The Great Retail Race: New Research Reveals Expanding Disconnect Between Customer and Retailer Perceptions
With “rewarding loyalty” the top priority for consumers but not for retailers in 2023, new research from Emarsys solidifies the value of omnichannel in connecting with customers
Retailers and consumers are not aligned when it comes to preferences across the board – on everything from areas of improvement to when, how, and what consumers want to hear from retailers. That’s according to research* released by Emarsys, an SAP Company, ahead of NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show.
There are differing perceptions in priorities for both consumers and retailers in 2023. For consumers, rewarding customer loyalty (50%) tops the list of what they want to see from retailers in a year where purse strings are tight. This is followed by improving customer service (46%), understanding customers better (35%), connecting the online and in store experience (30%) and making the delivery process better (28%).
For retailers, the list is slightly different – with a huge focus on digital. Improving customer service (53.4%) is the top priority for retailers in 2023, followed by rewarding customer loyalty (53%), enhancing online experiences (50%), understanding customers better (49%) and providing more digital experiences (44%).
When it comes to frequency of engagement, a whopping 61% of retailers surveyed believe that their customers want to hear from them multiple times a week. In reality, only 31% of consumers agree, with the majority preferring contact once a week or less.
In fact, almost a sixth (15%) of consumers only want to hear from retailers when there are specials or deals and almost one in eight (12%) never want to hear from retailers – something realized by just 5% and 2% of retailers respectively.
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The research reveals that, for retailers, it’s not necessarily about cutting contact– it’s about getting it right and understanding exactly what customers want to hear from them, and where they want to hear about it.
While 45% of consumers would still like to hear about upcoming sales in-store, over half (51%) prefer to hear about upcoming sales via email, and 44% want to hear about them on social media. For new product announcements, however, in store (46.7%) tops the list of preferred channels, followed by on social media (46.3%) and via email (45%). These distinctions re-emphasize the need for marketers to be customer-obsessed and provide consumers with the most timely and personalized discounts and messages, in the right places.
Building trust is also important – as there’s a current disconnect in belief between what is done with customer feedback. According to the research, the vast majority (82%) of retailers surveyed always review customer feedback in full and make adjustments accordingly. However, only 30% of consumers think that retailers really review the feedback provided, with 16% believing although their feedback is read, no real changes are made as a result.
With customer needs and preferences changing so rapidly, despite retailer’s best efforts to stay connected, it can be hard to keep pace with customers.
One brand that’s cracked the code is the iconic, American instrument brand, Gibson. The music giant is successfully navigating the retail landscape with an omnichannel approach that prioritizes consumer preferences to optimize customer experiences, both online, in-app and in-store. Listening and applying customer feedback is a key to their success.
Emarsys will welcome Josh Ehren, Global Head of Direct to Consumer, Gibson Brands on hand at the 2023 National Retail Federation Conference to discuss how they provide exceptional brand experiences for fans across digital, in-person, and on every channel in between.
Connecting with customers in the right way, with the right message, is crucial for retailer success in 2023 – and the channels customers want to be kept informed via also varies wildly across topics.
“These research results are reflective of changing consumer demands and the need for retailers to align with their needs in order to remain competitive,” stated Meghann York, Global Head of Product Marketing, Emarsys.
“In today’s uncertain economic times, meeting customers where they are means everything. Retailers in 2023 need to be brave with their communications, undergoing a process of ruthless prioritization that leaves only the most meaningful, curated communications at the heart of their marketing. If you get your message right – your customers will not only want to hear from you, they’ll want to engage with you. This is only achievable through an obsession with the customer; understanding exactly what they want to hear, at exactly the right frequency, and delivering that personalization everywhere they go.”
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It can be up to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than to retain one. Emarsys gives these tips on rewarding customer loyalty, the number one priority for consumers in 2023:
- Celebrate your customers. 30% of consumers surveyed by Emarsys said “I want to feel valued by retailers I shop with, not just another sales statistic” – so ensure you are treating your customers as individuals. Whether that’s through showcasing your most loyal customers on your social channels, inviting them to become ambassadors or surprising them with a birthday gift.
- Offer “firsts”. Reward your most loyal customers and make them feel special by allowing them to be the “first” to try things – from getting early access to deals to being the first to be able to purchase new products.
- Add value beyond sales. Introduce content and features that go above and beyond selling products so you can grow with your customers – whether that’s instructional blogs on how to use your products, top tips via email or an engaging podcast series or app.
- Offer discounts. Reward your most loyal customers with personalized discounts for the products they love.
- Ask for feedback. Let your most loyal customers know how valued they are by asking for VIP feedback on their purchases and experiences and reward them for doing so – whether that’s highlighting on your channels, turning them into a star by including them in your advertising, naming a product after them or gifting their next purchase. You could even make this an engaging in-person experience.
- Introduce Loyalty Schemes. Great loyalty schemes can keep those customers coming back – so offer incentives, rewards and unique offers.
- Make it personal. Sending surprise notes or gifts with orders is a great way to make your customers feel valued – whether it’s to mark an anniversary, or just to show you care.
- Open a conversation. If you’re not sure how to best reward your loyal customers – then ask them! They’ll appreciate being thought of, and then see that their feedback is being used and rewarded – plus, the key to customer-obsession is truly understanding your customers, and this is a great way to do so.
Emarsys and Gibson will be discussing what it means to be customer-obsessed and how customer-obsession drives true loyalty, as identified by the Emarsys Customer Loyalty Index, at NRF 2023.
*Research conducted by Opinion Matters between 12.23.22 and 12.30.22 on 251 senior managers + retailers and 510 general consumers in the US