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Sat 8 Feb 2020 11:30 AM

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Opinion: It's not me, it's you

The truth hurts, but the facts show that UAE consumers have fallen out of love with retail loyalty programmes

Opinion: It's not me, it's you

Is loyalty dead? Retailers are failing to win over customers

Apparently one in seven UAE consumers refuse to sign up to retail loyalty programmes because they don’t want their data to be tracked, according to new research from KPMG.

But over 99 percent of the emirates’ population consists of active social media users, according to a 2019 report by media companies We Are Social and Hootsuite.

"How is it possible that UAE consumers are comfortable sharing their data with Facebook, but aren’t willing to share details with retailers offering rewards and discounts?"

So how is it possible that UAE consumers are comfortable sharing their data with Facebook, which was fined over $5bn for the inappropriate sharing of users’ personal information in 2019, but aren’t willing to share details like their phone numbers and email addresses with retailers offering them rewards and discounts?

It sounds like consumers in the UAE might be too shy to tell retailers the honest truth.

So I will: it’s not me, it’s you.

It’s not about the data, it’s that the loyalty programmes simply, well, suck. Besides French beauty giant Sephora, and maybe Club Apparel (which I gave up on after several failed tries) I can’t think of another retailer that offers a loyalty programme worth joining, although Chalhoub Group has just launched its Muse loyalty programme and promises to stand out from the crowd.

But the KPMG survey will tell you the same thing; consumers feel that signing up and redeeming their rewards is still problematic, while some cited lack of awareness and no interest in loyalty benefits.

And in 2019, MBLM’s 2019 Brand Intimacy Study showed UAE retailers are losing the battle to connect with their customers, with the consumer goods industry ranking 10th out of the 15 industries in a considerable drop from its highest rank of third in 2018.

In 2017, research by global loyalty marketing agency ICLP showed the majority of UAE shoppers do not feel attached to the retail brands they shop from mostly due to lack of reward programmes, with just 29 percent saying they feel their loyalty is being rewarded by their favourite retailer.

We need to talk…

Where have retailers gone wrong where social media – despite being infamous for using consumers’ data for targeted marketing – has thrived?

"Retailers have failed where social media has thrived"

Feelings. Retailers have forgotten about feelings. It’s the basis of all advertising and that is why social media practically sells itself: it makes you feel something, so much so that it affects your mental health, so much so that it gets you addicted, so much so that it forces you to give up your data if you want to be a part of it. But that’s how much you love it, or hate it.

It doesn’t matter because it’s already won you over with feelings. And, unfortunately for retailers, the only feeling they’re currently arousing in consumers is disloyalty. It’s no surprise that loyalty is dead, at least among retail consumers. Why would you buy one pair of shoes if you can have two? Why would you stick to one brand if you can browse through hundreds? Why give up new experiences for something you’ve already tried?

Sharing the love

The good news is most people like to share the love. According to a 2018 survey by customer experience intelligence reader InMoment, most US consumers (60 percent) share the love. While they aren’t singularly committed, they are faithful to a select number of brands or products. For example, they may not purchase all of their fitness clothing from Nike, but they buy their running shoes only from the brand.

So while the truth hurts – we get it, nobody likes to be rejected – it will also set you free. And the truth is that it’s you, retailers – and your loyalty programmes – that are not good enough.

But hey, we can still be friends.

Lubna Hamdan, Editor of Arabian Business.