Students of Customer Relationship Management at Jaipuria, Lucknow were part of an eye-opening guest session on the highly relevant topic of “Loyalty Programs and their role in the Retail sector”. While one hears about loyalty programs practically every day, what do they really manage to achieve for a brand? That was the crux of the session that was held on the 3rd of November. Mr. Mehwer Masood, Unit Marketing Head, and Mr. Mukul Gupta, Retail Operations Manager, both from Shoppers Stop, Lucknow, were the guests who shared useful insights into the world of retail, specifically the loyalty programs.
Dr. Reeti Agarwal, a popular faculty member at the institute coordinated the discussion and began the proceedings by welcoming the guests on stage. The retail industry experts then took over and offered a brief overview about customer loyalty. According to them, it speaks of customers’ attachment to a brand, store, manufacturer, service provider or other entities based on favourable attitudes and behavioural responses like repeat purchase. “Customer loyalty is very important for any business but more so in the retail sector,” they stressed. “It’s very important to try and retain your existing customers as it has many benefits for the organization.”
They then spelt out some of the advantages of customer loyalty for a brand, which include less price-sensitivity, reduced marketing expenditures for attracting new customers and improved organizational profitability. “They are cost-effective to serve because they already know the products. Loyal customers serve as a ‘fantastic marketing force’ by providing recommendations and creating positive word of mouth publicity,” Mr. Masood and Mr. Gupta explained. “They also help in knowing and tracking VIP customers, regular visitors to the store, mapping and identifying the catchment area. Based on this any company can plan its marketing strategy.”
The participants were intrigued when the experts shed light on how data collected from loyalty programs could be used for different areas of the business including segmentation, corporate planning, store portfolio, brand management, merchandising, promotional and media activity, direct marketing, inventory management, pricing and store layout. Mr. Masood and Mr. Gupta then went on to talk about the challenges that are faced with loyalty programs and what can be done to improve them and get better results for the company. Thus, the session offered a comprehensive view of the loyalty programs for the benefit of the students.
The engaging session turned interactive as the guests fielded questions on the subject. When asked how firms manage customer relations in today’s times, they said, “It depends on a firm’s orientation; some are product-oriented, while others are customer oriented. Shopper’s Stop is a customer-oriented brand where the services are impeccable; there are certain norms and rules but we try to mould them for the benefit of our customers. We believe in our customers and they believe in us.” By offering real-life experiences from their own company, they made things more relatable for the students.
Finally, they moved on to the changing face of customer relations and how they have been impacted by the social media. They believed that the mass medium provides both the customer and the firm a direct platform to share information and feedback. For them, it is an opportunity to respond to customers’ problems without spending a lot of money. When asked for advice for future managers they said, “It is a nascent industry that’s growing very fast and you have to be flexible. It’s important to listen to the customer and be patient; try to learn from it. Your integrity should be up and your ego down.”