How to boost brand loyalty and get customers back in store

4th Jul 2017

According to Retail Week’s 2017 consumer study, 71.6% of shoppers expect to shop in physical stores as often this year as they did last, if not more. Retailers have the opportunity to forge stronger relationships with their customers, boost brand loyalty and encourage shoppers to return to stores. Here are three ways they can do just that.

Embrace innovation

Make the store a destination where shoppers can sample the latest technology and trends. Retail designers at Ugg Australia and Uniqlo are using ‘magic mirror’ technologies, powered by RFID tags, which allow customers to try on virtual outfits in different colors and styles. Meanwhile, changing rooms at Burberry’s flagship store on Regent Street, for example, are fitted with digital screens showing specific product information, such as specific manufacturing details or where an item appeared on the runway.

Omnichannel personalisation, a multi-platform sales approach to provide a customer with an integrated shopping experience across a range of media including email marketing, personalised web ads and live chat, is best achieved with online retailing. However, it can be applied in store too. Again, Burberry’s Regent Street store is leading the way, by providing salespeople with iPads to pull up a customer’s purchase history and make personalised recommendations using the data.

80% of retailers along the same mile-long stretch have also invested in beacon technology, which allows stores to communicate directly with nearby phones and devices carrying a smartphone app that delivers details of promotions, product reminders and other sales-related information as they pass by. It’s just one example of an integrated digital and physical shopping experience that work together to encourage more shoppers to step in store.

Focus on sensory experiences

A recent report from Retail Week in association with Mood Media showed that three quarters of consumers are likely to choose the store over buying online if a shop has an enjoyable environment, such as music, visuals and scent. It’s thought that the increasingly technological age we live in has made us crave these sensory experiences, all intended to make stores more attractive to shoppers.

Crafting a sensory experience in store might include applying a coloured filter to lighting, or investing in an in-store DJ. Sandwich chain Subway is known to disperse the smell of fresh-baked bread in and outside their stores, which has been proven to make us hungry, and more amenable too. For cosmetic store Lush, the opposite is in effect: the company uses an exhaust system to help remove scents from its stores to avoid overwhelming customers.

In an effort to create brand loyalty, many retailers have sought to make their in store—and online—experiences consistent. But the quest for consistency can overshadow unique opportunities, and is contributing to the phenomena known as the ‘clone town’, the name used to describe the homogenization of high streets: a strip of national and global franchise stores that look the same both inside and out. So diversity within the sensory experience is key.

At the same time, it’s important for retailers to make sure these experiences are ‘on brand’. Abercrombie & Fitch have stores that are dimly lit with loud, upbeat music and liberal applications of musky scent. The sensory experience is a hit with A&F’s target market, but is in stark contrast with New York department store Bloomingdale’s baby powder-scented infant area. The experience must relate to the brand.

Don’t forget the human touch

Arguably, the best way to build brand loyalty is to make your brand personable. That’s what retailers refer to as the “traditional corner shop approach” of knowing what their customers want, and addressing them directly, on an individual basis. Most of the time, this is reflected in retailers’ efforts at providing effective customer service.

Customers want emotional connections, which means retailers need to invest in store employees who engage with them in a friendly and helpful manner. The Apple Store is well known for the attentiveness and expertise of its staff, and the focus is on educating customers about the products that are right for them, rather than just pushing people to buy. It gives them a reason to visit stores, rather than chancing their luck online. Starbucks is another example of a chain that’s sought to personalise its service with the simple method of taking a customer’s name to identify their drinks.

Although research has shown that consumers are still willing to visit the high street, stores need to adapt and take new, fresh approaches if they are to increase brand loyalty and make sure brick and mortar retail stays at the forefront of retail strategies.