FEATURE: Retain a Customer for Life, not just for Christmas
While Christmas is when retailers see sales soar, it can also be a very dangerous time for these brands.
Competitors will be vying for the attention of your hard-earned customers, tempting them with highly competitive offers, deals and price drops in an effort to secure the largest share of the festive wallet – and this could easily see your customers walk out the door.
Competitors becoming more competitive at this time of year is not the only threat. As consumers are faced with a hectic season of shopping as they buy festive gifts for loved ones, they will most likely to resort to the most convenient purchases.
Furthermore, the use of increasingly sophisticated digital marketing means that competitors will be even more closely connected to your ‘loyal’ customers than you might care to think, likely sending out beacons to lure them in.
With so much at stake, brands must consider how they can keep hold of their customers all year round – so they are not at risk in the run up to Christmas when their competitors ramp up and invest in their customer acquisition strategy. Brands are truly at the greatest risk if they have failed to consider customer retention throughout the previous 12 months, and subsequently built up an army of loyal customers.
The battle of the brands is a consideration all year every year, with the consumer as the judge and jury and Christmas as the crescendo – brands should do everything in their power to ensure consumers have no reason to go elsewhere. To avoid missing out on the Christmas cheer, brands must invest in their customer retention strategy to make this happen.
As part of this, these brands must recognise the role of rewards – specifically to incentivise customers and promote loyalty. The following considerations will help brands in developing a customer retention strategy, which will help them continue building their loyal customer base for Christmases to come:
Plan your customer retention strategy early. Leaving it until the run up to Christmas is too late. In fact, start planning now, to be sure to keep hold of customers next Christmas. Doing nothing isn’t an option; make customers feel special and wanted before, during and after the festive period.
This is key at all times, but particularly during peak seasons when competitors are creating noise that your customers could be listening to. It is important to ensure customers understand the initiative and value of what they are being offered. Points statements, reward reminder emails and programme enhancement updates are simple and effective ways to drive customer engagement and cement the ongoing bond with the brand.
Although rewarding loyal customers at Christmas is beneficial to the relationship, it is more effective to reward on a regular basis throughout the year. This slowly builds up loyalty, and means ad-hoc rewards are not overlooked and undervalued. However, focusing on key milestones, such as seasonal or monthly points during the year, which culminate in a Christmas campaign, can help keep the customer locked in to your brand.
Surprise your customers
Providing a reward that a customer isn’t expecting can be a very powerful tool. By giving customers an incentive to win as they spend throughout the year, the perceived value and memorability of the brand is amplified when it comes to keeping hold of customers in the festive season. Customers tend to get used to reward schemes quickly, so it is important that it does not become too familiar. Customers can also, over time, begin to view loyalty rewards as an entitlement rather than a gift. This can be avoided by regularly refreshing or enhancing a programme over the year, so that the customer doesn’t disengage with the programme once they have reaped their Christmas rewards.
Timing is everything
Rewards and incentives as part of a retention strategy must be quick and easy to redeem, without any high level of effort on behalf of the customer. By offering customers lifestyle rewards and point based loyalty schemes, it makes the incentive easy to redeem, with the financial benefits instantly available for customers to see.
There is no optimal number of rewards that should be offered throughout the year, as this varies on a programme by programme basis and is driven by factors including the spread of customer demographics, budget and programme objectives. The most important thing is to remember they must be relevant to the audience and something they really want.
By taking these things into account, a brand will have a robust strategy in place to retain their customers throughout the year – meaning they have less to fear when competitors come calling during the festive season.
By Ian Horsham, Divisional Director of Promotions and Incentives, The Grass Roots Group
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”