At a time when the first steps towards lockdown release are taking shape, we would like to shed light on the apparent changes in customer loyalty tactics in the COVID era. Notably for the major players in the retail sector.
The initiatives are countless: let’s focus on a few that are proof of differentiation revealing an innovative brand strategy.
From “imposed” loyalty strategies to “automatic” geographical loyalty.
The first observation: the isolation measures induced a simultaneous movement in consumption.
While some people prefer certain brands to “win a prize”, basic necessities shopping is restricted to the area closest to home, causing lines to shift, thereby narrowing the range of purchases in the nearest store.
On the other hand, the crisis has benefited e-commerce and retailers who have been able to go digital thanks to lockdown, if they were not already doing so.
So the big winners of this dynamic are the drive and the click & collect system, which enables customers to obtain the store’s assortment, close to home and within an optimal timeframe. Home delivery, which is also very popular, has suffered from the longer delivery times, whether for food or non-food products.
When contact is not possible, how do you maintain ties?
Let’s use the case where physical visits are forbidden: the link is first and foremost through online presence.
There are several ways to nurture contact: invest in brand content and simplify online shopping.
A few examples straight from Australia: in Melbourne, the mall called Central has set up a digital channel on which local artists can meet, broadcast concerts, artistic performances, or even give beauty tutorials. Another shopping center, the one in Brickwood, offers cooking and yoga classes or a website with activities for children. The idea: to preserve the DNA of a place; to meet and pass through, to cultivate the spirit of community and “tease” while waiting for the reopening.
In mid-April, members of the Printania loyalty programme received an email informing them that their loyalty points, normally applicable in store, became valid on printemps.com. Not a revolution, but an acceleration: abandoning the one-way channel.
Finding solutions for all
In the UK, the Morrisons brand has introduced a systematic 5% discount for farm and fishing customers, which were particularly hit hard while restaurants are closed. In addition, the brand has organized meat and fish barbecue sessions to help these people sell their goods. Aid therefore targets these populations both as consumers and as producers: an initiative that takes into account the human and social dimension in a crisis context.
From isolation to proactive recruitment
Let’s go back to France: at the forefront of the networks that have closed their doors are sports clubs. Moreover, the French have never seemed so sporty, as evidenced by the resurgence of jogging – a way of being allowed to go out of the house. Others, who are used to indoor sports, can take advantage of free online courses, such as those offered several times a day by the Ken Group brands, including Club Med Gym. Nearly 8 classes are given every day by Parisian teachers (who are also confined to their homes) at fixed times – but can be viewed in replay – which can gather up to several thousand fans on Facebook. Added bonus: these classes are open to everyone, members and non-members alike. A voluntary mutual fund for the benefit of Paris hospitals is associated with the project. An interesting initiative both from the point of view of the members relationship, moreover for the potential for future recruitment! Indeed, having taken advantage of the confinement to adopt a free sports routine motivated by a “real” coach – and followed by many people live – could, it is assumed, motivate people to join, once gyms reopen.
A similar initiative from Nike, across the Atlantic, provides its NTC Premium service for the duration of the lockdown. In particular, it allows free access to the Nike Plus application, and to numerous content centered on sports. In addition, it also provides access to other content created for the time being: diet, sleep optimization and so on. The company, showing commitment by making donations for research, is thus aiming in the long term at a subscription from users who are already de facto loyal. Here again, it’s all a question of perception.
Commitment to solidarity: an investment for tomorrow
At a time when nearly 60% of French people expect brands to play a major role in resolving the problems resulting from the pandemic (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer), the actions taken are being singled out. For example, among PGC’s brands, Findus delivers meals to the most disadvantaged, L’Occitane donates €2 per order on its website for healthcare personnel, Vrai offers products not distributed to university hospitals, Pernod Ricard offers alcohol to make hydroalcoholic gel, and Géant Casino provides a toll-free number for seniors to order groceries easily by phone.
Undoubtedly, we can expect a “tally” of good deeds at the end of the pandemic: it will be structured to differentiate between brands that have played the opportunism card or those that have shown commitment and solidarity as part of their DNA, where appropriate.
Slow life, real life?
In April 2020, Engie launched “My program to act”, a “loyalty” program that rewards energy savings. Featuring everyday heroes right down to the illustration of the program, it proposes to accumulate “KiloActs” to enable everyone to become a player in the energy transition. This is a daring initiative on the part of the energy distributor, which comes at a time when climate scientists are observing that the planet has never breathed better than since the introduction of large-scale isolation… Behind the almost “inverted” financial stakes, a real corporate stance that capitalizes on the insights of the period to prepare, perhaps, for the “next world” in the life of the consumer.
Moving towards loyalty through “care”?
What the initiatives mentioned above highlight is indeed a reversal in “traditional” loyalty: rather than striving to build mechanics aimed at traffic, frequency and ticketing, through points or discounts, true loyalty has emerged not as a mechanical process but as a natural beneficial effect for companies that have been able to establish themselves in “daily care”. Thus proving their concern to maintain and nurture in all circumstances the daily ties with their customers by caring above all about the issues that preoccupy them.
By Laure Barillon, Altavia Nativ, and Thierry Strickler, Altavia Watch