Can brand aid repair customer loyalty? William Higham on how helping consumers free of charge could benefit businesses
The world is going through a period of intense change. It is good news for a consumer futurist like me, but can be disorientating for businesses and consumers alike.
But this provides companies with a new business opportunity. Today’s disorientated consumers need help navigating in this new world, and they don’t mind where they get it. Offering them industry-specific advice and assistance is a great way for businesses to drive customer engagement, and build and maintain loyalty. It’s a new trend I call ‘brand aid’, offering an opportunity for almost any firm, regardless of industry or size.
One characteristic common to every good business is sector knowledge. I speak at many industry conferences, and am always struck by how knowledgeable and passionate the audience is about its own sector. There is little the head of sales at an automotive manufacturer doesn’t know about cars, or a food company’s PR about nutrition. But businesses don’t leverage this combined knowledge enough in their customer engagement strategies. That needs to change.
Retail is leading the way. Struggling against online price comparison and multiples’ cost savings, retailers have had to find new ways to attract customers. Those that succeeded – from Whole Foods Market to Rough Trade – have done so by providing advice. As Stephen Godfroy, Rough Trade’s co-president, says: “Visiting us is like visiting a cultural hub; it’s not simply a place for purchasing.”
Meanwhile, Apple and B&Q are driving customers in store by hosting technology and DIY advice workshops. Boots is building brand loyalty via its website, which gives out health advice as much as product offerings.
Allianz and Visa have youth advice clubs in Latin America, ING Holland a touring ‘pension bus’. Cosmetics companies work with beauty guidance vloggers. Advice is a new universal need, and a great way to attract and maintain customers, young and old, in emerged and emerging markets.
William Higham is founder and chief executive of consumer trends consultancy Next Big Thing