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Loyalty Digital customer relationships

Published on 27.10.2020, Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

It’s plain to see that retailers, brand manufacturers, digital marketplaces and platforms are all competing against each other for customer contact. Successful businesses depend on maintaining good relations with customers. And digital technologies are the ideal way to achieve this.

Companies with a limited level of digital maturity may tend to first think of traditional coupons or discounts when it comes to maintaining customer relationships. They might also send out newsletters with personalized content to keep customers engaged. It’s traditional, but is also boring. However customers order something online, at the end of the purchasing process they are sure to be given the option to receive regular e-mails. Newsletters are now standard, but longer term customer relations need something more.

Bringing a brand and product to life digitally

Although a truism, the path to consumers is now via their smartphones. These devices have become irreplaceable companions in everyday life, turning them into a platform for experiencing brands and products. The Beiersdorf group is currently attempting to achieve this for its “Nivea Men” product line in a partnership with Google. Users of Android smartphones can use “Google Lens”, an image recognition application that retrieves additional product information and usage instructions and displays it on-screen by scanning the packaging of a skin cream. This is more than just fun and games because the content which is displayed after recognizing the image lies in the hands of the manufacturer. Slide shows or video presentations can also be displayed.

(Copyright: Beiersdorf AG)

Adidas currently uses an app called “Confirmed”, which offers added value to customers by letting them be the first to receive information on limited collections as well as network with other users. The app uses interviews and storytelling to bring the brand to life digitally. If all goes to plan, everyday customers become loyal customers, or even fans.

Addressing “Homo ludens”

Another vehicle for maintaining customer relations in the digital sphere is “gamification”, which lets companies directly target people’s gaming instincts. The fast-fashion retailer Primark has released a free-to-play game that lets users play the role of an employee. In “Primark Legends”, the player has to make sure no queues build up in their store, that all customers are attended to, all while ensuring there are sufficient products on the virtual shelves. Through their game, the company gains a coveted place on the customer’s smartphone and their attention.

Games such as the worldwide hit “Animal Crossing New Horizons” will become increasingly important  to the fashion industry. This is especially true during a pandemic, when consumers visit boutiques and fashion stores less often. Virtual fashion items worn by mini avatars in a game can then be purchased directly in real life.

Using the power of images

Especially for smaller high street retailers, platforms such as Instagram were the only option for maintaining relationships with customers during the lockdown on public life in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The network is full of impressive examples of companies not only using the power of images for themselves, but building a community of customers who interact through comments and posts. “Mendo Books” from Amsterdam, now known around the world, is a good example of this. The book retailer presents curated titles from their range in an appealing way. The small company “Coffee Table Mags” also uses the network for direct sales.

Tchibo, Lidl, Douglas – these popular companies have been able to secure a presence on almost all digital channels. They digitized their coupons and loyalty cards a long time ago. This is technologically demanding and doesn’t come cheap but every brand and retailer can establish digital customer relationships, all it takes is a little imagination.

Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

Stephan Lamprecht has been following e-commerce developments in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for two decades as a journalist and consultant.

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