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Retail Insights

KrisAnne Madaus

Loyalty has come a long way from the days of clipping Box Tops (throwback!). Today, we understand that defining loyalty by customers’ spending behavior and sales volumes alone can be limiting. 

That’s why engagement has moved from a standalone program to a process fully integrated with—and inextricable from—the customer experience. Businesses now use a wide range of consumer touchpoints, data, and insights to increase the effectiveness of their product and relationship with customers.

Why should businesses put effort into softer touchpoints that don’t result in an immediate purchase? Because every interaction, no matter how small, has the potential to increase loyalty, retention, and brand advocacy. And these fundamentals will always deliver value in the long run. Cultivating and retaining devoted customers is key to sustainable success.

Redefining the omnichannel experience

What are all of these touchpoints, exactly? The omnichannel consumer journey is not just about providing a seamless checkout experience online and in store. Though this is a critical prerequisite, it’s only relevant to point of sale. 

A truly seamless shopping experience begins with awareness, and continues with retention and advocacy. 

Awareness touchpoints

Where do your customers discover your brand? There are many answers to this question. Some know what they’re looking for and Google it, and some learn about your business through social media, events, word of mouth, or reviews. Whether you get noticed on a billboard in Times Square or an Instagram Reel is irrelevant. If a consumer takes the next step, the payoff is just the same. First impressions are crucial in acquiring, but also keeping, great customers.

Retention and advocacy touchpoints

How do you engage customers after the point of sale? Offering education, personalized recommendations, and rewards come to mind. But the businesses that do retention best also think of their brands as living, breathing things. 

They play an important role as active and relevant members of society, leading social movements, creating memes, or simply maintaining an active and hilarious Twitter account (see: Wendy’s). Being part of the conversation lets customers know you understand today’s culture, and—by extension—you get them. 

Aligning across all of these touchpoints is no easy task, but we’ll cover three key aspects to help you manage your omnichannel retail strategy and gain loyal customers.

Sell experiences, not products 

95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious, according to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman. That means human beings do not operate as logically as we might think. Instead they’re largely driven by emotion and how something makes them feel. 

Think about this holistically: selling an experience (not a product) across the consumer journey can enable businesses to tap into these different senses and help reach a desired outcome.

Understanding what your consumers want to feel takes both data and humanity. Track key metrics and keep your finger on the pulse of your demographic by engaging in constant conversation.

Tell a consistent story

Research by Frontiers in Psychology indicates that “an expressive brand relationship significantly predicts brand trust and loyalty.” The stronger the link between brand and consumer, the more likely the consumer is to demonstrate their loyalty by actively advocating for your brand.

With this in mind, it’s even more important to tell a consistent brand story across all channels. Sure, user-generated social media will have a slightly different tone than a traditional sales email, but every touchpoint should align with your brand guidelines and pillars. 

Take Airbnb’s Instagram profile, for example. Their posts highlight Superhosts, show their accommodations, and tell consumers how they can easily book these stays. This, along with their other communications, aligns with their 2021 goals: to educate about Airbnb’s unique hosting offering, recruit more hosts, simplify the guest experience, and deliver world-class service.

Adopt an adaptive mindset

The final aspect business leaders should consider is adopting an adaptive mindset. If brands are now active participants in society as we say they are, that means they’re getting more real-time feedback from various data points. 

This allows businesses to learn and adapt quickly to deliver more personalized and authentic relationships. To drive long-lasting loyalty and sustainable growth, businesses should cultivate a mental attitude of constant iteration.

Everything is a work in progress, but if you consistently assess the current situation and make adjustments you’ll create a better product and foster stronger relationships.

What makes your brand stand out?

Omnichannel retail has completely changed the loyalty game. Instead of offering a discount or reward, loyalty is now about offering someone the right message at the opportune moment along the customer journey. That means that businesses have to step up and take on a holistic view to deliver the seamless, integrated experience customers are now accustomed to and expect. 

And while putting this into action on a global scale can be daunting, integrating departments to tell a consistent story is worth it. It’ll help you better understand your brand identity across social, in store, and online interactions and set you up to be an agile force in the future. 

Our last bit of advice is to lean on your brand’s unique values. Incorporate loyalty throughout your experience in a way only you know how. Aligning with your pillars from early awareness to post-purchase will build authentic customer relationships and deliver increased customer lifetime value for your brand.

KrisAnne Madaus
KrisAnne Madaus

KrisAnne Madaus is a NY-based copy and content writer at Zip who has served various clients in the tech, data analytics, and consulting arenas throughout her writing career. She enjoys creating content that helps business leaders foster innovation in retail, ecommerce, and management.