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Why the element of surprise is still critical to brand loyalty

When was the last time a business pleasantly surprised you?

Was it when a supermarket customer assistant helped bring your shopping to the car? Maybe your local bakery gave you some free cake to say thanks for your loyalty?

Whatever it was, this type of experience will always stick with you. They're memorable. They make you feel good. They're kind and thoughtful. 

With the rise of technology designed to help marketers understand and react to customer behaviour, as audiences, we’ve all become so predictable. For example, by monitoring how customers are using our website, we can send them personalised push notifications or emails that promote other products they may be interested in. By predicting buying behaviour and preferences, technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are taking the guesswork out of the customer experience.

But does technology have absolutely all the answers? We think probably not!

Think again to the last time you were pleasantly surprised as a customer. Chances are that it was another person that made your experience memorable, not technology. Innovation only has a real impact when it enhances a meaningful human interaction; it shouldn’t be used to replace it. So how can you anticipate your customer’s needs, giving them both the seamlessness of technological innovation and the kind of smile that only comes from great customer experience?

Surprises give brands the human touch

Technology plays a huge role in customer experience, mapping our behaviour tremendously effectively. Even so, it will never match that feeling you get when the assistant on the fragrance counter gives you some skincare samples with your purchase, or when the waiter brings you a surprise personalised birthday dessert. 

According to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights study, three-quarters of consumers (75%) say they want more human interaction in the future rather than less. In an age of apps, delivery robots and self-serve checkouts, this seems significant. More than half of consumers in the study (53%) also reported that interactions with knowledgeable, helpful salespeople gave them the most satisfaction as shoppers — significantly more than those who named technology-enabled experiences, such as personalised offers.

Therefore, as a business, it’s important to tap into the power of the human touch, and all the surprise, delight and personalisation that comes with it. Get to know your customers, their dislikes, likes, and loves. Technology can certainly help you do this by analysing data such as buying behaviour, website visits and email click-through rates. By utilising this data, you can really get to know your customers and deliver WOW moments.

​​Surprises push boundaries and increase loyalty

Where Google is a great example of a brand that continues to push boundaries with innovations like Google Glass and driverless cars, Apple’s “one more thing” practice shows that people love surprises! At the end of press conferences, Steve Jobs would end with a big announcement, such as a secret product that no one knew was coming.

Innovation is fun, exciting and futuristic. The first person to be surprised and delighted by say, Siri, then had the opportunity to surprise and delight their own friends and families by showing off how their smartphone could react to their voice commands. The best innovations are aesthetically pleasing, functional, do something new, and make our lives easier. In doing so, they surprise us, and we, as customers, whether consciously or unconsciously, reward their creators with our loyalty. 

But surprises don't just have to be related to new innovations and product launches. Simple things like offering morning coffee and pastries always brighten up the day and raise the morale on a cold morning! 

You could even use your customer loyalty programme to surprise your customers. For example, giving away bonus points on birthdays or at Christmas or a personalised reward when someone has been a member for a year. These small gestures will really go a long way!

Surprises increase repeat purchase, brand engagement and word of mouth marketing 

Many businesses adopt the “surprise” approach as part of their customer retention strategy as it can be extremely beneficial for the business, as well as the customer. For example, surprising existing customers with free products or exclusive VIP access to new innovations will encourage future behaviours. 

Starbucks is a great example of a business who does this with their Starbucks Rewards members. It cross-sells unreleased menu items and coffee flavours as a means to test the market. Not only do they gather valuable feedback, but when the product launches, they already have a bunch of raving fans promoting the product.

Customer loyalty programmes open the door to using the surprise approach. If your programme requires an email address to sign up, you already have enough information to entice them with a lovely surprise. For example, “your next coffee is on us|”, or “thanks for signing up – enjoy free delivery until the end of the month!”

Let us surprise you with our insight in creating a customer retention and loyalty strategy that will keep your customers coming back for more. Book a chat with us today!

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