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BW Businessworld

It's Time To Earn Loyalty

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Customer loyalty, and understanding how to build it, is a constant challenge for brands in India. Customers are clear - Be useful to me when I need you, and I will come back to you often. But to make that happen in an increasingly multi-channel and competitive market, brands are grappling with a broader set of questions, such as:
  •  Why must I reward customers across touch point interactions and not just when they buy?
  • Why should mobile and smartphone feature in my loyalty strategy?
  • How do I manage data in a way that builds customer trust?
  • Why should I partner with others for a better loyalty value proposition?
  • How do I build emotional engagement?
The answer to all these questions lies in understanding consumers and how a loyalty program can be custom designed to suit each individual consumer. Loyalty programs need to add value to the program in a manner that the customer perceivesbetter offers, rewards, differentiated service etc... as an extrabenefit.

Getting your loyalty program right is extremely crucial. Also, it is essential the loyalty program is visible to the consumers. India is a noisy, busy, and competitive marketplace. Everyone here is vying for the customers' attention through personalisation, strategic promotions and differentiated product placements. Personalisation isn't just about putting the customer's name in an e-mail but about the tone, the personalisation in the offer, the medium, the channel, etc. Data and analytics have to a great extent contributed in making personalization possible. Thishas led to better segmentation of customers and increased relevance in what the customer is served. When a loyalty program gets all these necessary elements right, it leads to high adoption rates.

A recent report that compares millennials and non-millennials describes the emerging consumer in urban India as connected, social, vocal, multi-channel, and increasingly private but nevertheless willing to share data in exchange for relevant value.Life is at their fingertips, loyalty is being built on the mobile, and smartphones have crossed generations. The millennials are willing to engage brands, and good loyalty programs can indeed change consumer behaviour.

According to a BCG research report,'digitally influenced' purchases in India are five times that of e-Commerce ones, and are expected to grow five-fold by 2016.It is therefore essential that brands take a multi-channel approach to engage with customers.

India is bustling with young and aspirational consumers who need to be engaged with, in a nimble, timely and targeted manner. Today's millennials are dynamic and use multiple channels before making purchase decisions. Emerging young consumers are as engaging as it gets. However they are increasingly privacy conscious, and have very limited windows of attention that marketer can compete for. Also, the Indian consumer is more demanding and price sensitive than the international shopper. Hence analysing data in terms of consumer preferences helps uncover meaningful insights.

Loyalty comes from the brand and consumer developing an emotional attachment to each other-one that comes from a genuine two way dialogue nurtured over time, i.e. 'real relationships.'The race is on to engage the young, urban, aspirational consumer.Brands that do business in India need to re-tool their customer strategies and engagement programs in order to stay relevant and differentiated.Customer loyalty programs, in their new avatar, can help win the race.

Author is managing director at Aimia India