Building brand loyalty: Three takeaways from CRMC 2019

Maintaining lasting relationships with customers is—and always has been—a priority for retailers. But with ever increasing points of connectivity, customers have greater control over which brands they engage with and how they interact with them.

But all of these touchpoints are part of a single, holistic ecosystem for your brand. Loyalty isn’t just a formal loyalty program anymore—it encompasses a customer’s experience in the store, what products they buy, their interactions with your brand online and much more.

At CRMC 2019, customer loyalty was the key area for retailers to focus on when managing customer relationships. Here, we’ll recap our primary takeaways from the conference and how industry-leading retailers are increasing loyalty through personalized interactions with customers. 

Increasing emotional loyalty

In today’s marketing landscape, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to cut through the clutter and engage with your customers in a meaningful way. So, it was no surprise that multiple brands touched on the value loyalty plays in successful customer relationships.

  • When addressing the state of the industry, Brent Cooke, vice president of CRM, loyalty and marketing insights at PetSmart, detailed the evolution of loyalty in customer relationship management. “Loyalty is really an emotion—it’s not a program or a construct,” he said. And, as new legislation is coming into place on how customer data is utilized in the U.S., Cooke emphasized the importance customer loyalty can play here. As diverse legislation begins to pass, it’ll be crucial for retailers to maintain a “quid pro quo” relationship with their customers, which they can easily do with loyalty programs.
  • Sephora, known for their Beauty Insider program, recently gave their loyalty strategy a makeover. The brand saw the loyalty landscape changing—and there was more pressure for loyalty programs to meet rising customer expectations. Allegra Stanley Krishnan, vice president of loyalty at Sephora, described the importance emotion has within loyalty programs. “The drive to gain status and acquire items works well in the beginning, but emotional experiences are what drive loyalty forward over time,” she said. Looking beyond just rewards or freebies and instead focusing on the emotional experience a customer has with your brand will help build a stronger relationship over time.
  • In a separate session, Daren Hull, chief customer officer at Vera Bradley, also shared the importance loyalty has in successful customer relationships. Hull stated a simple philosophy: “Customers will be loyal to your brand if you’re loyal to them.” He then went on to emphasize that as a brand, you can’t do everything that your customers expect from you, but you can focus on what makes your brand great. Finding the small ways to improve customer interactions is an easy way to keep them at the center and increase loyalty.

vera bradleyDaren Hull, chief customer officer at Vera Bradley, shared a simple philosophy on customer loyalty at CRMC 2019. 

Almost every session addressed loyalty in come capacity, and the consensus was that there’s always an opportunity to increase loyalty beyond purchase engagements. Finding ways to enhance emotional loyalty will increase the overall experience customers have with your brand.

Customer data can increase personalization

Rich customer data is foundational when it comes to personalizing interactions—and many brands shared their personalization successes.

  • Valvoline also shared how they’re using customer data to send personalized messages to their customers when they’re about to seek service. Rob Stravitz, vice president of marketing at Valvoline, explained that they put a strong emphasis on knowing the right time to send the right message to their customers—as only 5 percent of the population is due for an oil change at any given time. By leveraging customer data, they have a better understanding of when that 5 percent is in the market for an oil change, and they’re able to interact with each individual in that group and send personalized communications. In this category of retail where other brands are seeing declining sales, Valvoline is able to use customer data to maximize their opportunities and have personalized moments with their customers.

valvolineRob Stravitz, vice president of marketing at Valvoline, shared the value customer data has to personalize each customer interaction at CRMC 2019. 

Interested in learning more from Valvoline? Watch their client testimonial here.

  • During the Sephora discussion, Stanley Krishnan also highlighted the importance of personalization in loyalty programs. She shared that during their “loyalty makeover,” personalization was a topic of every single conversation. One of the common problems she’s seen is that “the degree to which clients and customers feel [personalization] in loyalty programs is very dismal.” She went on to explain that for all the effort you put into a program, there can be a disconnect in the degree to which a customer actually feels like their interactions are personalized.
  • In a session with Lane Bryant, Shannon Andrick, vice president of marketing advancement at Alliance Data Systems, and Eric Gohs, vice president of customer and channel marketing at Ascena Retail Group (Lane Bryant’s parent company), discussed the concept of the digital junk drawer. “With so many notifications, the privilege of her attention is something retailers need to earn, otherwise they’re going to pull away,” Andrick said. The duo then explained that with all of the customer data that’s available, retailers should be able to interact with their customers at the right place, right time and on the right platform. The last thing you want is for your marketing efforts to get stuck in the digital junk drawer, but personalization that delivers contextual, relevant interactions can help.

From loyalty programs to email marketing campaigns, it’s clear that personalization can propel your marketing efforts to the next level. Retailers need to continually use customer data to fuel their personalization efforts, otherwise their marketing efforts will end up in the “digital junk drawer.”

Making the most of limited creative

Another unique topic that was addressed was the issue of limited creative resources, which was brought up in multiple sessions, including one with Dan Rosenthal, senior director of contact strategy at Lands’ End.

While not all brands have a library of extensive creative assets, there’s still the opportunity to personalize each interaction with customers. All retailers seem to struggle with creative resources in some capacity, yet they don’t need an extensive creative team to get the job done.

Yoav Susz, vice president of revenue for Optimove noted, “The biggest bottleneck we see with our clients is often creative. But there are ways around it. It’s okay to templatize and use only one type of template for your content if it’s consistent.”

What we’ve learned from these success stories is that there’s vast opportunities for brands to increase loyalty with their customers through personalized interactions—and it doesn’t require a large marketing budget to do so. Again, it’s as simpler than you may think, as long as you’re finding ways to be loyal to your customers, they will be loyal to you.