OPINION3 December 2014

How (not) to lose friends and alienate people


From random acts of kindness to personalisation, Grass Roots Group’s Adam Goran suggests his five rules to customer engagement.

Today’s brands are falling over themselves to win customers and grow a loyal fan base. However, in doing so, many are in fact turning consumers away by failing to properly engage with them. Indeed, Gartner suggests that brands have been disengaging them for more than a decade, in a bid to lower costs.

Our recent research revealed that 50% of customers cited loyalty programmes as the key differentiator between brands, so these schemes do play a part in the purchase decision process. In today’s omni-channel environment, brands also need to consider consistency of message across platforms. Here are five rules to follow:

1. Keep it relevant and personal

Sending generic offers for products that customers have never bought can have a damaging effect on the output of a loyalty programme.

By continuing to send out offers in bulk, the disconnect between consumers and brands has resulted in more than a quarter ( 27%) of people leaving a loyalty programme.

2. Transactional data isn’t enough

Retailers need to use more than just raw data to make relevant, personal and timely interactions. Attitudinal data is paramount when evolving an engagement strategy as it allows brands to delve deeper into customer preferences.

External factors such as weather and festivities will always effect customer purchasing decisions. While many retailers like to stick to reliable transactional data, being one step ahead and providing useful, timely offers can do wonders for creating brand advocacy.

3. Random acts of kindness

Unexpected acts of kindness can go a long way in building lasting customer relationships especially when showing that a brand really understands them as an individual. For example, offering a regular customer the opportunity to visit their favourite restaurant, giving them tickets when their favourite band plays locally, rather than a discount off their next shop, can speak volumes.

However, while this personal touch will be appreciated, retailers need to ensure boundaries aren’t broken and the customer doesn’t feel their privacy has been invaded, which may make them uncomfortable about partaking in the loyalty programme.

4. Change and evolve

Frequently used and repetitive rewards can leave customers bored and many will become unresponsive and immune to rewards or offers they receive.

By keeping one step ahead of customer expectations, a brand will look fresh as they compete to retain customer attention and interest in maintaining their personal connection with customers. This will keep the everyday customer engaged and leave them excited for future rewards.

5. Drive brand advocacy

With engaged customers better brand advocates, as well as more profitable and loyal, it begs the question, why are so many brands focussing on the output of their loyalty programmes, rather than using it as a vehicle to understand and build a lasting connection with consumers?

As brand reputation travels faster by word of mouth and across social media, more consumers research recommendations online or speak to friends before making a purchase decision, empowering customers and making brand advocacy more important than ever.

By interacting and understanding a consumer on a personal level, a perfect environment is created. Through loyalty programmes and proactive customer engagement strategies a brand is able to secure a consumer’s advocacy.

Adam Goran is divisional director of customer engagement at Grass Roots Group