Brand Loyalty in Pakistan?
Is there a company that provides such an exceptional product or service that you never go bargain hunting & proclaim brand loyalty across social networks? Are you loyalty to the same brands as you were a decade ago? My guess is, no.
My time at Mission Centenarian has taught me that it’s better to sell a program or idea to existing customers than to convert them from the competition. Given recent trends, I’m starting to have more faith in that theory. This is because consumers are becoming smarter & subsequently more demanding than before and earning their loyalty gets more difficult every day. The internet has primarily contributed to the customer’s immediate knowledge on faulty products and general complaints; sites like BoltaConsumer.com in Pakistan provide such a platform.
Brand loyalty used to be based around a good product or service that sold at a relatively fair price coupled with persuasive advertising to relate to customers. The concept of rewarding frequent customers with miles, cash back, credit facilities, special rewards or VIP treatment only adds to the eagerness to remain stay as incomparable customer service and loyalty programs win us over.
As much as all that seems important, today it’s less. RBS awards its credit card user points that can be redeemed at restaurants, clothing & bookstores. This feature is more memorable as some customers are unaware of it and are likely to remember it once they see the receipt or the cashier informs them of the discount received. Companies need to ascertain that their value proposition continues to charm a more cost-conscious population. If you’re dissatisfied with your Telco service, you can easily switch (without changing your number) and choose from a number of providers. Industries like–like autos, diversified investments & home appliances–built their models on the consolidation of products, services and information. They use hidden profit margins to fund exceptional service & loyalty schemes, but now consumers are disregarding & taking them apart. Companies that funded loyalty with hidden prices & after sales service have to change. So what should we do? Just two suggestions.
First, acknowledge the dissemination of information. Any insurance or car salesman will regale you with an anecdote of losing a customer because they found the same package or car for less on the internet. The loss in power of knowledge needs to be accepted. The customer of today has the ability to split his car buying into information, search and purchase.
Maybe you used to carry a 15% premium to generic brands & services, but today generics are better & ingredients are on the package for every consumer to see and compare. No doubt the low literacy rate can help you, but smarter customers are great for weighable feedback. Make you’re your marketing and loyalty programs are above par if your value proposition is weak or non existent. Aside from that, all that matters is our reputation, which wont last long. Now is the time to choose, either compete as a mere commodity or create your value proposition now.
Second, try to incorporate loyalty along the consumer experience. Remember that loyalty is the combination of all of your consumer-facing efforts. Are your physical and digital spaces coordinated? Does the customer know the extra value you provide to justify premium pricing? Are policies focused on the customer or profit maximization?
The last 5 times I have availed Smart Cab for travelling to the airport, the driver came late, making excuses that he is new to the company & doesn’t know the city. The last 3 times this happened, time was wasted refueling the car. You might be wondering, why it is that I keep going back. Is it the name? Please. Is it the drivers attempt at conversation? There is none, I’m a very quiet person. It’s because the time gap between each purchase is wide and I assume that my last complaint had been considered. Let’s just say, if they have a “Points Scheme”, I won’t work hard for it.
For the sake of your business, you should ask yourself why it is that customers choose you & analyze your segmentation schemes. Are you still categorizing customers into “newly acquired,” “recurring” and “has-been”? This classification is redundant in today’s extensively-segmented world. You may need a new approach in understanding customer behavior, calculating marketing share & customer retention.
If your methods are reaping rewards, go on the offensive, but if you are not, prepare yourself from an assault by the competition & don’t take your time in figuring out your value proposition problem and focus on fixing it as fast as possible.
The lesson I learned years ago at Mission Centenarian is still true today. Keeping a customer is easier than acquiring one. It’s just getting a lot harder to do.
Babar Javed is Owner & Managing Director of Mission Centenarian, a health & fitness company founded in 2007, which comprises of a network of personal trainers in Karachi. He was most recently the chief marketing officer at Élan Guides & has worked with GlaxoSmithKline & UBL Fund Managers as well. Currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Marketing from SZABIST, his key interests lie in brand activation & advertising.