In a post pandemic world, securing and maintaining customer loyalty has become a more complex undertaking for marketers. With inflation causing increased cost of living, consumers are tightening their budgets and becoming more restrained with finances. For brands to survive the current economic climate, developing lasting connections with customers is crucial – without this loyalty, customers are likely to jump ship to competing brands at the first sign of better value.
How marketers can strengthen customer relationships and work on securing customer loyalty
This can be achieved with effective email and data management processes, viewed through the lens of empathetic marketing. The impact this has on the organisation is significant: it is leverage for tactics like relevant content, empathy, and social positioning, which, in present-day context, bolster customer engagement.
According to the Data & Marketing Association’s (DMA) Customer Engagement 2020 report, 77 percent of customers agreed that compassion should be shown by brands throughout the pandemic. And while the pandemic has now subsided, it’s clear that in today’s current environment of financial stress, it is more important than ever for brands to focus on thoughtful, even compassionate, communications. With consumer spending rapidly evolving, customer loyalty has never been more so relevant.
Data quality is key
A perennial challenge for brands is maintaining high-quality data – this intel is crucial to inform smart business decisions. In fact, according to Validity’s research, The State of CRM Data Health in 2022, 61 percent of respondents reported poor quality data resulted in a loss of existing customers, and 56 percent reported poor quality data as responsible for a loss of new sales.
It’s clear that prioritising data quality is crucial for brands to survive and thrive in today’s current economic climate. Quality of data affects the end-user experience and, ultimately, will have an impact on the bottom line. Consider, for example, duplicate customer records: These increase fulfillment costs, as well as create a negative consumer experience if the customer is contacted twice with the same correspondence.
In another instance, an invalid or misspelt email address translates to a poor customer experience for someone expecting a reply to correspondence. And, for the company, it is a wasted acquisition cost.
To address poor data quality, brands should first ensure those in leadership understand the importance of data for overall business success. Educating those in charge, will allow investments and resources to be channelled to this department. Having someone in charge of data is one of the early investments that should be made; quality data and how it is applied to informing business decisions will create more robust, future growth opportunities.
Although digitalisation continues to evolve, many organisations still rely on manual data maintenance processes – these need to go. Manual maintenance and cleaning of data simply isn’t sustainable in today’s environment. The sheer volume and velocity of incoming data is too great for manual processes to be effective.
Regulation around consumer privacy is also vital when it comes to data. For organisations with a global footprint, this is even more pertinent because an organisation is subject to the law where the data subject resides, regardless of where the organisation is headquartered.
Examples of consumer privacy laws are GDPR in the EU, APP in Australia and PIPL in China. These regulations ensure ethical data management. This means brands must offer complete transparency when requesting customer data in terms of why they are requesting the data, how it will be used, and how consent to use data can be withdrawn. Offering transparency will build trust from the customer; and the customer is only likely to share data if they understand the greater context and mutual benefit.
The upside to such compliance and privacy laws is data that is shared intentionally by the consumer will allow brands to gain more accurate insight into the target market because [data that] is proactively provided is far more likely to be accurate.
Email isn’t going anywhere
Validity’s State of Email 2022 report found that global email volume is set to increase over the coming years. In fact, according to the report, the global volume of emails sent over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend period increased by 70 percent compared to the 2021 daily average.
Hardly surprising that this peak coincides with the holidays as marketers are trying to get a jump on the buying season to meet end-of-year targets and clear excess inventory.
The numbers are a clear reflection of how email is a reliable and accurate channel to communicate with customers. In fact, email is regularly cited as consumers’ preferred channel for receiving marketing communications due to trust and relevance.
But with an increase in volume comes greater competition to land in subscribers’ inboxes. And to do so, marketers should adopt email best practices to maintain sender reputation and achieve a high deliverability rate.
Sender reputation is the primary factor mailbox providers (MBPs) use to determine which emails are accepted and where they are placed – whether they are placed in the inbox, junk or spam folder. To maintain a good sender reputation, senders should aim to measure their reputation daily and address any issues – from spam complaints, bounces, spam trap hits, failure to authenticate correctly or block listings – that could result in a drop of reputation.
Once a positive sender reputation is achieved, brands can feel more confident that their email will land in the inbox but even once here it doesn’t mean their email will be noticed – the next step is to stand out from the competition. Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) is one way to stand out in the inbox. This feature displays a brand’s logo next to their email in the subscriber’s inbox. This method is effective simply because customers are more likely to be loyal if they know and recognise a brand logo.
Greater connection through accessibility
Another key consideration for brands is the accessibility of their content. Findings from the World Health Organisation show that vision impairment impacts more than two billion people around the world.
While brands should want to embrace accessibility to allow all consumers to access and engage with their communications, there are legal requirements within this space too. Laws such as Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the UK’s Equalities Act of 2010 ensure accessibility standards are set in place and met by all senders. A minimum font size is an example of the standards enforced by these acts to allow greater accessibility for those impacted by visual impairment. For example, Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act recommends a 12-point font size.
Accessibility as a focus in the email community is only due to increase. Many of these practices – such as use of white space, colour contrast, and descriptive text – overlap with general email best practices too. By employing these practices within email communications, overall engagement is only going to benefit.
Brands should look at what they’re doing in the accessibility space and even consider appointing someone to ensure that every email campaign meets, and even exceeds, the necessary standards.
Building brand loyalty boils down to a business understanding the nuances of its audience segments. The solution may sound simple, but its execution must consider consumers as individuals insofar as their preferences, interests and priorities. This information will empower brands to tailor customer-specific content, which in the long-term, will build lasting relationships with customers.
Guy Hanson is the VP of customer engagement at Validity.