Social and mobile retail will explode in 2011

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As it has been in the past year, loyalty will continue to be a driving force behind retailer marketing strategies in 2011, but it will be joined by social media and mobile as the key channels for retailers to engage with their customers and build relationships.

Consumers changed their shopping behaviours drastically in response to the recession and became much more promiscuous. Searching out the best deals and promotional offers became the driving force behind shopping habits.

Supermarkets and high street retailers responded by slashing prices, but these were short-term solutions to entice shoppers, not the basis of long-term strategies.

In 2010, their focus turned to reward programmes and loyalty schemes as retailers sought to rebuild those lost relationships and engender long-term loyalty that goes above and beyond the transaction.

Since relaunching its Clubcard scheme at the tail end of 2009, Tesco has continued to push its rewards programme, deciding to maintain the Double Points promotion it introduced. Tesco has also introduced its Big Clubcard Voucher Exchange which allows shoppers to double the value of their reward vouchers.

Nectar card, the loyalty scheme endorsed by Sainsbury’s and 14 other retail partners and 300 online partners, appointed ex-Unilever marketer James Frost as its marketing director to drive its “customer led marketing” and went on TV to promote the breadth of its reward partners.

The scheme surpassed its rival Clubcard in terms of members, adding new partners including Vision Express and British Gas to boost its appeal.

This year also saw the launch of Barclaycard Freedom, the credit card provider’s reward scheme that allows its cardholders to collect instant cash rewards for using their Barclaycard when they shop.

Most recently, Boots added an online channel to its Advantage Card programme, which opened the scheme up to other retailers for the first time, and allowed shoppers to collect Advantage points online.

Retailers such as John Lewis, Tesco and Marks & Spencer have already moved onto mobile platforms and many, including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Debenhams have launched iPhone or smartphone apps, but in 2011, retailers must keep pace with consumers.

Retailers are no longer in control of guiding shopper behaviour, consumers are driving change.

It’s not enough to be online and dabbling in Twitter. Marketing teams are realising that they must keep up with, and overtake, the online, mobile and social habits of their customers if they are to remain relevant.

The growth of social commerce sites, such as Living Social and Groupola in the past year herald the start of how online shoppers are combining e-commerce with social networking.

The birth of geo-location services such as FourSquare demonstrate that the relationship between brand and consumer is not just in the store, or online, it is constant and everywhere.

Smartphones will become more prevalent and consumers will not be content unless retailers are using the technology to make their lives easier.

Whether its by offering additional services, helping shopping on the move or using QR codes to add value to their advertising through additional content, this is where the next stage of brand building, and engagement will play out.

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