Is consistent messaging the key to loyalty?

Discussion
Oct 07, 2016

MarketingCharts staff

Engendering retail customer loyalty depends more on consistent marketing efforts than on creating seamless experiences, at least from the perspective of senior retail executives at large companies. That’s according to a recent study on “Retentionomics,” from Forbes Insights and Sailthru.

Asked which internal barriers prevent individuals from becoming repeat customers of their businesses, retail respondents to the survey pointed first to the lack of consistent marketing and communication (51 percent).

The next-largest internal barriers to customer loyalty, per the survey, are the lack of seamless omnichannel/cross-channel shopping experience (40 percent) and the lack of modern, enabling technologies (40 percent).

Fewer cited the lack of personalization (27 percent) as a top barrier to customer loyalty. That may be in response to consumers’ attitudes towards in-store personalization tactics, many of which veer more towards “creepy” than “cool.” Still, a sizable share of consumers say that personalization influences their retail purchase decisions.

Barriers to loyalty chart
Source: MarketingCharts/Forbes/Sailthru

Perhaps more surprisingly, though, was the least-cited barrier to customer loyalty: poor or inconsistent customer service (21 percent). That was at the bottom of the list despite recent research from [24]7 indicating that almost half of consumers will abandon a company and move to a competitor within one day of having a poor customer service experience, given price and products of equal value. Additionally, an Accenture survey released last year indicated that 53 percent of U.S. customers had switched a service provider during the prior year due to poor service.

The overall findings were based on a survey of 300 retail and media/publishing executives conducted in March/April 2016.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do retailers place a high enough priority on consistent marketing and communications? What tips can you offer for delivering a consistent marketing voice?

Braintrust
"We might suggest that executives is the wrong group to answer the question of what the barriers are to loyalty."
"One thing I consistently share with retailers is the fact that we shouldn’t be too proud to look outside our industry for best practices. "
"Retailers need to move to a Unified Commerce platform, one version of the truth, across all customer touchpoints to truly speak with one voice..."

Join the Discussion!

18 Comments on "Is consistent messaging the key to loyalty?"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

We might suggest that executives is the wrong group to answer the question of what the barriers are to loyalty. Shoppers (like [24]7 reports) are going to be the best source of answers or ideas about this question.

Jasmine Glasheen
Guest
Jasmine Glasheen
10 months 12 days ago

I agree with Dr. Needel. The findings of this study are inconsistent with what I know about retail. Customers don’t want more emails, notifications and mailers. They want communication that pertains to them.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

With all due credit to marketing consistency, I think it’s overrated as the key driver of customer loyalty — at least in this survey. Communicating to customers — wherever they look for marketing messages — is an important building block in branding, but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Marketing needs to function alongside merchandise content, pricing strategies, customer service and so forth — and in a consistent way with the other pieces of the retail puzzle — in order to turn a satisfied customer into a committed one.

By the way, since retailers are in the business of selling goods and services, isn’t merchandise content (the right product in stock when the customer wants it) the most important attribute? If stores don’t execute this, does marketing matter?

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

At last week’s fsTEC (food services technologies) conference Paul Brown, CEO of Arby’s Restaurant Group described that a culture of innovation should start with clearly defining the purpose of the organization and assuring that patrons, team members and suppliers all know “why we do what we do.” This being the headwaters of branding, the downstream flow of messaging and engagement must be consistent with the theme. Brand assets (logos, product images, etc.) should be readily available for re-purposing, approval processes should be swift and regulate against a published style guide and rogue creative must be pinched off. It is probably biblical old wisdom that a good name has resilience but folly causes dishonor.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Sorry, you can’t put lipstick on a pig and communicate more and more that it is Marilyn Monroe. As other experts have noted, this is clearly the wrong group to ask or they as a group are kidding themselves that inconsistent service is the least thing they need to pay attention to.

Tom Redd
Guest

This study is OFF THE MARK. Customer service — especially if online — is number one for me and many that shop online. When something does not fit; a motorcycle part, shoes or clothes, then we need help. I hate having just received the wrong order from some online joint and then getting their promotional emails. I only shop online if I cannot get to their store.

Stores are still better.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

All of these executives should be looking for new jobs. Loyalty is not derived from marketing, it’s earned from delivering on a brand promise at every customer touchpoint. Whether in-store or online, customers have an expectation about how each retailer experience should go. Meet those expectations and you get loyalty. Fail to deliver and your competitor is just a click away. The same holds true for brick-and-mortar. Fail to deliver the desired experience and customers will not hurry back.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

The mass advocating of the importance of service misses the point that if the juice is worth the squeeze, consumers will endure it. I drink decaf coffee, and Starbucks is my favorite, but many locations (i.e. airports, suburban shops) do not have it ready-brewed. So my expected in-and-out becomes a five-minute wait time as I watch it drip into the cup while the staff fill other orders. Is it good customer service? No … though I endure it for the results of the visit — and my patronage continues. Customer service is but one element of the path to purchase.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

Given all the channels that shoppers use to interface and/or communicate with brands and retailers, it is imperative that ALL authorized brand media assets are curated in a central library. These media elements should be the only ones being used by the entire brand ecosystem of departments and agencies. This is the only way to ensure that your shoppers have a seamless, consistent and relevant brand message across all the channels they use while on their personal shopping journey — online, in-store, mobile, social, print and broadcast. I call this a “content supply chain” challenge and it should be taken as seriously as any product inventory and supply chain issue. Everyone should be singing out of the same hymnal!

Ron X
Guest
10 months 12 days ago

True loyalty (not purchase frequency) is influenced by many things. A weakness in any one area will hurt loyalty. Consistent messages are important, customer experiences interacting with staff and store are important and many others must be maintained at high levels. One weakness will become the LLF (loyalty-limiting factor).

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

One thing I consistently share with retailers is the fact that we shouldn’t be too proud to look outside our industry for best practices. When it comes to customer loyalty, true loyalty, look to airlines & hospitality. In the case of this article’s topic, I look to — of all things — the automotive industry to see that consistent messaging over the past some 40 years has “driven” fans of BMW to stay loyal to “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” ‘Nough said. 😉

Christopher P. Ramey
BrainTrust
The question is “Do retailers place a high enough priority on consistent marketing and communications?” The answer is NO. The tip is communicating your unique DNA in such a way that it resonates with your best prospects. In the luxury segment there are specific pillars of marketing. These are very different from other business models including design or mass. Creating loyalty is, of course, more than just marketing. On the other hand, one can’t be loyal to a brand they don’t remember. Most retailers are guilty of a cognitive bias. Their brand(s) are important to them and therefore they think they are important to their customers. But, they are not — they are merely today’s purchase. Similarly, too many retailers think everyone knows who they are because everyone they know, knows who they are. But their many competitors have equally sized eco-systems with the same loyalty. In a world where best prospects are inundated with commercial messages, executing a well-defined omni-channel marketing strategy is essential to breaking through the barriers that prospects create. Few retailers do so effectively. Loyalty is driven by a myriad of touch-points. Any one touch-point can destroy a relationship. But marketing does the heavy-lifting in keeping… Read more »
James Tenser
BrainTrust

As Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote in his essay, Self-Reliance: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

When I review a survey of senior executives who place worry over lack of marketing consistency so far above concerns about customer service quality, I can only visualize their minds as microscopic.

In today’s digital-over-mass marketplace, relevance, engagement and experience are top values in developing shopper loyalty. Employees are a key touch point in that total equation, because they can perceive, think and respond to customers. If we accept that each encounter is naturally unique, a slavish consistency is a sure path to shopper ennui.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Customers want to shop wherever and whenever with the benefits of both the digital and physical retail environments. Effective customer engagement requires retailers to offer personalized, relevant, compelling and consistent services across channels. Consumers want personalized services. According to a recent study by Salesfloor, 84% of consumers choose to interact with sales associates when at a physical retailer and 87% base purchase decisions off the advice of a retail employee. Savvy retailers are offering guided-selling services to shoppers both online and in-store to personalize the experience based on customer context. From a consistency standpoint, it is imperative for retailers to make the shopping experience seamless and consistent across all channels. The good news is that many retailers are making this a top priority. According to the 2016 Digital Commerce Survey, published yesterday, 56% of retailers indicate their top digital priority is to create a consistent brand experience across channels. Now it is time to execute on these priorities and give customers the experience they want during the holiday season. A major reason for the inconsistent communication to the customer is the shear number of systems deployed across the multiple channels. Over the last 30 years, retailers simply added new systems,… Read more »
Vahe Katros
Guest
I think part of this question might be a budget question relating to the shift that’s been happening from direct mail, newspapers and mass advertising to digital — the old methods of driving traffic are changing. So, what do you say to get folks to come back without having to bribe them with discounts and sales? Of course you’ll need to execute properly on service attributes like in-stock position, hassle free returns, good information, good locations, hours of operation, etc. But beyond that, how do you create a system to consistently create compelling messages to engage in the brand? Know why, when, where, and who uses what you sell – capture their stories and their comments and reviews and turn it into concise copy that lets more people know about the value you will create by engaging in your brand. To do that, you might have merchants, marketers, customers and store people work together to capture the nuggets that will connect. And you’ll have to do that on a consistent basis so you’ll probably need to look into communications methods that enable these teams of creatives to get to the truth – if you have stores, it will be easier… Read more »
Susan O'Neal
BrainTrust
10 months 8 days ago

Trust is earned through many transparent, mutually beneficial and mutually chosen experiences between a consumer and a business. Loyalty is the reward for earning a consumer’s trust. While consistent messaging helps reduce confusion, it won’t build loyalty by itself.

Eric Porres
Guest
10 months 2 days ago

Many of the marketeers who commented on this research appeared to have overlooked the first part of the question re: “internal barriers.”

Customer service is not an INTERNAL barrier for these companies — that is, the executives surveyed have already principally solved for customer service, hence its low value, relative to a higher internal barrier of consistent communication. Silos, competing priorities, take your pick, they all lead to internal challenges.

Customer service has been around for centuries, while the commercial internet has only been around for 22 years. Consistent communication across touchpoints (which continue to proliferate) remain a critical challenge for retail, and an opportunity for companies like ours to help address.

I would encourage all commenters to download the full report.

Guy Hillier
Guest

Accurate personalization is the key to creating/maintaining loyalty. Consumers are increasingly annoyed by irrelevant offers being sent either through email communication or through generic coupons at the checkout. What’s needed is an approach where the consumer is appropriately targeted based on their current segment and/or their purchase history such that any communications are likely to contain offers which are personalized to them.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"We might suggest that executives is the wrong group to answer the question of what the barriers are to loyalty."
"One thing I consistently share with retailers is the fact that we shouldn’t be too proud to look outside our industry for best practices. "
"Retailers need to move to a Unified Commerce platform, one version of the truth, across all customer touchpoints to truly speak with one voice..."

Take Our Instant Poll

How important is consistent messaging to retention?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...