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Game of Trust: Shopyourworld.com’s Take on Customer Loyalty Programs(April 19, 2014)
Mumbai, India, April 19, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Shopyourworld.com, one of India’s novel e-commerce portals dealing with cross-border trade, analyses the many ways the retail industry tries to hold the customer’s attention.
ShopYourWorld believes that in Business, as in all relationships, retaining one another’s interest is the crucial thing. Every business tries to come up with a game plan to lure customers to their court and keep them fenced, lest they are swayed by other distractions. In India, especially, most lap up ‘buy one get one free’ offers and sign up to get the best deals. In fact, every shopaholic out there is hunting down the best in terms of price, quantity, quality and more.
Since a business cannot survive solely on its one-time customers and needs new and returning customers to hold its fort, apart from attractive discounts and special sales, it also needs a loyalty program. Aiming at this, the industry uses strategies like free sample distribution, sign up offers, and free subscription to let new consumers experience the service or products that they have to offer. Once they win their support, they believe that a loyalty retention program can help them build a strong customer base.
The whole concept of loyalty programs can be traced way back to America in 1793 where a merchant gave away copper tokens so his customers could exchange it for goods in his store. Trading stamps, coupons, “With every box of cereal, a new toy” and other marketing gimmicks helped businesses motivate consumers to keep coming back. So what began so simply with trading stamps grew to reach today’s structured rewards programs like Payback which has tie-ups with multiple retailers and chains of stores spread across countries.
With the advent of the internet, all one needs is a number, app or a plastic card that can let one avail the most charming deals. Companies have come up with tiered rewards program where you get upgraded benefits with more purchases or offer high-value privileges and services than competing market players. The aviation sector has proved to be a stellar example of this with its frequent-flyer program enticing customers through flying miles, exclusive lounges and other special perks.
The more personalized an approach to the shopper, the more a company stands to benefit by retaining their interest. Thanks to innovations such as the QR code and mobile apps the retailers get up-to-date information detailing the consumer’s visit, purchase and shopping methods with which they can work on increasing the consumer base, both in terms of behaviour as well as demographics. ShopYourWorld, for instance, offers a Personal Shopper Program that benefits Indian customers and allows them to shop from any online store in the US by merely filling in a custom order form. These kinds of perks are what have great recall value for the customer.
In all this competition, the customer is the winner, if they manage to operate smartly. While companies fight it out with strategic promotions and differentiated product placements, with a mere click, the consumer now has all the data to compare and choose what’s best for them. A simple check-in using an app like FourSquare can establish not just brand loyalty but also win freebies and points. Additionally, big brands/mega stores like Lifestyle and ShopperStop tie up with private banks (Standard Chartered and Citibank respectively) and issue loyalty credit cards that gives discounts, special sales and whatnot. The ones who smartly capitalize on this feature are the Chinese shoppers who go shopping or dining, armed with multiple credit cards. This way, they get to clinch different benefits in different categories, so they don’t lose out on any.
With this kind of an ‘all I want is everything’ attitude, businesses find it exhausting to play their game and get an edge over competition. The reward programs with the most incentives may not be efficient in terms of cost to company. In a connected world, it is easy for a competitor to ape one loyalty program, gloss it over and pass it off as an original. Since most reward programs work over time, there is a huge lack of instant gratification for the consumer that may not be beneficial. It is difficult to evoke an emotional response in consumers in a media-frenzied over-exposed environment. Occasionally, the downfall of one brand may cause the customers to question the merit of fellow brands in the same sector. For instance, the downfall of a famous airline giant had the faith of millions of Indians staggered, as they had painstakingly accumulated many airline miles over the years in the hope of concessions and perks.
Despite the ever expanding market and the fight to stay ahead, companies do realize that ultimately more resources and time are needed to expand one’s customer base than to maintain an existing one. Last year, the Boston Consulting Group’s Center for Consumer and Customer Insight surveyed 25,000 Indian consumers and concluded that “out of India’s 90 million urban Internet users, 40 percent report that their online activities influence what they buy”. So, loyalty programs continue to woo consumers, albeit in smarter ways by establishing multiple points of contact online. For instance, using Social Media, brands now generate a sense of ‘belonging’ and create a ‘following’ with less or no cost at all. Many a time, attention towards many aspects of a website has reached the customer’s eye through social media; this has also proved true for shopyourworld.com. Games, contests, promos are other time-effective ways to keep the customer constantly engaged with the brand. Cross-selling techniques, referral requests, tie-ups and advertising help in expanding and establishing brand popularity, while also educating the consumer. This digital impact is expected to grow fivefold to $150 billion by 2016, which is highly heartening.
Brands are going to increasingly use the internet to constantly keep a conversation going with the customer. However, at the end of the day it is quality in terms of product, service and follow-up that sets the best from the rest by making any brand authentic. Holding the trust of the customer is an uphill task, especially considering how competitive the field is today. The future promises some exciting times with brands aggressively introducing the latest and best loyalty schemes and rewards to excite the consumer. At the end of the day, no matter which age and time one lives in, the old adage that Shopyourworld completely believes in, still seems to rule the roost – “The customer is king.”
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