the number one factor influencing how much a consumer trusts a company, and 75% of consumers say they have done business with a company because of positive customer service experienced in the past and the experience with buying process
Retailers hoping to fight online giants will have plenty of ammunition at their disposal if they use this insight to up their in-store game. Brick-and-mortar retailers can counter razor-thin margins offered by ecommerce sites through superior customer service. But first, they have to listen to what shoppers need and want, and use this data to propel their customers beyond the lone factor of low prices.
Here are 6 strategies that may help conventional brick and mortar store owners compete with ecommerce sites:
- Know your customer:
It is now more important than ever for retailers to take a genuine effort in understanding their customers. I’d suggest that you initiate programs that help you know your buyer and his preferences. Some effective ideas include capturing customer data through CRM practices, a loyalty program, social media strategies, etc. Online companies score over conventional store owners, because they know so much about their customers. But with a little imagination and ingenuity, this information can be collected and used effectively. In fact, large retail companies have already started to implement strategies around this idea.
- Engage customers:
Large retail companies have data but they have to use this information to communicate and personalize their relationship with their customers. Personal information about buyers is probably the biggest weapon in their arsenal that could help them handle competition from online companies. Retailers, large and small, can use this data to send information about offers, receive feedback and engage customers. With tools like email, SMS, missed call, apps, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, implement such ideas would be a cakewalk.
- Blend the good aspects of online and in-store shopping:
Imagine you are the owner of a retail store and a customer checks in asking for a particular material of cloth. Being an earnest businessman, you inform the person that although the material isn’t in stock, you can get it for him in two days time. Problem solved, you’d say? But wait! There’s more that you can do. You can direct this customer to your Facebook page and tell him that he can choose a color of his choice and inbox the preference to your page. You, in turn would see to it that the chosen color is set aside for the customer. This can then continue as a tradition wherein your customer can order from home and yet assure the quality of the product before buying. Another instance where online and offline shopping can be integrated is when retailers blend in-store shopping and online payment. Apple has already marched towards this end. iPhone customers can scan bar codes of products and purchase them through their Apple Pay app.
- Enhance the Shopping Experience:
Installing mobile charging pods, keeping children entertained with a separate kids’ play area, matching the customers pace, etc. can go a long way in enhancing customer experience. The last aspect is particularly important. It is more than likely that your in-store customer has already researched about the product before entering your place. He is already aware of the different models available online and has probably chosen your store because yours was the lowest price of all and also because he’d like to be sure about the quality of the product. Understanding such customers and creating a positive experience for them is important.
- Service first then sales:
I recently had the misfortune of purchasing a product through a teleshopping network. Whilst everyone in the company was happy to sell me their product, none of them shared the same enthusiasm when I had to complain about the product quality. If I had taken the pain of shopping through a conventional brick and mortar shop, I could at least visit the place and get the problem sorted. But it’s been a month now, and I am yet to speak to a ‘customer relations person’ who could own up to the problem and offer a solution. This is where brick and mortar shops can easily outshine their online counterparts. By demonstrating to your customers that their complaints matter, you’ve not only earned their trust, but also given them the satisfaction that there lies a solution to their problem.
Webrooming refers to the process of researching products online and then visiting the store to purchase them. A report by Merchant Warehouse estimates that around 69% of customers with a smart phone, webroom. And to put this trend into numbers, Forrester Research estimates that this trend is likely to result in $1.8 trillion in sales by 2017. There are several reasons why customers prefer webrooming as against showrooming. Merchant Warehouse says, 47% of them don’t prefer paying for shipping, 46% wanted to touch and feel the product before buying, 36% of them wanted the store to match the online price and around 37% wanted it to be easy to return the product back to the store if they didn’t like it. So have a great presence online and on social media and run good offers there incentivizing the customer with coupons to use it offline.
Even in the age of online shopping, consumers want to be able to trust retailers before they buy a product. Retailers can take advantage of this factor by keeping customer engagement at the heart of their strategizing.
A Garter Survey says that 98% marketers say online and offline marketing are merging. What does it mean for offline businesses who are feeling that they are losing out to online businesses? Simply put they have to embrace a O2O – Online to Offline business strategy.
What is O2O or online to offline Marketing?
The best & simplest definition is “A business strategy that draws potential customers from online channels to physical stores.” Online-to-offline commerce, or O2O, identifies customers in the online space, such as through emails and internet advertising, and then uses a variety of tools and approaches to entice the customer to leave the online space. This type of strategy incorporates techniques used in online marketing with those used in brick-and-mortar marketing.” as defined on investopedia.com
Marketers of large companies have moved beyond digital marketing techniques and are expanding marketing’s role to create new digitally led business models. The sweet spot of the physical and digital worlds represents opportunities for marketers to apply customer insights to create and test new digitally led experiences and business models. Baidu and Alibaba are doing this in a big way in China while on demand services companies like AirBnb and Uber have made these into unique business models.
But what does this all mean for the small and medium size business. How do they adjust to this with limited resources?
Here are 10 things sme/msme can do to embrace this change and increase their revenue without too much investment.
- Customer Data
Start collecting data of visitors and buyers. This is the starting point and perhaps the key driver of your O2O strategy. The fancy e commerce valuations you see are mostly driven by data. Merchants need to put in place a system where you collect information such as name, email, mobile number and as you move ahead you can add transaction history and other data points. Reward customers with offers and freebies to share data via website, sms or on paper. A simple tool to start with is www.zoho.com to manage the data.
2. Email and SMS
You have now data of visitors and customers. Segment it. The more data points the better segmentation. This is not very scientific. Just segment it by gender, area, age & transaction initially and then evolve to by birth date, preference, days of visit etc. Reach out to them by email or sms. Update them on offers, invite them to events, and wish them on their birthdays. A good DIY tool for email is MailChimp , ConstantContact. SMS is a very cost effective direct to customer tool .There are local vendors who will provide this service for prices as low as Rs.0.10 per sms
Most likely your customer is on Facebook. Set up your page and get people to like your page. Keep the page active with 4 or more posts a week. Always use images and if possible videos. Unfortunately, now it doesn’t mean that if you post all your fans see your post. So you will need to “boost” you post for a little fee. Use the Audience feature to add your data on Facebook to get people who already know you. This is another effective way to reach out to your prospects and customers. Based on the size of your business it would be a good idea to manage the page yourself for a while and probably engage an agency when your ROI is up. There are many other tools on Facebook to help push your business. Create offers that can be redeemed in-store.
A recent study by Small Business Customer website shows that nearly 60% of Twitter followers buy from an SMB. One way to initiate more traffic to your Twitter business page is by integrating a “follow” button on your website. Once your profile becomes familiar with existing customers, you can tweet to your followers about your upcoming product launches or trade shows and encourage them to retweet about your event. You can consider offering special discounts or freebies to your Twitter followers when they and their friends attend the offline event.
Instagram will soon join the 100 million users club and if you haven’t yet used this innovative visual storytelling platform to meet your business goals, it’s high time you considered it. You can build anticipation among your Instagram community about your upcoming offline event by taking instant photos of your event’s stage being set and so on and post it on the website. Another way is to send exclusive invites to your instagram fans and encourage them to meet up at your store or on the streets and post photos of them using your products or services. It would be a cool idea to host such real life meet-ups among your online community to build your brand offline.
6. Google – Places and Maps
More than 70% of online Google search activity is related to finding local stuff. And nearly 80% of online local searches on Google Places can end up visiting your offline store. It’s time you considered it carefully to build your business. Here’s a way to initiate it. Make sure you have a 100% score on the Google Places listing by filling all details. Optimize your listing description with product/service keywords. Encourage your existing customers to give good reviews on the Google Places & Maps to stand out among your competitors.
7. Strategic Partnerships
Strategic partnership can jointly benefit you and your partner as you can offer value added services to your existing customers. It spreads the marketing load to each partner while promoting their respective products/services. More importantly, your relationship with customers gets strengthened. For example, if you are an offline music training center you can partner with an online music instruments selling website to attract new students. You can distribute to your existing customers a free e-book or an online demo of your product/service that features you and your strategic partner(s). Make use of exclusive online discounts as a way of promoting your partnership among new and existing customers.
With the onset of the Internet of Things, offline businesses can harness it to offer customers a virtual like shopping experience. Take for instance, a fashion clothing store that makes use of iPad or tablets in changing rooms to help customers request various colors and sizes. IOT isn’t just about increasing sales, but leverage it effectively to boost overall shopping experience for your customers. As an offline business, you can access the same level of information just like an online store to improve your new or existing customer’s experience. One way is to follow up data on your customer’s recent online shopping journey and offer special discount on products they looked online. Your message can be something like, “Hello Jenny, the trousers you looked online two days ago is now available at our store at 10 percent off and its available in three additional colors.” The IOT technology can be harnessed to build better relationships with your customers like never before.
Digital/online wallets can now be used not only for online shopping payments, but even for offline businesses. You can make use of this trend, whether you have a food store or a cab services company. Give your customers the freedom to pay through online wallets anytime, anywhere. This can result in increased revenue, as your customers will be long satisfied since they aren’t required to carry cash or plastic cards to make payments when they avail your services or products. So whether you are a small start-up or a growing offline business, you have the option of choosing an extensive range of digital wallet services.
Simply put, there’s no shopper who doesn’t like to get rewarded. A loyalty program should aim at encouraging the loyal engagement of your customers, in other words get buyers to patronize your business. It can’t get any easier than using the digital platform to promote your loyalty program for increased offline revenue with repeat customers. You can reward loyalty points to your existing customers when they subscribe to your online newsletter. You can also reward them when they refer their social network friends to visit your offline store. Another way is to conduct special online loyalty surveys to know more about your customers’ shopping activities both online and offline to gather valuable data. Just ensure the redeem limit is not too steep to reward your customers.
Following all these strategies require time and planning, get a team to work on these and plan accordingly. Similar to online revenue, offline store can gain more profit and revenues by being up to date. All the best!