Valentine’s Day. A time for love, loyalty, a vague sense ofguilt, and a desperate hope that small gestures can inject a spark into a longterm partnership.
Now now, I’m not talking about your significant other. I’mtalking about brands.
Mid February is peak season for cringe-inducing emails fromcompanies with whom you once did business, hoping to tie their wares into theday of love. But it’s no good trying to woo customers (or your other half) onone day of the year. Getting your customers to love you - and getting that totranslate into sales - has never been harder.
We all know the high street is struggling - the widely lovedJohn Lewis has seen sales slump by 99 per cent - and the number of empty unitscontinues to rise. But the challenges are there for all brands, not justretail.
The power of Amazon is deprioritising big name goods (andit’s even ventured into manufacturing its own, lightly branded products).According to Foresight Factory research, only 12 per cent of people use brandnames in their searches for food products on Amazon, and for home, clothing andhealthcare, it’s just 3 per cent.
Direct to consumer brands are increasing in popularity andever more people are using subscription services for everyday goods. In short -the way we shop is changing. The most convenient option (convenience being oneof the biggest drivers of loyalty) is often no longer the high street, bigname, widely known brands. It’s time for everyone to up their game.
So let’s look at some new models of loyalty - the methodsthat are working for brands today:
1. Managed Scarcity
Limited editions, invitation-only access, exclusivepartnerships with influencers and even the famous ‘middle aisle’ at Lidl. Theseare all ways of generating ‘managed scarcity,’ where customers have to get inquick, or miss out.
Whether you want the latest Nikes, that H&M designerpartnership jacket, or a half price pressure washer - this strategy meansyou’re offering a unique and democratic value to your customers, open to anyone- if they’re dedicated enough to get in fast. This strategy, if handled well,and if the products offer genuine value, can also be a great one for creatingbuzz and positive PR.
2. Mass exclusivity
This sounds similar to managed scarcity, above - but in thiscase, you’re asking for one additional action on top of purchase. You need yourcustomers to join a club.
This is, at its core, a form of data exchange, or loyaltyscheme. However, here, members do more than just collect points. In fact, theremay be no points on offer - it’s the membership alone that offers privilegesand makes consumers feel special. The H&M Club, for example, offersprivileges like free delivery and points-based rewards, to anyone who’s preparedto sign up, while every O2 contract holder has access to early-bird concerttickets and restaurant discount codes that make them feel just that little bitspecial.
3. Latchkey Loyalty
AKA loyalty for the fickle. ‘Latchkey loyalty,’ - anotherlevel up from the mass exclusivity of point two, asks customers to subscribe tosomething and offers benefits for doing so - but crucially, doesn’t tie themin.
Subscription models of this type now allow much greaterflexibility, allowing customers to skip, cancel and amend their choices withfar more freedom than previously. Though it might seem counterintuitive tooffer customers an easy ‘out’; without it, today, many are unlikely to join atall. It’s crucial that loyalty feels like a choice for modern subscription modelsto work.
The question of how many consumers truly ‘love’ brands isone for another day (is love, convenience or nostalgia?) - but what brandsreally need is to find new ways to make their customers’ lives happier, easier,more exciting and surprising all year round. In the end, that’s what all goodrelationships are built on.
Niki Macartney, Strategy Director