Yair Goldfinger is the is the co-founder and CEO of AppCard, an advanced customer retention system designed specifically to service the needs of mid-size retailers, franchises, and independent grocers who are ready to start capitalizing on the potential of their customer data and analytics.
For the past year grocery retailers have been operating in a landscape that isn’t sustainable. Shoppers have been maximizing their buying at primary stores with large basket sizes and fewer trips — with the intention of spending as little time as possible in stores. They have even readily bought substitutes when preferred products weren’t available.
As pandemic concerns wane, shoppers will almost certainly gravitate back to visiting multiple food stores and frequenting restaurants again. Their lifestyles will get busier as they spend more time in public places. They may even ease up on using e-commerce. These changes will make it hard for grocers to retain the high shares of wallet of the pandemic period.
That’s why food retailers need to take advantage of a one-time opportunity to solidify customer relationships before everything changes. There’s an opening to retain as much of each shopper’s pandemic-era business as possible. However, it won’t happen through traditional approaches that seek to permanently cement loyalty. Rather, the imperative is to enhance customer relationships to earn the shopper’s business every day.
Here are some important ways to achieve this goal:
• Enhancing Communications: The pandemic showed us the importance of being able to know shoppers and communicate through timely messages. “We now have toilet paper available.” “Senior shopping hours are 7am to 8am.” Messaging will be just as important as we move beyond the pandemic. However, changing shopper behaviors will require new types of messaging. There are no good excuses for failing to know and appropriately connect with customers.
• Enabling Personalization: Shoppers increasingly expect personalized outreaches. Vegetarians aren’t looking for special offers on beef burgers. Consumers have become accustomed to personalized messages from online retailers like Amazon and they want the same from their primary food stores. A retailer’s goal is to get shoppers to identify themselves — which leads to capturing transaction data and building shopper analytics. That is the prerequisite for creating the right marketing and experiences for each shopper — a strategy that will be more important going forward.
• Embracing Technology: Traditional food retailers aren’t technology companies, but increasingly they need to think like those companies. Retailers need to become more tech-savvy at a time when Amazon is accelerating its efforts in the food retail space. Grocery retailers will need to leverage technology to achieve their most important customer-focused strategies, including personalization and multi-channel selling. Multi-channel requires seamless integration between different systems to create a flawless experience for shoppers in whichever ways they choose to engage — from online to in-store to curbside pickup.
• Mastering Outreach Channels: Retailers that don’t message in each shopper’s preferred communications channel — such as text or email — might as well not message at all. Retailers also need to leverage the best communications strategies for each channel. For example, emails can contain several message points and product offers, but texts need to be shorter.
• Prioritizing Lifetime Value: Customer engagement is a journey. Retailers need to consider the lifetime value of each shopper. The college student who only buys a few items each week from a food retailer may not be a big spender now, but one day he or she may be buying for a family. Lifetime value looks beyond a single transaction by recognizing that each transaction leads to the next one.
This is the time for retailers to get customer relationships right. Solutions like AppCard support this imperative through an advanced customer retention platform that delivers actionable and customized marketing campaigns. However, even the best industry solutions require strategic approaches from retailers.
It is easier to prevent customer churn than it is to bring customers back later.
If customers do leave, it’s important to think strategically — not emotionally — about why that may have been the case, and how to bring them back.
Save the emotion part for driving positive shopper emotions in the first place so customers remain engaged.