Ello Media is a Manchester-based agency that specialises in acquisition, engagement and loyalty schemes.
I recently sat down with Anwar Sultan, Ello’s chief digital and strategy officer, to find out what he thinks is the real key to loyalty – and how CX will evolve this year.
What would you say are the biggest factors that influence consumer loyalty today?
Trust. This year, Ello conducted research which uncovered three in five consumers confirmed bad interactions with brands impact their loyalty – demonstrating that in today’s climate, without trust there is no loyalty. With this in mind, it’s integral for both the digital world and the world of technology to merge, to ensure positive interactions – as these worlds have such an impact on our everyday lives and lifestyles.
So, to go back to my original statement, trust is fundamental to gain loyalty and brands can achieve this trust through creating a real deep meaningful understanding and relationship with their customers.
Firstly, it’s essential brands really understand who their customers are, closely followed by what their needs are and how their product or service can add real value to their lives. In some ways it’s easier getting to know and connecting with customers in the current landscape. However, as there is so much noise right now, not many brands are doing it well. Personalisation to the product they are offering is imperative, while showcasing that it can address an issue a consumer is facing and enhance their lives in some way. All of these things will impact customer experience and increase loyalty to the brand.
On the other hand, what damages loyalty?
Companies are really falling short when they adopt the current “one size fits all” approach, which is no longer relevant to the modern-day customer.
Customer expectations and behaviours have drastically changed and advanced through the evolution of technology. And, it’s these expectations that we must ensure we are listening to. The reality is, the customer expectation is now much higher and the vast majority respond to direct relevant and meaningful connection on an individual basis. For this very reason, brands must know their customers through and through, and provide a product that is relevant to their needs, thus enhancing their experience. We must tailor all experiences to the individual customer to ensure trust and therefore longevity in their loyalty.
How can brands get the balance right between personalisation and data privacy?
Brands can no longer be faceless in the digital world as customers are aware of the value of their data. It is integral to build meaningful trust and human connection with your consumers. Research has confirmed 81% of customers have to trust a brand before they engage and purchase from that brand.
To achieve the right balance, brands need to be transparent on how they’re using data and build a foundation of trust so their customers understand how and why they share their data – which is ultimately to enhance their experience with that brand.
I would say that data protection privacy within communication strategies is of paramount importance to build that trust which, as we know, is at the heart of brand loyalty.
Can you give me an example of a brand that stands out in terms of their loyalty strategy – why is it impressive?
Interestingly, when I think about the brands who have a strong community of loyal customers, it’s not those who give the most in terms of added value in their loyalty programs. It’s actually those that are undeniably customer focused in providing value and innovation in their product. It’s those that not only meet their customer expectations, but they exceed them, often through surprise and delights that always move the dial.
Think about brands like Apple – it has a strong army of loyal customers and it’s very much down to the fact that it’s constantly evolving, offering its customers continuous value. The business is rooted in innovation and this makes it incredibly difficult for customers to leave.
Same with Amazon – its service really is unrivalled, which results in its customers sticking, without the need for a points or loyalty system. However, not all business can be unicorns and are equipped to offer this same experience so, it’s essential they explore other avenues to instil long-term loyalty. Those that are winning are providing programs that add value to their customers’ lives beyond the product/service they offer. But, again, it’s essential to remember it’s never a one size fits all approach.
What do you predict for CX in 2022?
We have seen a real shift in brands trying to create their own ecosystem to really own their customer data, to ultimately drive a more tailored experience. I predict there will definitely be a push to aggregate disparate platforms, cutting out any middle men where possible.
The need to diversify the communication channel to reach the right audiences. I think a lot of brands will be looking to leverage new communication strategies to reach their audiences and customers at the right time on the right platforms. We’ll not only see a rise in different platforms, but also in varied content formats. There are countless ways to reach your audiences and getting these strategies right will be key in 2022.
Fundamentally, old CX formulas are simply now not fit for purpose. Thanks to the integration of rapid technology transformation and creative innovation, we are going to start seeing a lot of brands and businesses move away from the traditional way of thinking when it comes to CX. I expect many will really start to push boundaries to create experiences that truly deliver value for the customer over and beyond the traditional transactional relationship and interaction.
The continued growth of the “service and subscription” led economy vs product. You can now get more a less anything as a subscription service and I think we will continue to see this market grow. Most things are now commoditised as a service and consumers no longer need to worry about buying products – instead, many are turning to subscription services that continuously supply product for them.
Tell us about your role – what does a typical day look like for you?
As Chief Digital and Strategy Officer of Ello, no day is the same. It is a constant juggle between the strategic, tactical and leadership needs required of the business. A huge focus of my day is ensuring my team and the people in the business have a platform to perform their roles to the best of their abilities, while giving them the direction and motivation to do so, should they need it. As I sit across multiple varied departments such as tech, data and marketing, it’s important to be adaptable and flexible during the day, whilst not taking my eye of the ball on the wider holistic strategy of the company. I could be in a board meeting one minute going through the P&L (profit and loss statement), a technical review meeting looking at our technology solution the next and then a social and PR meeting looking at our brand strategy, so it certainly keeps me on my toes!
I always try to allow myself some “thinking/innovation time” each day, which gives me dedicated time for reflection – not an easy feat within such a fast-paced business! It is however so important to keep your brain and body fed throughout the day, so I’m always mindful of eating well, staying hydrated and lots of coffee!
What has been the biggest achievement in your time at Ello so far?
We embarked on a multimillion-pound digital transformation project, to allow future scalable growth for the business. This project [spanned] a three-year period and came to fruition earlier this year. This was completed whilst navigating through a pandemic and I’m proud to say we delivered ahead of schedule, after a momentous push from the team whose hard work was humbling to witness. It would be remiss of me to not mention the way in which the business conducted itself and pivoted during the pandemic, which was also an amazing achievement to see – considering that hospitality was completely shut during the pandemic, and really is the heart of our business.