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The need for brands to understand consumers better

Prabhu Kannan - Vice President, Marketing Technology - Epsilon

In the movie Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams’s character shares how his wife knew all his peccadilloes and that made her very special. He goes on to say how we get to choose who we let into our weird little worlds, the fact that none of us are perfect but the question is whether we are perfect for each other. He nails it by saying “that’s the whole deal; that’s what intimacy is all about.” In essence, to make someone feel special you will have to spend the effort to understand them.

Making consumers fall in love with your brand is no different. It is hard work. Truth be told, consumers should be at the center of everything you do. It should always be about their time, their needs, their desires and their convenience. So, if you want consumer loyalty, you got to spend the time to understand them; know their little peccadilloes and virtues. Make them feel that they are perfect and you understand them. Sometimes it is about surprising and delighting them. Other times, it is about making it simple and getting out of the way. But it is always about the consumer first.

Brands need strategies to increase emotional loyalty

Cap Gemini’s 2017 Digital Transformation Institute report titled “Loyalty Deciphered – How Emotions Drive Genuine Engagement” found that, 80% of brands felt they understand the needs and desires of their consumers but only 15% of consumers agreed. The gap in brands’ beliefs and what consumers are experiencing shows that the strategies adopted by brands are still predominantly focusing on behavioral loyalty. As points, miles and coupons become table stakes, brands need to realize that consumer loyalty does not solely hinge on the brand’s ability to manage points and deliver targeted offers. Consumer loyalty now depends on a brand’s ability to predict what consumers want today, what they will want in the future and proactively create shared context and values.

Brands need to measure both emotional and behavioral loyalty

Brands put in a lot of effort to woo new customers, creating a high emotional connection during the customer acquisition phase. But attention paid to customer emotions tends to drop significantly post acquisition. According to the recent Forrester report: “Improve Loyalty Measurement with Behavioral and Emotional Metrics”, the true loyal customers are the ones that act (behavior) and feel (emotional) loyal towards the brand. But unfortunately, marketers default to measuring customer loyalty using behavioral metrics such as retention and do not always measure emotional loyalty metrics such as customer advocacy. As Peter Drucker once said - what gets measured, gets improved. Brands need to create metrics that account for consumers’ feelings and behaviors.

Brands must (re)acquire customers to keep them loyal

Brands need to live an unrelenting groundhog day of customer acquisition and engagement to keep their existing customers loyal. A recent Citizen Advice (a citizen advocacy group) report in the UK states that UK customers who remain loyal to their utility providers are being unfairly overcharged to the tune of £4 billion per year. Brands that take their current customer base for granted and focus solely on price will erode customer trust and consequently lose their loyalty.

Net-net, to get the consumers feel that your brand is perfect for them requires investment in data solutions that facilitate understanding of customers, analytical solutions that mine insights from that data and a clearly articulated engagement and experience strategy that relentlessly focuses on adding and providing value to customers.

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