Photo: Tracey Adams

JOHANNESBURG – In a world where people have a plethora of services and products available to them, companies have to work harder than ever to keep their existing customers loyal. After all, with just a few taps of their smartphone or laptop keyboard, people can change their insurance provider, bank, or mobile service. 

But for those companies that get customer loyalty right, the benefits are clear. Returning customers routinely spend more money on brands they’re loyal to. Given that some 84% of South Africans are members of at least one loyalty programme (the highest in the world), it’s clear that local companies have realised that the more customers they keep loyal, the better it is for their bottom line. But customer loyalty is about more than just having a dedicated programme. 

Fortunately, the same digital technologies that make it easier for people to change product and service providers, are also ideal for driving customer loyalty. 

The ideal way to do this is for businesses to turn away from manual processes and procedures, and really start to embrace online channels, especially when it comes to transactional communication including bills, invoices, and account updates. 

The digital imperative 

Research suggests that people check their phones around 80 times a day. It’s the first thing many people check when they wake up in the morning and the last they look at before going to sleep at night and the email inbox is at the core of what people are checking on their phones. 

It’s therefore imperative that companies be where their customers are and communicate with them on the channel they’re most comfortable. 

Companies that embrace this digital transformation also see higher levels of engagement from their customers, who are are six times more likely to try a new product or service from their preferred brand, four times more likely to have referred a brand to their friends, family and connections, and twice as likely to make a purchase with their preferred brand, even when a competitor has a better product or price.  

By and large, the easiest and most effective way to do this is by using email. Done properly, it not only creates the exceptional customer experience that drives loyalty, it does so in a way that’s accessible (most internet users have an email address), and which drives measurable success. 

According to an article published online by global management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, the rate at which emails prompt purchases is three times that of social media, and it also delivers an average order value 17% higher.

It’s also an efficient and, largely, safe way to deliver digital versions of customer documentation. If people can upgrade a package without ever touching a physical piece of paperwork, for example, or pay an invoice directly from the attachment it arrives in, they’re much less likely to look elsewhere for products and services. 

In order to do this effectively, however, organizations need to know how best to use the medium to create a tool that will most effectively build customer retention and loyalty.

Doing so includes:

  • The ability to create emails that will personalize content to deliver the most powerful messaging for individual customers at the right time 
  • Utilizing the technology to deliver smart, interactive bills, invoices, and other forms of customer documentation
  • Understanding automation, in terms of sending the relevant content at the right time, when  the customer needs it
  • The need to be mobile-first, particularly in an age when so many people access their emails via their mobile devices
  • These principles extend not just to the mails themselves, but also to the documents sent with them. 

A digital-first communication strategy, with email at its core, is ideally poised to drive customer loyalty. This is especially so if the kind of customer documentation that was traditionally paper-based is digitally transformed in a way that is both meaningful and helpful. The opportunities it provides to do so for new and long-time customers alike means that it should be a pivotal part of any organization’s communication strategy. 

As Commercial Director of Striata Africa, Ross Sibbald is focused on leveraging the power of digital communication to achieve the desired results for Striata clients. Ross is also responsible for guiding and managing client retention and growth, defining strategy and execution plans, resourcing and incentivizing appropriately and managing performance against business goals. 

Ross Sibbald is commercial director at Striata.

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