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For METRO Cash & Carry, loyalty programs are more than a means to collect customer data. METRO, an international wholesaler that caters to business professionals and independent organizations across Europe, Asia and North Africa, views loyalty programs and customer engagement strategies as a way to build deeper relationships. By serving over 21 million customers across 27 countries, METRO Cash & Carry takes pride in its ability to connect with customers on a personal level.
Recently, Loyalty360 spoke with Igor Bagnobianchi, Head of Loyalty Programme, within CRM at Metro Cash & Carry, about how the company approaches customer engagement and works to build long-term customer bonds.
Can you give an overview of your customer philosophy and how this perspective helps your brand achieve success?
Bagnobianchi: In the last 3 years, METRO Cash & Carry totally switched perspectives from being ego-centric to customer-centric. From this transition came the new You & Metro campaign, which is a commitment to place the customer in the center of our activities and to carry this attitude across every aspect of the organization, suppliers and partners. We want to become the champion for independent business. We understand that our customers are entrepreneurs who are facing daily challenges and fierce competition, and we want to support them, in making their businesses profitable and enduringly sustainable.
How do you define customer engagement, and what can marketers do help drive effective customer engagement today?
Bagnobianchi: Customer engagement is about emotions. When I speak about Loyalty, I refer to human interactions. The first examples that come to mind are your family and your soccer Team. In business it is similar. To grow customer loyalty, there are four main elements that a business cannot miss. You need to give value back, offer support and recognition, be interactive and fun, and maintain reliability. If you manage to fulfill these four, it is very likely that customers will be loyal and engaged. The successful recipe has many ingredients.
With the advent of social, mobile and other emerging technologies, how do brands improve the customer experience in this challenging and dynamic marketing environment?
Bagnobianchi: Not with Beacons. There are certain waves of hype related to new technologies and process innovations. But we must check with the ultimate truth of the customer. Which customer would, in reality, actually spend time during shopping to check their smartphone for more than 2 push messages? When would these messages become bothering instead of engaging? We definitely have to test and deploy new technologies with the clear objective of offering seamless and relevant content to customers. We should not adopt technology just for the sake of the technology itself, but to dramatically improve the customer journey.
How should brands attempt to keep up with the rapid proliferation of new technologies, especially when ROI is hard to measure with some of the newer technologies?
Bagnobianchi: New technologies call for new ROI measurements. The brand must consider the specific digital gap for each country, and their preferred communication channels whether that is email, push APP, RFID, or Wi-Fi. Then we need to apply the right technology to the proper country. Discontinuity necessarily brings new processes, and asking the customer is always the right approach.
Marketers are tasked to be more data-centric than ever before, yet the challenge of creating actionable insights from data is also more challenging. What is your advice for marketers?
Bagnobianchi: Make it simple. There is a lot of talk about data analytics, big data and personalization. In METRO, we are also at the edge of it. So far we have learned that there is no unique recipe for turning customer insights into actions. What you have to consider are the market specific elements, demographics, competition, and the basics of retail/wholesale. Are those basics there? It is about the right assortment of price strategy, services, and communication. Then you can start to work on personalization.
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