In many industries, converting a consumer isn’t enough. Brands like Coca-Cola and Starbucks rely on loyal customers to keep buying their products. Any company that banks on customer loyalty has to deliver quality experiences over and over again just to have a fighting chance.
Establishing customer loyalty is especially difficult in the fuel industry. If you’re anything like me, you don’t factor in staff friendliness or brand image when deciding where to fill up. You go with the cheapest option on your side of the street. Despite this challenge, Shell Retail is working on a multi-channel campaign to build brand love. Dan Little, who is Head of North American Marketing for Shell, works with his team to keep customers in the fold.
On the Renegade Thinkers Unite podcast, Little explains how Shell’s new Instant Gold Status rewards program aims to improve customer retention. He brings three decades of experience with the brand to the table, and offers advice to help businesses create a loyal fan base. You can listen to the episode below.
Here are the blueprints for a successful customer loyalty strategy:
Identify the Audience
If you want to create new experiences for your customers, it helps to know who they are. Unless your brand appeals to a very specific niche, there’s probably some diversity in your consumer base. Little reminds marketers to acknowledge the complexity of the audience. “We always talk about the customer,” he explains, “and I always say, ‘wait a minute. There isn’t just a the customer.’” Try not to make sweeping generalizations. Shoot for a detailed understanding of your followers.
Play Into the Consumer’s Hand
Once you know who’s buying from you, think about what would make their brand experience better. As the marketing department at Shell realizes, you can’t depend on organic loyalty from consumers. You have to offer something that speaks to their needs, building what Little describes as one-to-one relationships. Provide customers with a little something extra that will give them reason to choose you over competitors. After you begin to develop loyalty, opportunity is sure to follow. “Loyalty works,” claims Little. “We see new members coming in—whether they were existing customers or new to Shell customers—and increasing their frequency of purchase at Shell on a monthly basis significantly.” Having a loyal customer is almost like having two customers. If a client keeps returning, you’ll make up for some of the prospects who don’t choose your brand.
Offer a Rewards Program
Consumers. Love. Rewards. Ongoing benefit systems keep customers coming back, encouraging them to work towards a goal. Even if you offer a simple punch card where somebody earns a free product or service after X number of purchases, it can make a big difference. Shell is currently offering the Instant Gold Status rewards program, which entitles qualifying customers to a 5-cent discount at the pump in addition to a number of other benefits. This is still a relatively new program, but marketers can still learn from the model. Little describes how the program intends to grow brand loyalty. He says, “We get them [customers] in with Instant Gold Status and five cents, and then we educate them and we train them in the different ways to enhance their experience and the value they get out of the program.” Reveal the benefits of your rewards system as transparently as possible. Once you have consumers’ attention, show them how to get the most out of your system.
Innovate New Customer Loyalty Strategies
Your customer retention strategy should be dynamic. No matter what great benefits you offer, competitors can match them. Stay on the lookout for ways to try out new perks that competing organizations haven’t considered. Creativity shouldn’t be limited to promotions, either; think innovatively with your overall marketing strategy as well. Little says, “With every iteration we’re trying to get more creative and maybe a bit more edgier in our content, and we’re trying to keep it fresh and new. And of course the more you are on the social platforms, the more you recognize how important that is.”