The Power of the Discount
The omnichannel evolution represents a unique opportunity for retailers to create loyalty that goes deeper than club cards or cashback rewards. Empowered by technology and data, retailers can now connect with their customers across several channels to meet their needs and offer personalized service.
The secret to inspiring customer loyalty isn’t a plastic card in someone’s overstuffed wallet or a complicated game with points or credits. Approximately 80 percent of Americans have indicated they're more likely to be loyal customers at businesses that offer a seamless shopping experience on any device or channel that they choose, according to e-commerce agency Corra. The most critical element of a loyalty program is the customer experience.
Nailing Customer Experience Anywhere
Now that the majority of consumers own smartphones and/or tablets, their expectations of retailers’ omnichannel capabilities are on the rise. They expect to receive the same perks, services and shopping experience whether they're standing in-store, shopping online or browsing on their phone. A recent benchmark report from Mozu revealed that the omnichannel shopping features consumers want most are the ability to buy online and get the items the same day either by picking the item up from a local store or via same-day delivery. They also want to be able to order online and make returns in person. In other words, shoppers are looking for convenience, and they're loyal to brands that deliver.
Many retailers struggle to meet this demand, especially when it comes to the customers they’re actually trying to treat the best. For example, they might allow in-store returns for purchases made online, which is a good start, but not if the item was purchased using a “friends and family” discount or points from a loyalty program. They may offer special memberships, financing or exclusive discounts in-store, but not online or via mobile. In many cases, shoppers trying to redeem special offers can start the process online, but then they’re directed to visit a store in person, call a customer service agent or jump through hoops like faxing identification. Companies are sacrificing a great user experience because of concerns about fraud or technological limitations, despite the fact there are other solutions available.
Discounts in the Wild
Foot Locker is an example of a brand that uses technology to combat fraud while still offering its customers a seamless shopping experience. In the past, it's been challenging for retailers to offer military discounts online because there wasn’t a way to verify a customer’s military affiliation across all of their channels. Using eligibility verification technology, Foot Locker now verifies military status online, in-store or on a mobile device. By using the same verification provider across all three channels, Foot Locker’s military customers have a consistent experience no matter where they choose to shop.
Even better, once they've been verified, Foot Locker’s military customers can use the discount at any Foot Locker-owned brand — Champs, Final Score, Eastbay — without the need to re-verify their military status. Since 94 percent of the members of the military community notice military-friendly businesses and are more likely to shop with companies that offer military discounts, improving the user experience for this audience will grow Foot Locker’s loyal customer base.
Loyalty for the Long Haul
A well-executed omnichannel retail strategy working in tandem with a loyalty program will increase loyalty exponentially. Together, they can drive repeat purchases, supply companies with useful customer data, and improve customer satisfaction rates. Though it's recently announced changes to its existing loyalty program that caused some rumblings, Starbucks is still a great example of a brand marrying both loyalty and omnichannel together seamlessly.
Currently, when Starbucks’ customers load pre-paid credits onto their “My Starbucks Reward” card, they also provide their phone number, email address and other basic information. As they purchase their vanilla lattes using their “My Starbucks Reward” card, they earn “stars,” graduate to new levels within the loyalty program, and are rewarded with perks like free food and beverages. Customers can check their balance and reload their card online, at any Starbucks location or on their phone.
Starbucks also has the ability to track what they buy and which shops they frequent in order to send personalized offers. The coffee giant can also send push notifications to reward members’ email accounts with expiration date reminders. By allowing Starbucks coffee drinkers to engage with the brand across any channel and by sending personalized, useful messaging, Starbucks creates a user experience that's truly rewarding.
Starbucks and Foot Locker are two examples of brands that are succeeding at creating omnichannel customer experiences that are pleasant and consistent. In an area where 35 percent to 40 percent of retailers believe they’re lagging, according to SPS Commerce, every added omnichannel feature or capability should be celebrated. As companies implement omnichannel strategies, they'll find that customer loyalty will grow as the customer experience improves. The two go hand-in-hand.
Marci Hansen is co-founder and chief marketing officer at SheerID, an eligibility verification service provider.