Loyalty 360 had the privilege to hear from Martie Woods. Below she shares with us her perspective on key issues facing the loyalty industry today, the importance of examining the emotional element to buying behaviors and the first critical step behind creating consistent brand messaging across multiple channels.
What do you think is the most important issue relating to customer loyalty and retention?
Martie Woods: There is and will continue to be a divide between brands that make it and brands that don’t. Power has shifted to the consumer – a consumer who is more educated, more particular and savvier than ever. They demand intuitive, integrated channels that account for their preferences but also, in many cases, deliver a human touch that integrates those channels. The economic crisis was like a reset button that led consumers to think differently and choose more carefully. They will choose brands and offerings that are superior in meeting their functional, social and emotional needs – and, those brands that can deliver on this will enjoy the consumers’ new willingness to pay.
Which of today’s top trends will have the largest impact on the future of customer engagement and loyalty: mobile, social, local or…? Why?
MW: All of them – but, we have to remember that these are becoming table stakes. Too many companies get caught up in this idea that if they offer mobile access or the ability to share, they will appeal to consumers. But, those things don’t distinguish them from competitors. They are also internally focused. The shift is toward simple language that describes the job to be done – uninterrupted access anywhere, the same answer regardless of device, cause related beliefs and action.
The local trend is powerful - having the ability to recognize exactly where someone is and what job they are trying to do at that time, enables a more specific and relevant interaction with them. That can have a very positive brand impact.
Is your existing customer strategy focused more heavily on acquisition or retention? Why is this the most valuable approach at this time? Do you see this focus changing within the next couple of years?
MW: We are attentive to both, but we lean toward retention. We strongly believe that if we take good care of our customers and focus on delivering increased value in a way that is transparent, above board and good for the environment and communities, that people will talk positively about us, buy more and remain loyal.
What tactics should retailers try to implement to increase engagement and improve the overall brand experience? Are there any retailers that come to mind that you think have made customer experience and loyalty a priority?
MW: I love retailers who take into account the emotional reasons for buying a product and tailor the buying experience to that – even if the product doesn’t change. A friend just told me about Rosetta Stone and the fact that they first seek to understand why the customer or prospect is pursuing another language. The customer who is preparing for a trip to Spain is going to be in a very different emotional state than the customer who suffered a severe head injury and needs to relearn their native language.
I also think retailers need to understand the unique role that their channels play in delivering the jobs that customers want done – I may do all of my browsing and purchasing online, but when I have a problem, I am more likely to seek brick and mortar. This is true whether I am talking about J Crew or my bank.
How can retailers best create a consistent experience and messages across multiple channels?
MW: By starting with a different question. Start by clarifying your own story – who are you, what value do you offer and who do you best serve? Then, build everything based on that. If you are the cellular network provider that hangs its hat on providing uninterrupted service to extreme techies that want to stream video all day long from wherever, don’t even offer 3G because it isn’t enough. If you are the weight loss program partner for people who have just been told that if they don’t lose weight they could be dead in a year, you take a more extreme, less apologetic approach that demands high touch, multi-channel interaction that is focused on increasing the likelihood that the program participant can be reached or reaches out during moments of weakness.
Start with your business and customer strategies first. From there, develop your channel strategies with clear focus on their role in delivering the experience you hope to deliver.
What is your customer loyalty philosophy?
MW: People are dynamic and driven by their values – values that have deep roots. But we change our minds on how we want those values served.
I don’t think it is a problem if a company makes a mistake or causes a problem – I think it is a problem if they don’t handle it well.
I don’t think it is a problem if a company recommends a program, plan or product to a customer that turns out not to be right, I think it is a problem if they don’t reach out to make that correction.
I think customers will choose to be loyal to brands that are transparent, do business ethically, offer fresh, innovative solutions and are mindful of the context in which their customers are using, relying on their product.
Martie Woods will be a speaker at the forthcoming marcus evans 8th Edition Customer Experience Conference. Loyalty 360 is proud to support this conference as a media partner. Please be sure to visit our booth at the show! For more information visit: Loyalty 360 Industry Events.
About Loyalty 360
Loyalty 360 is an unbiased, market driven, voice of the customer focused clearinghouse and think-tank that is committed to bringing loyalty to the forefront as a critical marketing strategy. A trusted source for cutting-edge research, best practices, and networking opportunities, Loyalty 360 gives members the expert insights and guidance they need to better understand loyalty and develop programs that effectively engage their customers and employees and build stronger relationships with them.
For more information, visit Loyalty360.org.
This article was originally published to the Q2 Edition of Loyalty Management Online.