Over the course of COVID-19, we have been tracking four key things using loyalty data taken from over 600 stores using LoyaltyLion:
1. The purchase behaviors of loyalty program members
2. The value of loyalty program members versus guest shoppers
3. The likelihood of loyal customers to act as advocates
4. The propensity for customers to kickstart new brand relationships
And now, yet another month has passed with social distancing, working from home and Zoom quiz nights becoming the everyday way of life. But what does another month of data tell us about customer loyalty and how your ability to retain valuable customers is being impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 situation?
Last month we brought you four key findings from loyalty data taken from over 600 stores:
So what does the data from April tell us about customer loyalty during COVID-19?
In March, we reported that the number of members making orders had remained steady throughout the month, despite global uncertainty. We also found that member order counts were 22% higher in the last week of March, than the last week of February.
In terms of loyalty program engagement, we reported that despite fluctuating through March, the number of points being earned and redeemed rose to 5% and 11% higher, respectively, by the end of the month.
What does April show?
Loyalty program engagement also remained positive. The number of loyalty points earned continued to rise throughout March. Having ended March 5% higher than the last week of February, the number of points earned rose by a further 29% by the last week of April.
Similarly, the number of points that program members redeemed grew very positively. Having ended March 11% higher than the last week of February, the number of points that loyal customers redeemed rose by a further 20% by the last week of April.
Customers are still shopping with the brands they know and love, and are continuing to engage in loyalty programs despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
At the end of March, we reported that loyal customers remained more valuable, with the average order value of program members remaining between 20 and 30% higher than those of guest shoppers.
What can we learn about customer lifetime value looking at data from April?
Despite order numbers steadily increasing throughout April, average order values of both guest shoppers and loyalty program members are yet to recover to where they were in the last week of February.
However, the average order values of loyalty program members, which remained consistently between 20 and 30% higher than the average order values of guests in April, are still considerably higher. In the last week of April, members still have an average order value 25% higher than non-members.
Your loyal customers are worth more to you than any new customers you have acquired over the past month, and your retention strategy should reflect that.
Last month, we reported that customers were actually showing a greater propensity to act as advocates, with the number of program members leaving reviews and making referrals increasing by 26% and 33% respectively.
Has that willingness to act as an advocate changed in April?
The average number of reviews that were rewarded with loyalty points in April rose considerably higher again, with the last week of the month seeing an increase of a further 34%, reaching 58% higher than the last week of February.
The average number of members that were rewarded for making referrals also rose significantly throughout April. By the third week of the month, when compared to the last week of February referral activity had increased by 72%, reaching as much as 105% higher by the last week of April.
Your customers have become more and more willing to use their newly found spare time to advocate your brand. This is an opportunity to make the most of as it will pay dividends in future.
March data told an interesting story that although the number of members signing up to loyalty programs had been steadily increasing, the proportion of new customers who were taking the time to create an account had fallen. By the end of the month, the number of guest checkouts creating an account had fallen by 10% compared to the end of February.
The number of new members signing up to loyalty programs has increased significantly in April, reaching 37% higher than the end of March, and 63% higher than the end of February.
However, the proportion of new customers becoming members has remained lower than it was at the end of February. There is, however, a positive trend with this number improving week by week to reach just 2% lower by the end of April. This suggests that more stores are taking the time to encourage new customers they have acquired to connect and create an account.
In May, this remained consistent, with the number of customers creating accounts falling by around 30%, and the proportion of new customers becoming members remaining around 2% lower than it was at the end of February. While this is still an improvement on March data, it raises concerns about each store’s ability to maintain a long-term relationship with new customers.
Consumers are still willing to connect with brands and share their data. Brands are getting better at encouraging customers to kickstart relationships, but should still focus on implementing initiatives to ensure that newly acquired customers can be communicated with longer-term.
Though ecommerce stores are undoubtedly seeing the impact of changing consumer behaviors, when it comes to your existing customers, the news remains positive as loyal shoppers continue to spend, engage and advocate. Stay tuned to see how this changes in May.
Do you have questions on your own loyalty data or how to adapt your existing retention strategy? We’re here to help – just book a time to chat with one of our team.
COVID-19 will not affect all merchants in the same way. Initially, sales may soar for those in sectors like groceries, health and household, pet supplies, and other everyday goods providers. However as people get used to a new routine, other sectors that saw an initial dip will start to pick up again – for example, fitness and gym equipment providers may spike as customers get used to working out at home. Similarly, fashion and jewelry stores may see more sales as people use their free time to shop online more.
Wherever you sit in this spectrum, there will be different points at which to ride the wave but at LoyaltyLion, we believe that your existing customers will be the key to your success. This is why.
The time to move marketing spend around
The effectiveness of typical acquisition channels such as PPC and Facebook advertising is likely to continue falling over the coming weeks. However, rising customer acquisition costs provide an opportunity for merchants to start experimenting with shifting their focus to retaining existing customers.
It’s a well-documented fact that it costs at least five times as much to acquire new customers as it does to retain existing ones. Even so, it can be difficult to take the leap and divert resources from the channels that deliver new customers, even when they do not deliver the greatest returns. Encouraging your customer base to return and repeat purchase rather than churning could pay dividends in countering rising acquisition costs.
Cash flow is king – focus on the highest returns
Data from LoyaltyLion has shown that for most ecommerce stores, the top 20% of customers are responsible for over 50% of revenue. This insight can help merchants focus marketing efforts and investment on the segment that will make the biggest difference to their bottom line over the coming weeks.
This is a chance to remind VIP customers that they are valued and that their loyalty will be rewarded if they continue to engage and spend. This customer segment will be the most impactful in helping you to keep your cash flow strong.
Where confidence is low, trust and advocacy is everything
Falling and spiking traffic is something we will see over the coming weeks. With experts predicting that there will be additional browsing but less buying as more people move into isolation, it’s a good time to focus on building trust. Existing customers are most likely to act as advocates and they can be easily motivated to leave online reviews and make referrals.
Your most loyal customers will be passionate, both about seeing your business succeed and cheering their friends and family by introducing them to products they love. It’s important to keep your program generous so that customers are more inclined to keep the advocacy coming. Having more social proof online during this period of increased traffic will help you draw in new audiences, whilst helping to boost conversion now and once the crisis passes.
In a crisis, community matters
Our research shows that almost 70% of consumers say their loyalty is motivated by the knowledge that a brand shares their values and beliefs. We see more and more stores building communities around their brand values, whether through the types of rewards they offer or the content they create.
Despite social distancing and isolation, a silver lining of COVID-19 is that globally, real-life relationships are strengthening and communities are coming together to support each other. The same can be true for brands that take the opportunity to communicate their beliefs with their existing customers.
This is an issue affecting everybody, and your customers are facing the same uncertainty you are. Communicating with sympathy and empathy is vital to strengthening relationships and creating a sense of community at a time when consumers need something to feel connected to.
Offline moves online
With many governments now enforcing the closure of shopping malls and retail outlets outside of grocery stores, Darwin’s famous quote is becoming very relevant.
“Those who survive are not the strongest or the most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.”
For many businesses, it is now necessary to close physical stores and move their operations entirely online. While this may appear an initial headache both in terms of logistics for those businesses, and competition for existing online merchants, it also represents a longer-term opportunity. This is a trend that could very well persist once COVID-19 has passed, and as these changes force new consumer habits to form, we may see a permanent lift in ecommerce sales across the board.
Working in ecommerce, we talk about surprise and delight a lot. And there’s no question that over the past weeks, people around the world have surprised, and delighted us. From the weekly claps to show appreciation for healthcare workers, to the brands who have completely switched up their production lines to make extra equipment and essentials.
You will have read about the actions of bigger brands such as Burberry and McLaren in the news, but there are a lot of smaller brands who have also taken big steps to help their customers as the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded. We’re here to celebrate these unsung heroes, and tell you more about how they’ve used their loyalty programs to make a difference. We’re going to talk through examples from the following stores:
Hero #1: Waterdrop
Transitioning shoppers from offline to online
Waterdrop were forced to close their physical stores early on. In response:
By immediately letting their most valuable customers know that they had closed their physical stores, and giving them a reason to find them online sooner Waterdrop made their transition to a purely online business a seamless one.
Hero #2: withSimplicity
Showing understanding of individual challenges
Clean skincare brand, withSimplicity wanted to send a heartfelt message to customers that would stand out from other email messages. To achieve this they:
By prioritizing customer safety and providing shoppers with real ways to solve some of their day-to-day problems, withSimplicity demonstrated that they had their customers’ best interests at heart – something that will help them to retain shoppers long into the future.
Hero #3: Beauty Bakerie
Creating a community despite social distancing
Baking brand, Beauty Bakerie quickly understood that their loyalty program members may have a little extra time on their hands. They acted fast, responding by:
By creating a daily activity that their members could participate in, Beauty Bakerie gave customers something to look forward to. More importantly, they gave members a feeling of community and participation that they won’t quickly forget, while ensuring that their brand engagement remained high.
Hero #4: Astrid and Miyu
Being more than just a brand
Jewelry brand Astrid and Miyu have a long-standing loyal customer base, to whom they are far more than just a brand to buy from. They reiterated this fact in their response by:
Demonstrating that they were there for more than just discounts during a difficult time, Astrid and Miyu have likely secured themselves more sales in the long term, showing members just how much intrinsic value they can add through a brand-consumer relationship.
Hero #5: Taylor Stitch
Showing support for others
There’s always a danger that the messages brands put out during a crisis can come across as self-serving. T-shirt brand Taylor Stitch, were quick to acknowledge that their customers were ‘more interested in stockpiling TP than t shirts’ and instead, concentrated on engaging their loyal customer base in other ways. They responded by:
Sending a humble message that showed what they were passionate about, and asking customers to share in that passion helped Taylor Stitch to connect with their customers on a truly personal level. It also gave them a new and different way to stay engaged with their member base, even if they’re not making purchases just at the moment – an action which will pay dividends in the future.
These are just a few examples of brands who have prioritised retention by connecting with their consumers in unique and special ways during the COVID-19 crisis. There are many more and here at LoyaltyLion, we’ve been truly inspired by what we’ve seen so far.
1. Doing the effective thing instead of everything
Many ecommerce businesses were forced to furlough staff – for days, weeks or months. This forced remaining staff to drop extended to do lists that had grown over time, and focus only on the things that would be immediately impactful. ‘Must-haves’ quickly became ‘nice-to-haves’, and teams with narrower focuses became more streamlined in terms of tasks.
However we shouldn’t let the ‘nice-to-haves’ creep back in. We should remain focussed on the activities that have the biggest impact. That means keeping marketing efforts centred on customers with the highest lifetime value. It also means ensuring that marketing tools and technologies are working together to drive efficiency and greater ROI.
2. Customers came first
Ecommerce brands have consistently been there for their customers during this time. We’re talking about the product pivots to produce hand sanitizer and facemasks; the discounts provided for healthcare professionals; the free workouts distributed to keep people healthy and happy; and the clear communication around delivery and shipping that gave customers the confidence to continue shopping.
Loyalty is intrinsically linked to positive customer experiences and ecommerce brands focussed on providing those even when customers weren’t spending. Brands must continue to think about how they connect with customers outside of transactions from now on.
3. Content built communities
Brands were forced to start engaging with customers entirely online, which meant more noise to cut through. Stores had to think what would get traction with shoppers outside of promotional and discount messages. And they got creative! From lockdown playlists and daily baking challenges to homemade hand sanitizer recipes, many ecommerce stores thought outside the box and produced reams of engaging content. This content served another purpose – it built communities.
People want to feel that they are part of something bigger and stores who successfully achieved this feeling during COVID-19 should take the opportunity to keep those communities going longer-term.
4. Challenging the concept of change
Change is predominantly seen as scary and negative. In this case it was forced upon us and stores had no choice but to embrace it. With physical locations closed, brands had to act quickly to adapt offline behaviors and operations to work online. Some embraced this change in innovative ways – for example, providing online stylist and fitting consultations via video calls.
Brands that adapted are now fully equipped to provide the same personal touch online as they do offline. If they continue to do so, we will be one step closer to solving the age old problem of how to give loyal online customers the same great experience that they receive in-store.
In order to provide the most useful observation of the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on customer behaviors, this dataset features the same cohort of 634 stores being tracked across a timeframe which began on February 24th (week 0). This is a trend analysis comparing each week of March with the final week of February rather than a year-on-year comparison, using means with 5% of outliers excluded for each metric. All data has been converted to USD, using the March 1st 2020 exchange rate.