The world looks dramatically different from what it did last year, and we are still trying to look for ways to respond effectively and empathetically to all the changes around us. Lockdowns have severely limited the relationships we could build. There was a time when customers could touch and feel products, enjoy a great cup of coffee, spend an afternoon at a bookstore or just have a meal with friends without having to worry about safety. There were many such moments for us marketers, where we had the opportunity to know our customers better, personalise interactions and build brand advocacy.

In these times, we have to reimagine communication strategies, reevaluate the experiences we deliver, reinvent marketing landscapes and still be able to humanise interactions in this contactless world.

So Far, Yet So Near

‘Contactless Loyalty’ is the act of creating long-lasting connections with your customers and keeping them coming back to your brand, even when human contact is limited. Brands need to figure out ways to simulate the human element in a contact-free world, and yet deliver experiences that build brand affinity.

Focus on value exchange: Value exchange is when brands deliver value through products and services, and in exchange customers deliver value through repeat purchases, sharing preferences or recommendations. Invest in this value exchange, and incentivise customers to engage with you through your loyalty programs.

H&M recently launched its global loyalty program, H&M Member, in India to make it possible for customers to choose their preferred channel to shop. The program is designed on the principle of relationship-building, while focussing on the need for personalisation.

When brands invest in value exchange, customers reciprocate by increasing the amount of time, money and emotional engagement with the brand.

Emotional connections: In this increasingly contactless world, find ways to reorchestrate customer journeys to retain human touch. Offer a seamless, safe and rewarding experience across channels. Some examples could be to reward customers on app downloads, digital orders, social engagements or contactless payments. This is an opportunity for marketers to build meaningful connections, and not limit themselves to offers and promotions.

Social, a popular café and bar chain in India, launched a campaign called #ThatOnePerson to get loyal customers back. Capturing nostalgic moments from the pre-Covid era, it invited people to tag their best friend, visit their neighbourhood Social and get their first drink together, free.

Get tech savvy

Invest in the right technologies: Empathise with customers and meet them where they are. It is critical to have the right tools and technologies to facilitate safe, contactless experiences as well as understand customers’ reactions to it. Redesigning apps, websites, e-commerce portals, and introducing touchless shopping will encourage customers to return. A great example of putting customer needs at the centre is Decathlon. The brand encourages you to check availability of products online, gives you the option to use a voucher code, scan and pay within the app when in store, thus ensuring the integration of the online and offline worlds seamlessly.

Democratise use of data: Customers are willing to share their data with you in exchange for personalised experiences. Enable a persistent customer view across channels so that an in-store rep, call centre agent or website chatbots have access to the same customer details and the experience is seamless. Loyalty is another authentic data source as it is an opt-in program, and can give you insights into demographics, buying behaviour, channel preferences, location and a whole lot more.

A socially distant world is the new reality. Brands that are able to build trust, be transparent, empathetic in engagement and authentic in behaviour will win.