Brand loyalty is underpinned by great customer experience
Businesses should forget about trying to get customers to be loyal to their brands, and, instead need to embrace the concept of the brands themselves becoming loyal to their customers
05 November 2015: The retail landscape in South Africa is competitive and with a tough economic environment both at home and in the rest of the continent, retailers need to find effective and innovative ways to retain existing customers and attract new patrons. Building a brand around an elevated customer experience is key to the success of today’s retail business.
This was one of the key take-outs from a panel discussion on how to excel in customer experience at the Retail Congress Africa, held this week in Cape Town. The panel was chaired by Tim Bishop, director of Deloitte Digital, and speakers were Tara Fela-Durotoye, CEO of Nigerian beauty brand House of Tara and Fran Peacock, Head of International Growth for Yuppiechef.com.
“When looking at data, we can no longer afford to look at broad segments of people in retail. We shouldn’t be classifying consumers by demographic or income group. That kind of segmentation is dead. We are now talking about hyperpersonalisation and a segment of one– which is a tailored customer experience to an individual human being,” said Bishop.
House of Tara has 22 retail stores, 5000 door-to-door reps and a make-up school. Yuppiechef.com is an online store, based in South Africa, which concentrates its efforts in a nuanced, niche market of kitchen and homeware, talking to people who are passionate about food and cooking.
Both businesses acknowledge that human needs are behind every purchase, and responding to their customers as individuals has been key to their success.
“The first real customer that ordered from Yuppiechef.com was sent a handwritten thank you card from the founders, and the response was so great that hand written cards became part of the Yuppiechef experience. We still write cards to our new customers to thank them for choosing to shop with us,” Peacock explained. “Most importantly, this helps to bridge the digital divide. It makes an online service feel more personal.”
She said that this kind of service can only work with highly trained, empathetic (and very human) customer service teams, who are focused on listening to the customers’ needs.
House of Tara builds its personal service by phoning a sample of customers each month. “It is about the experience,” Fela-Durotoye said. “We invest in making people feel great, and the phone calls make our customers realise that we value their feedback, and we value them as an individual.”
Bishop pointed out that a great personal experience needs to be built on solid and predictive data.
“It is no longer good enough to have a demographic model; retailers need to understand how they can add value to their customers’ experience, which can only happen when the business knows the patterns of purchase and individual preferences of each customer individually.”
“Tailored content, offers and instore experiences, for example, can be hyperpersonalised to capture the imagination of customers if the right behavioural data gathered is mined effectively. Having data is not enough, it’s about asking right questions of that data,” Bishop adds.
“If someone has bought a coffee machine, we need to make sure we don’t send them a special offer on that same coffee machine,” Peacock explained. “Instead, we encourage them to buy their coffee beans from us each month.”
The experience of both businesses shows that concentrating on the aspects that can be controlled – such as service and value – means that price becomes a secondary consideration for many customers.
“People will go where they feel valued, and this runs through all aspects of customer communication,” Fela-Durotoye said. “Even on social media, we are more concerned with the relationships and the interactions we have with our customers. We don’t communicate at them – we hold conversations and we listen.”
Bishop said that the use of technology and omnichannel marketing in the retail environment means little without authenticity.
“Authenticity comes from great dialogue, honesty and the perception of genuine feelings. That’s what creates meaningful relationships with end users and customers, which will guarantee long-term brand and customer loyalty,” concluded Bishop.