Creating a Brand Loyalty Program That’ll Keep Customers Coming Back
Tapping into new data sets and using emerging technologies to level up the customer experience
Brand loyalty is something that every company wants but few actually attain. To build a loyal customer base, you need to provide one of the best experiences possible, offer unique products or services, and deliver on quality and in a timely fashion. It’s a tough ask, and for those in the grocery industry, it’s even more difficult since differentiation between product selection is not as easy as it might be in other verticals.
But when it comes to customer loyalty, there are ways to separate yourself from the pack.
And that’s what Rachel Stephens does as the Vice President of Marketing, Digital and Loyalty for Stop & Shop, a major grocery chain with more than 400 stores and a brand new ecommerce experience to serve its millions of customers. Thanks to the new online platform and through a loyalty program that customers actually want to engage in, Stephens explains that Stop & Shop is finally gaining access to some of the dark data it couldn’t access in the past.
According to Stephens, that kind of data is a true game-changer for any brand. She explains that in the past, many stores would only require a phone number in order for customers to access a loyalty program. That phone number was simply insufficient as a way for brands to gather data, follow up with customers and make improvements.
“If your local grocery store only requires a phone number…that doesn’t do anything for a company,” she says. “You don’t have a way to really round out that customer experience and understand. You got to be able to tap into that customer and ask them what they want. It is really important that you’re coming up with a program, or, if you have a program, that it’s enticing enough that customers want to give their data, they want to give you the right email address or they want to give you the right mailing address so that they do participate in the program but they also are willing to give your opinion when you ask it.”
When you have engaged customers, those customers are much more likely to not only return to your store more often, but hand over important data that a brand can use to create a better overall experience. For Stephens, building out a seamless experience across channels is one of the most important steps any company can take if it is looking to build a loyal customer base.
“Understanding what customers say and what customers actually do is vital to the success of an organization,” Stephens says. “Because customers can say, ‘Yes, I have intent to purchase X,Y,Z.’ But when you look at the actual data, the data doesn’t lie. So, loyalty programs give you a vital tool for success within your organization [by letting you] take a look at consumer data and then apply your marketing tactics really that are from acquisition, retention or reactivation perspective based on what that consumer is doing in a particular moment.”
How customers behave is one of the most important data points that everyone from marketers to IT professionals are paying attention to. And there is no doubt that consumer behavior has changed dramatically in recent years — a change that was doubly accelerated in 2020. But one of the ways consumers are changing has been in the works for a long time, and that’s their behavior on social media.
As Stephens explains, there is a keen interest in every industry to start combining commerce with social media more. Brands want to meet people where they are and insert themselves in environments that weren’t traditionally used for shopping but might be ripe with opportunity. However, she cautions that there is still a lot of work to be done in this area.
“We’re working towards integrating commerce into social media….it’s such a great way to capture an audience when they’re just in their downtime,” she says. “They’re in a different kind of mindset and they’re more open to maybe looking at inspirational content, recipes, things like that within Pinterest or within Facebook or Instagram. And they may want to buy it right then and there and they may want to say, ‘I want this recipe, I want it delivered to my house. This is great.’…There’s a lot of work that needs to be done still in this area. And I think that’s a little trickier for a supermarket because you’re not going to buy just a tomato. it’s not like when you see a pair of shoes on Instagram and you have to have them. You don’t really have to have that tomato on Instagram but you may want that full recipe so making sure that there’s enough content that is actually worthwhile to the customer I think is the challenge.”
Ultimately, providing consumers with experiences and products they enjoy is the winning formula for building a loyal customer base. To learn more about how Stephens is doing this at Stop & Shop, tune into Up Next in Commerce, here.