(New York, NY): As consumers migrate from brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping, merchants have turned to omnichannel strategies and experiences to bolster loyalty and retention.
But consumers’ behavior has become increasingly fragmented: In the quest for deep discounts and convenience, allegiance to one particular merchant has taken a backseat. In this environment, a key question facing merchants is what the future of shopper loyalty looks like, and how they can best position their offerings and experiences to capture it.
To answer it, merchants are increasingly turning to payments – an oft overlooked component of the shopping experience that can unlock store traffic, sales, and long-term brand loyalty.
“Increasingly, merchants are re-thinking the way co-brand and PLCC programs can deepen consumer loyalty,” said Gary Rezak, a director in Auriemma Consulting Group’s Global Partnerships practice. “These programs have the power to increase omnichannel productivity, boost in-store visits and drive new behaviors.”
The evidence that a card program can stimulate positive shopping behaviors is mounting, with 30% of co-brand and private label cardholders saying they spend more at the related and 73% reporting they feel more loyal to the related merchant, according to Auriemma’s February issue of Cardbeat®.
Here are other loyalty indicators well-executed programs can deliver to merchants:
- More in-store visits. Even as store footprints shrink, garnering in-store visits is still king among retail performance metrics. Generally, cardholders have higher shopping frequency and larger average order sizes than non-cardholders. With more price competition than ever before, special sales events and mail-order coupons often do not achieve the same sales lift as they did historically. But card programs can provide a reason to return to the store – again and again. If a cardholder returns to the store just once early in its cardholder relationship, he or she is far more likely to return later: 30% of co-brand and private label cardholders say they’ve increased their spending with the retailers since getting the card, according to Auriemma’s Cardbeat research.
- More special experiences. Perks and VIP experiences for cardholders, such as dressing room reservations, free alterations and special access to cardholder-only events are increasingly successful in generating in-store traffic and engagement. Look for an increasing focus on soft benefits, brand partnerships, personalized delivery, “surprise-and-delight” offers and special events embedded in value props going forward. And encouraging cardholders to “unlock” such perks could also be effective: When cardholders are given the opportunity to unlock richer rewards with increased spend, 25% say they spend enough to hit the reward threshold, according to Auriemma’s Cardbeat research.
- More cross-channel sales. Consumers who shop in all three channels – store, online and mobile – are often the most profitable. Driving top-of-wallet behavior is crucial for online and mobile shopping, particularly without a store employee to remind the cardholder of the benefits. Knowing that your online or mobile shopper is an existing cardholder is a critical component of generating top-of-wallet spend. More retailers will begin requiring known customers to create log-ins for online check-out. While the sign-up process may be an initial speed-bump, its overall benefits, including prompting existing cardholders to use their card for savings or free shipping, is invaluable to drive spend without disrupting the check-out process.
- More cross-over customers from non-tender loyalty programs. The value of loyalty programs is two-fold: data capture and targeted marketing. Increasingly, merchants are leveraging loyalty programs to screen and pre-approve potential credit-worthy applicants. However, there is potential for cannibalization between the two programs. (According to Auriemma’s Cardbeat research, 53% of cardholders enrolled in both a credit and non-tender program believe the rewards between both programs are the same.) Merchants can break this pattern by ensuring both programs have distinct value propositions with calibrated richness. In addition, enrollment in both programs can be highly attractive to customers, and increase in-store visits, if consumers can multiply rewards to accelerate their redemption opportunities in-store.
“Even in a challenging environment, there are numerous opportunities for merchants to break through the clutter, communicate compelling messages and engender more loyalty,” said Diana Middleton, Director of Auriemma’s Brand Partner Roundtable, an information-sharing group for senior retail payment executives. “As customers change the way they shop, merchants must ensure they have laid the groundwork to be the top-of-wallet tender for any transaction in any channel.”
About the Brand Partner Roundtable
Open exclusively to brands, including retailers and T&E partners, the Brand Partner Roundtable focuses on designing and executing card programs that benefit members’ core retail business. Discussions give participants the tools and information they need to improve their program’s value proposition and acquisition strategy, eliminate fraud, and fine-tune mobile and digital enhancements.
About Auriemma Group
Auriemma is a boutique management consulting firm with specialized focus on the Payments and Lending space. We deliver actionable solutions and insights that add value to our clients’ business activities across a broad set of industry topics and disciplines. For more information about Industry Roundtables, contact Tom LaMagna at (212) 323-7000.