The Loyalty Divide—are brands undervaluing social advocacy and personalization?

by | Apr 24, 2018 | Public Relations

New research suggests retailers are out of touch with consumers that demand more personalized experiences and discover brands and affirm purchase decisions through social influencers.

This new global study from SaaS application firm Oracle, Retail 2018: The Loyalty Divide, reveals consumer perceptions and brand realities of loyalty programs and influences.

“In our primary research, we have uncovered a disparity between consumer and retailer expectations. Retailers put significant focus on transactional activity metrics and less focus on emerging behavioral expressions of loyalty. We found that retailers are overly confident in their ability to deliver relevant incentives and consumers are demanding more personalized engagement,” said Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager at Oracle Retail and Hospitality, in a news release.

The Loyalty Divide—are brands undervaluing social advocacy and personalization?

“Retailers need to take a critical eye at the culture of shoppers that only engage based on convenience and price. Social influence brings an additional dynamic for retailers to navigate the loyalty paradigm as they reward brand advocacy and feed enthusiasts content to affirm their purchases.”

The Great Divide

While 58 percent of retailers believe that consumers are eager to sign up to every loyalty program, 50 percent of consumers are much more selective only signing up to select, relevant programs and 19 percent of consumers rarely joining loyalty programs. Relevancy of loyalty incentives also further highlights the divide between brands and consumers: 58 percent of retailers believe their offers are mostly relevant compared to 32 percent of consumers believing those brand offers are relevant.

Retailers continue to underestimate the impact of social influencers with only 45 percent of brands collaborating with influencers while consumers are more likely to trust brands reviewed by YouTubers (48 percent) and brands mentioned on social media (45 percent).

The Loyalty Divide—are brands undervaluing social advocacy and personalization?

The Future of Loyalty

Despite the great divide, the future of loyalty is promising with younger demographics having a higher propensity to join loyalty programs and note their loyalty is growing. However, a majority of retailers have a skewed focus on measuring loyalty with intrinsic values like brand perception and purchase history.

  • 44 percent of millennials (25-34) and 43 percent of pre-millennials (18 to 24) note they are more loyal to brands than they were five years ago
  • Baby boomers (55+) are discerning when it comes to signing up for programs with 56 percent of respondents noting they will only sign up to select, relevant programs

The Rise of Social Advocacy

Consumers have clearly indicated the necessity for retailers to have a strong social presence and the importance of social influencers in discovering new brands and affirming purchases.

  • 53 percent of consumers are likely to research brands on social media before buying
  • 46 percent are likely to save ideas on social media about products or retailers
  • 43 percent are likely to share photos of retail experiences/products on social media
  • 43 percent are likely to follow influencers that post about favorite retail brands
  • 41 percent of consumers agree that YouTube reviews are more trustworthy than branded advertising or communications
  • 37 percent of consumers agree that retailers used and recommended by social media influencers are more trustworthy than those recommended by celebrities
  • Despite this trend, 28 percent of retailers will only take into account measures of loyalty based on activities such as loyalty card membership or transaction frequency

Consumers think YouTubers and influencers are more trustworthy than traditional advertising or celebrity endorsements:

The Loyalty Divide—are brands undervaluing social advocacy and personalization?

Personalization: Connected and Immediate

For brands to remain relevant they need to create loyalty programs that recognize consumers as individuals with a level of service that goes beyond the traditional brand experience.

  • Connected
    • 69 percent of consumers note personalized offers based on stated preferences as appealing
    • 66 percent of consumers note personalized offers based on purchase history as appealing
    • 58 percent of consumers note personalized content and communications as appealing
  • Immediate
    • 82 percent of consumers note store proximity is most important in driving loyalty
    • 74 percent of consumers note immediate benefits are more appealing than accumulating points
    • 72 percent of consumers note an effortless loyalty program with automatic offers is appealing

“Retailers are heavily invested. The future of loyalty will be a balancing act between consumers’ desire for more anonymity, or at least direct control of their data, and an expectation for meaningful personalization that is targeted and timely,” said Webster. “Oracle Retail is helping our customers defend the right to be forgotten and pivot to earn the right to be remembered. We believe the answer is a new approach to segmentation that integrates advanced algorithms and machine learning into the retail business process that govern planning, inventory and pricing.”

The Right to Data and the Role of Technology

Both consumers and retailers recognize that technology has a key role in driving connection and convenience in loyalty programs. Retailers, however, need to walk a fine line between enabling deeper connections without being invasive.

  • 30 percent of consumers find receiving recommendations for products or brands based on social influencers subscribed to or followed as unappealing compared to 90 percent of retailers that think this would be appealing to consumers
  • 26 percent of consumers find artificial intelligence on a mobile device that gets to know the user through voice recognition and is able to make intelligent recommendations based on this as unappealing compared to 91 percent of retailers that think this would be appealing to consumers
  • 91 percent of consumers note being able to accept or reject offers so that the retailer loyalty program can learn what products and offers are of most interest as appealing
  • 86 percent of consumers note a personalized experience with retail brands where staff and customer support know personal preferences to better service customers as appealing
  • 52 percent of retailers think consumers are concerned about data being passed onto third parties while 81 percent of consumers say they’d consider removing their personal information if they could and 53 percent of consumers are concerned that their data is being passed onto third parties

Four Loyalty Typologies

Retail 2018: The Loyalty Divide uncovered four typologies of consumer behavior including: The Broadcaster who may flit between brands but shouts about their experiences good or bad; The Enthusiast an engaged retail brand follower who is loyal but not loud; The Lazy Loyal typically unengaged but tend to be loyal to brands because it’s easy to be; and, The Seeker who likes to shop around for the best value and holds little affinity to retail brands.

The Broadcaster

  • 32 percent of consumers will recommend to others the retailers they are most loyal to
  • 41 percent would share photos on social media of great retail experiences in exchange for rewards
  • 47 percent would feature the retailer or its products on their social media accounts in exchange for offers / rewards
  • 42 percent would submit a product review through YouTube in exchange for an offer / reward

The Enthusiast

  • 43 percent of consumers are most loyal to brands that they have a high opinion of
  • 1 in 5 consumers (20 percent) will follow their favorite brands on social media
  • 71 percent say product quality and 59 percent an enjoyable shopping experience are most important to them
  • 51 percent say it’s important that they can engage with new and exciting products from brands they are loyal to

The Lazy Loyal

  • 60 percent say convenient store locations are most important to them
  • More than 1 in 3 (40 percent) will typically stick to the brands they like rather than shop around
  • 1 in 4 consumers would not find a loyalty program that can be used across multiple brands appealing
  • 72 percent think an effortless loyalty program where points are automatically redeemed is appealing

The Seeker

  • 66 percent choose a retailer because of competitive prices / promotions
  • 56 percent would exchange personal details in exchange for a personalized offer or promotion
  • 53 percent of consumers would always ‘shop around’ for different retailers to shop with
  • Almost 1 in 5 (19 percent) would rarely sign up to retailer loyalty programs

Download the full report here.

The Oracle study was conducted in February 2018 among 13,000 consumers and 500 operators across retail, hotels and restaurants in five key regions: EMEA (France, Germany, UK and India), North America (USA), Latin America (Brazil and Mexico) and JAPAC (Australia and China).

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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