Commentary

How Brands Can Build Loyalty Without Stores

  • by October 20, 2015

Most brands don’t have physical stores. As a result, they have little control over several factors that influence customers’ experiences with, and opinions about, their products. They rarely meet their customers. They’re absent at the point of sale, and can’t always put their branded touch on other intangibles, like a smile from a cashier, or even a thoughtful recommendation from a sales associate.

Of course, shopper marketing helps CPG brands play a larger role in the in-store customer experience, helping them gain leverage over things like associates’ product knowledge and motivation to sell their products. Shopper marketing departments negotiate ideal shelf location and highly visible displays, and aid brands in crafting the right messaging to capture consumer attention.

While these factors remain important, many CPG brands are pairing their shopper marketing initiatives with dedicated loyalty and engagement programs to ensure they’re covering all their bases. They’re identifying and connecting with customers wherever they are and then emulating all the cornerstones of a one-to-one experience at every chance—and on any platform—possible. The question, of course, is how? 

Become more than just a product on a shelf.

Marketers spend time negotiating ideal shelf placement to catch customers’ eyes. But once they’ve accomplished this, they still must determine how to make those shoppers brand loyal.

Take Mrs. Meyers soap. The brand costs 30% more than typical household cleaners, but it piques customers’ interest by using engagement strategies to go beyond the shelf. For example, MrsMeyers.com is sponsoring a contest that invites fans to submit videos for a chance to be considered the first-ever “Mrs. Meyer’s Home Maker” and win $75,000. This tactic helps fans engage with Mrs. Meyers on a deeper level and show their affinity for the brand.

Offline, Mrs. Meyer’s “Random Acts of Cleanliness” events connect the brand with customers, featuring temporary hand-washing stations in big cities where street teams encourage passersby to sample products. These events offer consumers a chance to experience the product first hand—a top goal for CPG brands. 

Use social media to get to know your customers.

There are countless examples of fans that are so enthusiastic about a product that they’ve actually come to personally identify with it. The brand means something tothem, and this sentiment inspires the advocacy they’re willing to do on the brand’s behalf. How can companies identify these fans without access to retailer information? The answer lies in social media.

Social media gives marketers customer insight that was unavailable even 10 years ago, such as their interests and affiliations, specific geographic locations, and sentiments, which they can use to power meaningful interactions with customers. 

Many brands are taking customer insight a step further with cross-channel loyalty and engagement programs, which compile customer data from a number of sources. Once fans interact with one of these programs, each of their interactions with a brand becomes another data touchpoint.

Combining this loyalty and engagement data with transactional data, customer profile data, and social data helps brands better understand customers’ behaviors, demographics, and preferences so they can create better targeted experiences and offers for existing customers and build predictive models to attract new ones. 

The more you know about customers’ preferences, habits, and behaviors, the better you can incentivize them to become more active customers and loyal brand advocates. 

Connect digital and in-store experiences.

You may not control marketing for the stores where your products are sold but that doesn’t mean you lack the power to drive in-store traffic and sales. Persuading customers to spend more on your products with your retail partners can be achieved by leveraging the brand channels that you do control—social, mobile, email, digital, customer service.

For this reason, connecting digital and in-store experiences is key to building loyalty and, ultimately, sales. Kellogg incentivizes customers to make in-store purchases by awarding loyalty points when they upload store receipts to the website. Customers are more inclined to think of your brand when they shop—or think of your brand and shop as a result—when they are incentivized to earn points for prizes and appealing experiences.

Another tactic is to use customer data from your loyalty and engagement program to develop personalized offers and prompt customers to spend—like an email about a nearby in-store a sale, or a personalized coupon sent via direct mail. 

In decades past, the process for a CPG brand to know a customer was painstaking, expensive, and questionable in terms of value. But times have changed. Today, many cost-effective ways exist for you to reach customers, establish meaningful communication, and create the foundation for long-term brand loyalty.

1 comment about "How Brands Can Build Loyalty Without Stores".
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  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 20, 2015 at 1:31 p.m.

    Printed coupons sent via direct mail and newspaper. Don't expect a customer to have to go to the expense of printing them out. Until they pay for a phone and data plan, they won't be appearing on a phone either. 

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