Loyalty is hard-earned, but worth it in the end
The longer I work with companies trying to engage better with customers, and the longer I’ve been married, the more I think that everything we do boils down to communication and relationships. From how we buy our groceries, how we talk to our hairdresser, which company we use to provide our mortgage, which friends we go out for a meal with. It’s all down to whom we like and how we talk to them. The German discounters in the UK have made it simple; stack it high, keep choice limited and play on price. We choose to buy our groceries based on a range of criteria including geographical proximity, price and value, width of range, depth of promotion, and then how we pay and check out. In store, the rise of the self-serve checkout is notable, but we still need a human being on hand just in case. With hairdressers; we choose one who may be fast, or chatty – or silent – who has availability, who knows our style, our hair etc. With family there’s sadly often less choice, as my grandmother used to say, but we keep closer contact with some family members than with others and likewise with our friends; we spend most time with people who like us and whom we like, who ‘get’ us, who offer us the best value in terms of their availability, their depth of knowledge, their range of support, their unique ability to make us feel how we want to feel. It’s why some of us end up with life partners – even if we have several of them in the course of time.
But ‘life partnerships’ don’t just happen. They are hard-earned (just ask my husband!). Yes, I have a preferred supermarket, but I’d be open to persuasion if a new one opened up at the end of the road. And while I’m loyal to my hairdresser, if my usual stylist upped and left, I’d be out looking for a replacement. These days, consumer trust and loyalty are extremely difficult to build because people know what they want, when they want it, how much they want to pay for it. Having said that, they also do, actually, want to deal with brands they trust and with whom they have an emotional connection. But for that to happen, brands have to do a lot more listening, and a lot more personalisation of the experience, and they can only do that if their customers are willing to share a bit about themselves. When it’s done wrong, it’s a stand-off that leads nowhere. When it’s done right, it leads to engagement, loyalty and long-lasting relationships.
Most of my current experience is in the gaming industry, where this rings especially true. We play the games in the brands that are the right fit for us; maybe it’s the ones where I’ve already been onboarded, or where someone is offering me a better discount or faster payout, or has a cheekier brand image that makes me smile, but the ones I’ll keep going back to are the ones (deliberately plural) that are working for me, regardless of how they work for other people. Just like supermarkets, friends etc. It’s as much an emotional connection as a transactional one. With all the mergers and general movement in the industry, there’s still scope for players to feel the love, and my prediction is that, regardless of size, those operators that properly engage with their players beyond the pure monetary elements, although these are obviously part of the mix, are the ones that are going to go into 2020 stronger, with more resilient players who are looking for relationships; maybe not actual life partners, but certainly beyond first few dates and getting into the going steady phase.
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