Loyalty in Asia according to Mary English

15 March 2018

The rise of digital platforms and services has permeated every area of life, from the way businesses perform their daily functions to the way people meet and communicate with each other. Technology has revolutionised life as we know it, creating booming tech hubs and innovation centres, in particular Japan and Singapore. To help brand marketers prepare for 2018, we have spoken to Mary English, Executive Vice President for the Asia Pacific region of Collinson Group, to get her views on customer loyalty in APAC and give us some New Year’s resolutions to stick to in the year to come.


Q: Can you give us a quick introduction to yourself and your role?

I’m Mary English, Executive Vice President – APAC at Collinson Group. I am responsible for the vision, strategy and overall management of the business in this region to ensure we have continuous engagement with our clients and drive customer devotion to their brands.


Q: What do you see the biggest challenges being for brand marketers in APAC this year?

The biggest challenge for brand marketers today is the diminished loyalty a customer has to any specific brand and their ability to explore other options more easily through digital channels. Customers expect transparency and ease when creating a relationship with brands that connect emotionally to their beliefs and social morals. We are also finding that customers are constantly being influenced and changing their behaviour in line with what they discover online and through social media.

Another challenge marketers are facing is how aware consumers are about the value of their personal data and how they expect to receive benefits if they share their information with brands. In this context, loyalty programmes are the most tangible means brands can use to make sure consumers to get the value they want for their data. However, we also see many loyalty programmes that have lost the ability to showcase brand equity and create a value exchange between customers and brands which is why many are missing the opportunity to provide the personalised benefits based on customer data that would build trust and ongoing relationships.

From my observation, brands understand the value of customer and market data but they often lack the ability to turn it into actionable business insights. For example, predicting the “next visit” of a customer and pushing this forward with benefits such as a real-time offer or tailored in-store experience can stop the sale going to a competitor and potentially increase their spend with your company. Many brands have been relying on international shoppers, particularly Chinese consumers, to contribute to brand revenue as they have come to realise this segment of shoppers represent a significant proportion of their retail sales. However, they have not invested in a recognition proposition to deepen engagement and encourage repeat purchase based on the data they have collected.


Q: You mentioned previously customers change their behaviour based on online influencers. Can you explain this concept further and what you see the impact of it being?

This is a concept called “Behavioural Economics” and it suggests that people make irrational decisions because they are influenced by social factors. In an increasingly interconnected world, emotions play a large part in shaping our buying decisions. This impacts the traditional marketing efforts that are mostly focused on a rational, and often, value-based approach to promoting brands, products or services.

The rise of social media and digital technology has uplifted customers’ expectations. Tech-savvy customers, particularly here in the Asian market, are highly influenced by online reviews and social trends and are much more likely to make a purchase decision based on these in order to avoid taking risks and gain acceptance by others. Brands have to identify loyalty drivers and the emotional dimensions of each individual customer in order to encourage their most profitable behaviour.


Q: What do you think the future of customer loyalty will look like in 2018?

We see the evolution of loyalty shifting from purely transactional to incorporating much more emotional elements that are captured through social and digital customer interactions. Engagement with the customer will become more personalised, using curated content supported by insights that have been pulled from the multiple sources of customer sentiment and transactional data brands have access to.

Today’s customer journey is dynamic, accessible and continuous. This is because the digital touch points are “always-on”, resulting in customers being able to constantly re-evaluate their purchase options online. Enabled by technology, customers expect to easily control and vary their routes within and across channels to suit their needs at any given moment. As a result, customers find it easier to compare a brand’s promise with its delivery and how the overall customer experience meets their own expectations – and subsequently make changes if they find their chosen brand isn’t reacting in the same dynamic fashion.


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