The importance of community in retail has never been higher. Building a tribe of people who love your brand, and spread the word on your behalf can drive significant growth. With 84% of people more likely to trust a referral, the power of a retail strategy centred on community cannot be underestimated.
Trust and community
A successful retail community is founded on trust. Consumers trust other consumers, even if they don’t know them personally, with 79% of consumers saying they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. The explosion of social media has sky-rocketed our networks way beyond ‘family and friends’, and a shopper’s recommendation can be seen (and acted on) nationally or even globally.
Research carried out across 14 countries to build the Edelman Trust Barometer found that 88% of their respondents made shopping decisions based on trust. As Edelman puts it: ‘Trust is the new brand equity’. Trust is what creates brand advocates and ambassadors, those shoppers who are in love with your brand and who are happy to tell the world.
Connection, communication and clients
A retail community is about more than product – communities are strongest when there is a connection with the brand’s purpose or lifestyle, and opportunities to engage. Consider an exercise clothing retailer who runs yoga classes in their brick-and-mortar store, or a kitchen equipment brand that runs cooking demonstrations.
Personalised communication is also important for building advocacy and brand ambassadors, with 71% of shoppers feeling frustrated when their customer experience is not personalised.
The secret to building a retail community is to focus on the clients you already have, in order to win new ones. Retailers need to focus on customer retention, identifying loyal customers, and nurturing them to become brand ambassadors and advocates who lead your retail community.
The role of retail technology
Retail technology can play an important role in helping to develop customer advocates and retail communities. Loyalty programs play an essential role in retention and advocacy, helping you to understand your customers, nurture them and build trusted relationships.
The right loyalty program will help you build your community of loyal brand advocates, by engaging them, rewarding them and making them feel like the VIPs they are within your business.
What to look for in loyalty
Not all loyalty programs are created equal of course, so if you’re going to get the best results, and build a strong community, here are our top tips for what to look out for when selecting and implementing your customer loyalty solution.
Aligned to your brand – a loyalty program that has a strong alignment to your brand can enhance the customer experience and drive up to three times more member satisfaction, meaning less attrition and greater use
Range of ways to earn – the classic way to earn loyalty program points is of course based on spend, but like any incentive program, your loyalty management system must reward the behaviours that you want to encourage. So ensure you have a loyalty program that gives you the opportunity to reward, for example, introducing new members, or posting reviews on social media
Range of rewards – your customers will use your loyalty program more, and become bigger advocates for your brand if it gives them rewards that they value. Whilst for some, that will be discounts to spend in the retail store, many feel more engaged if they receive free gifts, exclusive promotion types or invitations to VIP events. Research from iVend shows that non-monetary rewards can double customer retention compared to dollars and cents. So do make sure that your loyalty program has the flexibility to adapt to your customers’ preferred incentive.
Go mobile – your customers are rarely without their device. Make it easy for them to engage, with a mobile loyalty management app that puts messages, offers and digital coupons directly into their hand.
Use location – ensure you select a loyalty program that allows you to harness the power of geo-tagging: sending tailored messages to loyalty program members when they are near your brick-and-mortar store, or even in a specific aisle.
Personalise it – the more personalised your communication with members, the greater their level of engagement, the stronger their advocacy and the more impact they have on your retail community.
Online/Offline integration – make sure you have a loyalty management system that integrates seamlessly into your retail POS solution and your eCommerce solutions. Purchases can be tracked, points redeemed, and promotion types offered at the point of sale, all in a single omnichannel retail customer experience.