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Why retailers should start getting personal with customers

43% of consumers are beginning to unsubscribe if retailers don’t have relevant content for them.

As omnichannel experiences replace traditional in-store purchases, brands are driven to adapt and innovate to retain the new breed of tech-savvy consumers.

With the help of the right technology and the correct use of customer data and actionable insights, brands can be empowered to personalise campaigns and increase customer engagement to build customer loyalty.  

This was one of the main conclusions reached during a roundtable discussion on “Personalizing the omnichannel journey: Customer engagement and retention,” on  November 10 at the Fullerton Hotel Singapore. The event, jointly organised by Retail Asia industry magazine and AI-driven loyalty marketing platform Capillary Technologies, aimed to explore the shift in buying preferences and habits of consumers that have contributed to the burgeoning omnichannel experience. The discussion was attended by 20 guests from 16 major retail organisations whose brands are household names in Singapore.

To kick off the discussions, Santosh Reddy, Vice President for Sales & Marketing at Capillary Technologies, said that the most observable change is a more confident consumer that “wants to get to what they want, and faster.” He added that as consumers look for fresh content on their e-commerce feeds or emails, “it's very important to have the relevant content in front of them.” 

Reddy related this trend to how consumer data is leveraged. “Everyone's consumers are very aware of how their data is being used. They don't want to be spammed. Around 43% of consumers begin to unsubscribe at this point but the real reason is they may have just ignored it because it isn’t interesting or relevant to them.”

In the same vein, Kenneth Zhang, Director of Membership, Adidas thinks that to be really customer-centric, what's important is what your consumers actually see. “You can have the best technology, and the best creativity, but consumers see only the end content. Does the end content do justice to the customer experience you want to drive?”

This is a major question brands have to answer.

Strengthening the Emotional Bond

Elaine Heng, Chief Executive Officer (Retail Business) at FairPrice Group, acknowledged that COVID-19 has transformed the retail landscape, where “there's more online adoption,” citing a Google, Temasek and Bain, e-Conomy SEA 2021 survey which reported that 97% of Singaporeans have made e-commerce purchases and about 90% said these habits are here to stay.

Heng said that whilst online shopping lacks the emotional bond of people to physical stores, the goal for the online space is “how do we make it engaging through personalisation, through understanding the different shopping missions and personas at different points in time.” 

Echoing Reddy and Heng, Rose Tong, Executive Director of the Singapore Retailers Association observed that shoppers have become smarter and internet savvy. “They don't need sales assistance to get much product information.  What the consumers want is the emotional connection with the brand and the salesperson that keeps them coming back.”

Data analytics, when used correctly, can provide customer insights that help businesses maximise productivity and retail operations. At Singapore Retailers Association, she said, the objective is to train retail staff to harness the data and bring that personal touch to customer engagement. “Welcome them not just with a smile, but with more knowledge about their preferences.”

Consumers Drive Innovation

As shifts in customer behaviour occur, Lee Yik Hun, Southeast Asia Marketing Director for Food of the DFI Retail Group ( Singapore ) portends that the threats of increasing inflation, job losses, and recession are adding to the pressure. “Customers are increasingly seeking value. Things are more expensive and customers are increasingly looking for alternatives to see how they can save,” and will fuel the deepening and accelerating awareness around health and wellness.

When asked whether consumer expectations are shaping the drive for innovation, Devendra Shivhare, Director Head of Marketing Technology Asia Pacific, The Coca-Cola Company said that whilst the traditional way – where one brand builds the product, pushes it to consumers, then collects feedback – is still prevalent amongst brands and manufacturers, the innovation process has “completely changed.”

Citing his experience, he revealed that in creating a new product they try to understand where and who their consumers are. “We try to analyse their behaviour and sentiments around a specific brand, and look at the data to make sure we are targeting the right consumers.”

In line with this, Sandhya Pillay, Global Customer Director, The Coca-Cola Company, reiterated that the starting point of innovation is “giving every consumer their last best experience, which entails a “deep knowledge of every consumer segment to create a meaningful and long-lasting connection.”

Tools of Engagement 

Between shopping transactions, retailers must continue to leverage the in-depth knowledge of the consumer to build loyalty. Devika Diouri, Consumer Engagement Manager, L'Oreal observed that as people spend more time online, it's not just for shopping.

“We have noticed the rise of ‘shoppertainment,’ where consumers are no longer coming to our online store simply to purchase. They would like to be entertained as well.” This is giving more fuel to the trend of using influencers and live video streaming for marketing and having brands scramble to set up recording studios.

Geraldine Huang, Senior Marketing Executive, StarHub Ltd on the other hand, identifies the gamification of the retail experience as another tool to increase consumer engagement. “They're also looking for something fairly easy and fast that they can actually play with.”

Tapping a New Generation

One approach that companies use in marketing is looking to the younger demographics. For brands such as Canon, Brandon Tan, Digital Transformation Manager, Canon Singapore Pte Ltd believes that putting the product in a young customer’s hands and trying it is a must to build customer engagement and loyalty.

At the end of the day, we are talking more of letting them use the brand, letting them be comfortable in utilising the cameras and building that confidence so that in the future, they will think about Canon, they will buy Canon.”

Rachel Cheng, Managing Director, Eu Yan Sang (Singapore) Pte Ltd reflects on the merit of leveraging on the future generation. “A lot of our younger patients come in with the need to know exactly how they can take care of their health and maintain immunity without any treatment. We are building on this new pool of people that believe in self-care.”

As younger consumers strengthen their leverage, the retail landscape is scrambling to provide excessive convenience to this market segment, said Mandy Mak, Regional Marketing Director Asia Pacific, Subway Systems Singapore, which means accessibility and security.

As simple as remembering a person’s name can make people build a rapport with each other. If retailers use that premise and build a way to craft special deals or give their customers a customised list of products they would absolutely love, then customer loyalty would be sure to follow.

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