Everybody knows what a great customer experience feels like, and how it can turn an unengaged consumer into a loyal ambassador who will go out of their way to extol the merits of a brand.
But despite the myriad of tools at marketers’ command, making that loyalty leap happen can seem like catching lightning in a bottle.
To get insight into how brands can achieve such “loyalty plus”, Campaign and Uber for Business gathered a group of agency experts who tried to crack the code over a loyalty-building lunch provided by the logistics platform.
As brands look to bounce back from the pandemic, the company is seeing growing interest from marketers looking to incentivise customers and offer value-adds, said Uber for Business’s head of EMEA marketing Vicky Kerr.
The whole experience
It plays to the burgeoning experience sector: brands have to appreciate and look beyond advertising to the customer experience as a whole, said Mark Bell, head of experience planning at AMV BBDO.
“As agencies, we’re tasked with advertising and improving the purchase funnel, but one of the biggest challenges [lies in] getting briefs that get beyond advertising and focus on the whole customer experience.”
With the disjointed nature of the digital customer journey, there will be fractures in the brand experience, said Emily Rule, head of strategy at Wunderman Thompson UK. And “we know fully-connected customers are 50% more valuable over their lifetime to a brand,” she said.
Chaotic customer journeys
Brands have to understand the chaotic nature of the sales journey in their categories, said Rema Wilkens, global director for data and analytics at customer agency C Space.
“It goes back and forth and sideways in multiple directions. You might see a review on Instagram, then Google it. You might look for it on Amazon and maybe three months later buy the product.”
In this non-linear world, social media is the new shopfront, according to Becky McOwen-Banks, executive creative director at VaynerMedia.
“So many people misunderstand or completely forget about the power of social organic and the importance of that… that is literally the face of your brand every single day.”
Feedback – good or bad
Getting customers to engage can be hard but simple tools like ratings and reviews are one way to encourage consumers to share great experiences, said Clare Lawson, chief executive officer at Ogilvy Experience EMEA.
“It’s hugely valuable to build in the opportunity for ratings and reviews, but you have to accept that you will get negative feedback and you need to manage it.”
Caroline Parkes, chief experience officer at Rapp said it’s this feedback that provides the “why” for brands.
“In automotive, there’s that service-recovery paradox where people who have a bad experience and complain - but have it fixed - are more likely to have a stronger lifetime value and be advocates. It’s an opportunity.”
Is the time right?
There’s also a timing aspect to when you ask for feedback, said Mark Wainwright, managing director of Teneo.
“If you buy a sofa, you don’t review it after sitting on it for one day. How do brands know the right point to ask for a review. And how do you ask for it?”
Christophe Castagnera, Imagination's head of strategy for UK/Europe and Middle East, said research showed customers who shared content with their networks created five or six times more engagement with the brand from those people.
“It’s not David Beckham scale but there’s a kind of a graduation here of how we can use ambassadors and people to get that storytelling spread out.”
Online groups are another way of allowing people to interact with the brand and each other, creating a sense of community that brings opportunities for brands.
McOwen-Banks said Heinz used such groups to create two new products – Cupchup (to celebrate the England football team making the Euro 2020 final) and Sprayonnaise – that sold out in hours. But brands have to let go of some of the control to allow consumers to become creators.
Even non-sexy, transactional brands, such as banks, mortgages, insurers can gain huge advocacy by playing to their strengths, such as making processes more seamless for what can be grudge purchases.
“Faceless” companies, especially those with deep pockets, such as energy companies, should be bolder in their community outreach programmes, said Castagnera. “Surprise people,” he urged.
Louise Martell, partner and chief strategy officer at Yonder Media, said some brands can engineer their own advocacy.
“Some brands don’t occupy enormous space in people’s minds, but they can create news and conversation to get people talking…in social communities people love that and they’ll talk about it. But you've got to keep engineering those stories.”
The best assets
Employees can be great advocates too, said Bell, pointing to Barclays’ Life Skills series. But “everything is destroyed if staff don’t get behind it.”
Castagnera agrees that staff are often able to explain things better than more conventional marketing. “You can find stories from anywhere with your staff and employees and often they’re better storytellers.”
As with so much in marketing, authenticity and openness play a crucial part in moving customers from the “warm zone” to become brand ambassadors who sing a brand’s praises and promote it to others.
Emily Hare, global content strategy director at Publicis, concludes: “Loyalty is hard, so be open to feedback, to listening to what people have to say and to acting on it and to being open to your employees and your customers and influencers speaking for you. So it’s not about your voice, it’s about openness overall.”
With Nielsen finding referrals from peers or other customers convert 150 times more than other leads and 92% of people trust word-of-mouth marketing, it’s this kind of authentic marketing that will lead to greater trust, credibility and engagement.
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