With Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, the holiday shopping season has officially kicked off. There's no better time for brands to engage and earn the loyalty of new customers as they seek out the perfect gift.
However, brands only get one chance to make a good first impression. According to Salesforce, 80 percent of customers believe experiences provided by a brand are as meaningful as its products and services. This means that the entire customer experience — every interaction, email, click — can have a big impact on consumers’ decision-making processes, and therefore, a brand’s bottom line.
Brands looking to take advantage of every touchpoint along the customer journey this holiday season need to start by investing in their relationships with new customers after the first interaction. Additionally, for both new and returning customers, creating a sense of participation and dialogue among them will lay the foundation for brands to benefit from long-term loyalty and growth that last well beyond the holiday season.
Personalizing to Deepen Relationships
McKinsey research shows that 71 percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions and that 76 percent get frustrated if they don’t. Retailers that focus on targeted pricing and personalized offers not only increase satisfaction, but deepen customer loyalty because they're giving the customer what they want. For brands to understand their customers’ desires, it requires a baseline understanding of when and what consumers buy as well as their sensitivity to price and promotions. Luckily, this knowledge can be acquired by looking at data.
In today’s digital landscape, the most valuable resource a brand can have is access to zero- and first-party data — i.e., data that comes directly from the customer. This data can unlock powerful insights into customers, from their demographics and interests to clues about product usage. However, the problem is obtaining access to this data. Typical marketing and social media channels pose issues to brands in obtaining this data as they don't have access to what's collected from clicks, shopping habits like purchase timing and browsing history, and what promotions catch the buyer's eyes.
As brands look for ways to overcome this data barrier, and engage consumers with more personalized offers, an alternative could be beginning to use a brand-owned customer network. This brand-owned channel can serve as an extension of a company’s e-commerce site and gathers first- and zero-party data via polls and surveys, user-generated content like review posts, and interactive communication via chats. With access to this data, retail brands gain a powerful tool to help keep them relevant and top of mind for customers. From there, they have everything they need to craft personalized offers, exclusive content, and special promotions based on engagement and purchase history, creating a more compelling journey for the consumer that ultimately ends with them purchasing products.
Creating a Sense of Community
While personalization impacts decision making, so do recommendations and suggestions from individuals who have similar tastes. Bringing customers together in a community to share tips and recommendations can have an immense impact on not only sales, but the overall customer-brand relationship. Twenty-seven percent of customers say belonging to a brand community influences their decision to do business with the brand, and 66 percent of companies claim their community has a positive impact on customer retention.
Consumer audiences have been co-existing with brands in the form of loyalty rewards and membership systems for years. However, consumer desires to interact, share and socialize with each other means that these communities must evolve as well. By creating not just a loyalty program but a social platform in which customers can leave honest reviews or give insight into how they style their outfits, retail brands build a community of shoppers and empower them to share real dialogue about their products. It also enables the brand to build a powerful network of micro-influencers who share and recommend products — a tactic that has been shown to be more impactful and trustworthy than tapping a paid Instagram influencer. Having these organic and authentic engagements not just with the brand but with other shoppers fosters a deeper connection to the products and community, enhancing loyalty and influencing buyer decisions. For the brand this means measurable and actionable engagement.
This holiday season, brands can stand out among the crowd by offering customers exactly what they want: a personalized and social experience. By engaging new customers and inviting them to join these brand-owned customer networks, retailers can set themselves up to build loyalty, develop brand advocates, and position themselves for success during the busiest shopping time of the year.
Manu Matthew is the CEO of Cohora, a company that enables brands to reimagine customer engagement by building direct connections fostered in a brand-owned social network built on first-party data.
Manu Mathew boasts a rich history of involvement with several marketing software-focused startups. Presently, he serves as the CEO and Co-Founder of Cohora, a B2C Customer Retention & Activation platform. Before spearheading Cohora, Manu held the position of President of the Americas for Ad-lib.io, a creative optimization SaaS business headquartered in the UK. His role included steering Ad-lib's successful entry into the US market and orchestrating the establishment of US go-to-market operations. The remarkable growth in the US market eventually culminated in Ad-lib's successful acquisition by Smartly.io in 2022.
Prior to these ventures, Manu co-founded and served as the CEO of Visual IQ, a market leader in the space of cross-channel marketing attribution targeted at the world's largest advertisers. At the time of the acquisition by Nielsen in 2017, Visual IQ had been recognized with several awards for pioneering the attribution space boasting over 250 clients and 325 employees around the globe. Beyond his professional pursuits, Manu finds joy in cooking and is currently navigating life as an empty nester in his free time.