A connected customer is a loyal customer
Consumer brands are forever searching for new ways to keep customers loyal. In competitive markets, product or service differentiation only goes so far, so — particularly where premium customers are concerned — benefits and perks unrelated to the core service are a popular means of combating churn.
Banks give customers roadside assistance cover, mobile phone insurance, or airport lounge access. Mobile service providers offer cinema tickets or restaurant discounts. The right life insurance provider can get you 50% off expensive running shoes once a year, says Jeff Mabe, senior director, strategic partnerships at Pareteum.
Many of these perks are offered as a statistically safe gamble that the customer will not use them, because they relate to infrequent events (a broken-down car, a stolen iPhone, the decision to take up running…). This makes them cost effective but also reduces their value to the customer, and therefore their influence over the churn decision.
One benefit which is increasingly popular with a range of consumer brands — and which is both easily and gratefully redeemed by consumers — is complementary Wi-Fi connectivity.
The popularity of free Wi-Fi has been proven repeatedly by brands which operate premises such as coffee shops, hotels, shopping malls, and so on. It is a reward earned by the customer for the visit they pay to the brand. And, of course, it is not the connectivity which has value, but the experiences that connectivity enables.
What’s happening now is that brands such as banks, airlines, and car rental companies, are offering Wi-Fi as a benefit which delivers value wherever the customer goes. In shops, restaurants, airports, hotels, in flight, you name it. Thanks to the ubiquity of Wi-Fi this is not a benefit tied to a single place, it is a benefit bound up in the customer relationship.
HSBC, Hertz, and credit card brand Elo are just some of the brands offering this service, keeping customers connected in a simple, seamless, and secure way, to the digital experiences — content, services, social interactions — which are most important to them.
Some are even building the capability into their own customer apps, which is when this highly desirable customer benefit delivers powerful additional value to the brand.
By keeping customers connected, brands are also keeping connected to their customers. If they then mix in the ability to use Wi-Fi to determine location, an entirely new world of contextual customer engagement opens up where core products and services, as well as curated benefits, can have a great deal more meaning.
The customer’s at an airport? Offer a great deal on car hire, or hotels, or currency exchange, or a new book for their kindle, or a new movie available on their favourite streaming service. With a sensitive and sensible approach to privacy, this level of customer engagement offers enormous value to the customer, as well as to the consumer brand and its network of partners and benefits providers.
It becomes possible for a brand to understand their customers in greater depth, leading to improved and personalised services. Anonymised information about customer location and habits can be applied to future sales and marketing strategies, with great success. In the retail sector, understanding in-store Wi-Fi usage is helping to generate offers tailored to specific customer needs, and even provides insight into where certain items should be located on the shop floor based on how consumers move around the space.
Consumers want to stay connected, because of the access it gives them to the experiences they cherish. It is a loyalty benefit which offers tangible value to the consumer, while providing the brand with a wealth of insights which can improve their services and customer engagement activities. And it is precisely because of how frequently a benefit like this is used by the consumer that it is able to return so much value to any brand which provides it.
The power of a connection is that the benefit flows both ways.
The author is Jeff Mabe, senior director, strategic partnerships at Pareteum