Comment counts: Rewarding engagement over purchases

Brands and retailers need to reward consumers who not only spend the most money, but spend the most time with them, says Bia Bezamat of GDR Creative Intelligence.

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Rewarding those who buy the most is easy. Brands and retailers have spent years studying and tailoring purchase and behavioural data to a point of individual personalisation, launching initiatives off the back of such insights like British supermarket Waitrose’s best-in-class rewards scheme that allows customers to pick which items they want to receive discounts on.

But we are now seeing that as these systems refine and mature, brands are starting to look beyond individual sales and develop ways to invest in those customers who make the most effort to connect with them. Realising that consumers buy into the lifestyle of a brand as much as they often do the product (Apple devices spring to mind), this shift can only help in the long run; encouraging invested customers to always go that extra mile to consume the brand.

Ensuring interaction and engagement however, can often be tricky unless there is a clear mutual benefit, from discounts to perks. French skate and extreme sports brand Sooruz is one example of a company that is thinking outside the box in this regard. It has devised a clever permanent way to be a part of their customers’ lives by introducing The List, an app that rewards fans with discounts the more they perform skate tricks.

Skaters can attach their phones to the bottom of their boards using a free Sooruz-branded case, while the app’s pedometer registers flips and turns. The better the person performs, the more points they tally, which can be redeemed against discounts at the online store. A social element adds participants to a leaderboard, with the best skater earning full sponsorship. What better way to reach teenagers, who will dutifully save up to buy new skating gear, than to make it about bettering their skills?

Brands are slowly cottoning on to the fact that touching a competitive nerve and gamifying interactions can not only generate positive results, but exposure that no advertising budget can buy. Similarly, Czech sports retailer Intersport, asked customers to download its app and run in the shape of its logo (an “I” and an “S”) in exchange for in-store discounts. For every kilometre run, fans earned 1% off their next purchase. To put it simply, the more effort they made, the bigger the discount.

UK loungewear label OnePiece meanwhile, reduced the price of its onesie by one penny every time someone tweeted the #HackthePrice hashtag. But it was only those who went through the effort to tweet that could reap the benefits of the reward.

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Marks & Spencer’s recently launched Sparks scheme is another great example of putting behaviour above spending. Customers are able to tailor their rewards, and receive points for doing things such as leaving online reviews. Most importantly, participating in the retailer’s ‘schwopping’ scheme, by recycling unwanted clothes, earns more reward points than simply purchasing an item in-store. This way, the store is encouraging good deeds while reinforcing its green ethos – a win-win situation.

An invested and engaged customer, who participates, gives feedback and shares, is one in a million, and acknowledging that is key. “Loyalty is the wrong word to use, it’s about a new relationship with customers – recognition, relevance, tailored, and a conversation,” commented Suzanna Broer, M&S insights and loyalty director, in an interview with Retail Week. “We want to go beyond generic discounts.”

This is not to say that it is the end for traditional points-based loyalty schemes. Ignoring valuable purchase and online search history data would be an unthinkable idea. But having the long-term mentality that in order to get people to buy from you, you must first get them to like and want to interact with you, is a no-brainer. Dangling the proverbial carrot in front of the paying customer, who is already in a state of ‘yes’, is no longer enough. It is time to recognise those who are willing to invest time and effort – they’re a hot ticket for conversion and your biggest future advocates.

Bia Bezamat is an innovation consultant at retail trends consultancy GDR Creative Intelligence.

Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via info@fashionandmash.com.