What marketers need to know about the next frontier in consumer engagement

Talbott Roche, CEO and president, Blackhawk Network

A marketer’s holy grail is deeply understanding the end-users of their company’s products and services. Marketers study demographics ad nauseam and create personas for customers to understand their needs and preferences better. 

And when the pandemic hit, everyone’s lives were fundamentally transformed. Customer playbooks changed instantly because, in one way or another, everyone had to shift their behaviors. This left marketers with the challenge of quickly working to identify new behaviors and simultaneously identifying methods of reaching consumers through new touchpoints.

A recent study by Accenture defines half of today’s consumers as “reimagined.” Meaning 50% of this heterogeneous group of humans — not segmented by age, gender, location or otherwise — say that the pandemic caused them to rethink their purpose and re-evaluate what’s important to them in life. They have made stark changes to their routines and perceptions since the start of the pandemic. 

The study emphasizes that consumers have never been more open to embracing new experiences and forming new habits. They place ease, convenience and personalization among the top purchasing motivators for the products, services and companies they patronize. For marketers, this means there is an untapped customer base where brand loyalty is up for grabs in a pivotal way. 

This changing consumer profile, coupled with increased technology adoption and digital innovation spurred by the pandemic, has flipped traditional marketing methods on their heads. So, what’s the next significant shift for brands and retailers to capture and meet the needs of these “reimagined” stakeholders? The following sections shed light on how the next frontier in customer engagement is unfolding.

The rise in digital payments has been a bright spot for retailers embracing them

Now more than ever, consumers expect the same experiences at both in-store and online environments, including seamless payment experiences. In fact, 73% of consumers surveyed by global payments provider, Blackhawk Network, say they want to be able to pay in-store the same way they do online. 

Shoppers continue to look for easier ways to tap into mobile wallets, digital gift cards, rewards and loyalty points. As a result, they are increasingly seeking retailers that have embraced digital and contactless payments. Blackhawk research indicates these digital payment methods impact how shoppers feel about a particular brand — and how likely they are to frequent that retailer. 

Surveyed shoppers report they will shop more frequently (69%) and spend more (54%) at retailers where they can use digital payments. There is also evidence of permanent adoption of the shopping habits consumers tried or shifted to, including QR codes and contactless payments.

For marketers, that means looking at frictionless omnichannel payments as another tool in their toolkit to capture an audience looking to brands and retailers to make their lives easier.

Stored value, such as branded payments, drives action

It’s clear that old-school, paper coupons are no longer an assured approach to engaging consumers and driving action. Marketers are turning to alternatives such as digitizing coupons, rewards and gift cards as more impactful promotional tools. By embedding these branded payments directly into the customer experience, marketers encourage an action and drive the next offer based on a user’s personal preferences. 

For example, Starbucks is digitizing loyalty points to drive its customers in-store. Petco rewards its shoppers with a discount when they choose BOPIS or curbside pick-up. Target rewards its loyal customers with a gift card incentive when purchasing specific products. And these are just a few of the ways marketers are thinking about using payments, loyalty points, coupons, rewards and gift cards to better drive brand engagement, loyalty and growth among shoppers. 

The next frontier of consumer engagement lies in adopting seamless, digital payment experiences in-store and not only online. The brands that have adopted these experiences in-store have seen shoppers continue to use such methods and become loyal to brands providing such offerings. By making it easier for consumers to pay digitally and redeem loyalty points and the like in-store, brands see more engagement. 

The pandemic has driven a new level of consumer connection and engagement with brands that have been able to innovate and adapt quickly. The future of retail and consumer experiences will rely heavily on those same efforts to innovate and adapt in ways that make the retail experience feel more personalized, seamless and efficient. Heading into the future, the retail solutions that will thrive will be those that meaningfully improve customer engagement and support ease of use. And, businesses should be delivering personalized offers and payment experiences to help with exactly that.

Sponsored By: Blackhawk


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