Privacy issues and the scourge of the loyalty scheme

Firstly, as I write this blog the irony has not escaped me a marketing professional complaining about loyalty schemes and privacy issues published on all my social media channels but that’s my choice. You’d be right to call me a hypocrite but please bear with me. There are two types of loyalty scheme the less sophisticated stamp collection where generally you don’t have to provide any personal details and the more complex credit card style ones where you ‘sign up’. I think Boots where the first to come up with a points scheme and there’s no escaping the fact it’s a good idea. Capturing data about your customers purchasing habits has limitless potential. I’m pretty sure the online ‘supermarkets’ I use send me specific deals based on my purchasing habits.

I don’t mind too much the basic loyalty schemes where you get a stamp each time you visit and get something free after a nominal number of stamps. I’m sensible enough to see the benefit of this. I also have no issue with the more complex ones in theory. It’s the way its collected that I probably have the biggest issue with I’ll explain more shortly. Most major and minor retailers have their own loyalty scheme and smaller businesses are also following suit. The fact is that everyone wants to get hold of your data. Your personal data is like gold dust to a retailer, restaurant, B2C or even B2B enterprise for that matter. Since setting up my business and utilising free listing I get several sales calls everyday selling me business related goods. Its got so bad that I tend not to answer the landline as I’m certain it’s a sales call – could I be missing out on a vital lead?

 I now have in my purse cards with John Lewis, M&S, Waitrose, Paperchase, Boots, Superdrug the list is endless. This is just the big hitters everyone wants to get a hold of your data.

Here’s why I find it so annoying;

1.       My purse is now so full of loyalty cards that I struggle to find my debit card quite an issue when you’re in a rush

2.       I have an unusual first name and my surname is not spelt the conventional way so lots of spelling out and repeating required – (not ideal when you’re in a rush)

3.       This issue is probably only specific to me as my husband always reminds me to use my “indoor voice” but I’ll admit I’m quite loud probably why I’d found myself drawn to the world of radio people often say I have a voice for radio. But when you need to verbally give out your name, email address and postal address in a busy store to sign up to their loyalty scheme and there’s a queue of people behind you I often decline for fear of others overhearing. It’s almost as bad as when you pay for something over the phone and the person you’re speaking to repeats back your card number.

Each loyalty scheme has its own merits but it’s just so overwhelming as a consumer. I never got around to activating my John Lewis card and I have spent a small fortune in there since becoming a mother. I suppose what I’m saying is that It comes back to the same problem time. I’ve singled out email here but text message campaigns can be equally annoying my local pizza takeaway which I ordered from once would text me every single Friday without fail with a special offer (probably the same one I got bored of reading it) there was no opt out option so after several months I had to call them to ask them to take me off their list. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) has a code of conduct that must be adhered to for members but individuals don’t necessarily have access to this information.  When I worked at Space and Time Media we had to follow their guidance to the letter when handling data I learnt a lot during that time.

Of course, I understand the merits of all the above activity but if you get it wrong you risk alienating your customers so be wise about how you use your gold dust. So, there it is my feelings about loyalty schemes do you agree? I’m not saying don’t use them just be mindful of the fact that with information comes great power.

If you’d like to talk about any aspect of your marketing communications, feel free to get in touch or call 01625 533102.

The Death of the High street – when is cheap too cheap!

The proliferation of the internet has meant you can buy almost everything you need online. This is an ideal scenario for time poor and inevitably cash rich individuals however it comes at a cost. I must admit I do my weekly food shop online and have done ever since the birth of my first son. However, in recent months I have become disillusioned by the poor-quality fruit and vegetables and the larger than desired portions which means high wastage. Not to mention heavily packaged items such as meat and some fruits.

If you pick your own fruit, vegetables and meats you’re likely to pick the best of the crop and exactly the right amount. I’ve recently stopped ordering my fruit, vegetables and meat from my online retailer and have decided to source them from a local greengrocer and a farm shop respectively. Here lies the problem though there are hardly any butchers or greengrocers near where I live. We’ve created a country where it is not profitable to operate these businesses as too many of us opt for convenience.

The growth of courier services has meant you can buy many items online and in some cases, receive it the next day. I’ve even received deliveries from Amazon on a Sunday (originally the day of rest).

**Updated**: I actually received a delivery today on Easter Sunday.

The possibilities are endless in my opinion Tim Berners-Lee has created a beast. But with development comes many complex issues the Royal Mail for example (the original delivery service) has seen a drop-in profit, in November 2017 BBC News reported; “Royal Mail shares have fallen after the company reported lower profits and increased its target for cost savings.

Its shares slid 7.6% to their lowest level since March, and the company was the biggest faller on the FTSE 100, the UK's main share index.” Source. The drop-in profits was blamed on fewer people sending letters and why would you when emails are far more convenient and instantaneous. But the service the Royal Mail provides is personal you often see the same postman ours even says hello when I see him on his rounds. What can be more personal than someone you don’t know who knows where you live?

In terms of advertising the Royal Mail leafleting remains the only way to ensure 100% penetration to any given area when leafleting. This can be crucial if you’re looking to target apartment owners or homes in rural locations.

Other courier services have often left my packages in unsecured places just so they can get to the next drop even when I’m in. The pressure to fit in several deliveries in a narrow time-slot means they often don’t have time for unnecessary small talk or at times even ensuring you've physically received your item. We’ve all heard stories of packages being left in a ‘safe place’ by a courier such as a wheelie bin. I recently received an expensive order of wine which was left in the porch of my block of apartments.

The same can be said for internet shopping yes, it is cheaper and more convenient but it does come at a cost. I recently bought a brand-new swimming costume from eBay it was much cheaper than other ones I’d seen and was exactly what I was looking for so I happily ordered it – what could possibly go wrong? It wasn’t until it arrived that I realised it was shipped from China. Unfortunately, it was far too big so I’ve ended up sending it back at a cost of £7.72! This is bad economics on an item which cost just over £10. If only I’d visited a local store they would be grateful for my business and I could physically see/try on the item with returning it if needed much more straightforward.

High street stores suffer from many setbacks expensive rents, business rates, poor parking for customers, out of town one stop shops to name a few. However, we should support local businesses. After all, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. I am passionate about supporting local businesses and have a large toolkit of ideas to create the desired results for local ventures. If you’d like to have an informal chat, please feel free to get in touch or 01625 533102

Media Neutrality and Ad Avoidance – ‘A local shop for local people’

I started working in advertising in the early noughties. Back then the world of media was a very different landscape. There were a plethora of local papers covering every inch of the UK the same could be said for radio and TV did not have the technology to pause and invariably fast forward through adverts not to mention the advent of subscription services such as Netflix which are totally ad free. Back in those halcyon days reaching the right audience for your client was like shooting fish in a barrel. Of course our recommendations were always supported by research but we almost always instinctively knew which media would achieve the best results for our client’s.

The effects of the recession have had irreparable damage on the world of media. The ad to content ratio in most media is so far out of kilter that consumers are switching off their local radio station and where there is still one prevalent barely reading their ‘local’ newspaper. Where I live we used to receive a free weekly local newspaper which reported on local news. This reminds me of the League of Gentlemen

We still receive a ‘local’ newspaper but unfortunately this only carries a handful of truly local news stories the rest is from further a-field. I don’t envy the job of local newspaper journalists now. Less than 20 years ago we had an office in our town for our local newspaper journalists lived in the area and were passionate about reporting local news. So where do you turn to find out what is really happening in your local area?

For me personally it’s the internet, there are several local online outlets within my local area. But in the main these new media offerings are not run by professional journalists but anyone who has bought a URL specific to the area in question. I’ve had many a heated conversation with the ‘editors’ of these publications who will not accept a press release because they ‘don’t work for free’. Whilst I have sympathy for these local entrepreneur’s news should be treated as just that. Not news for the highest bidder. These local websites and to a certain extent magazines are not regulated in the same way that traditional media is so anyone can create their own outlet. I sometimes question the motivation of such publications do they really want to deliver the best news for our area?

The problem with our now fragmented media is the lack of sense of community. With our inability to unite people through media comes the lack of ability to support the local community. A new business opening, charitable cause or local event is increasingly difficult to promote. Advertisers and PR consultants need to work extra hard to reach their audience and in many cases are operating on smaller budgets. Is it any wonder so many local businesses struggle to thrive? Once again I look to Singapore they still have one main English language paper the Straits Times/Sunday Times with a daily average circulation of 393,000 you can ensure that your advert is reaching 8% of the population. This is all the more impressive when you take into account that “English is the native language of 32% of Singaporeans…” (Source). 

I was delighted when Jazz FM returned to the airwaves last year the ad to content ratio is spot on and I’ve found the adverts to be informative like the recent campaign by the FSA something I’m genuinely interested in. That’s the beauty of well-planned media selections. If you take the time to investigate the correct media outlet for your audience, you can still achieve sensational results.

At Icon Marketing Communications we offer media neutral, tailored solutions to help our client’s realise their objectives. Yes, the task is much harder but not impossible. Recommendations are developed based on clients’ goals, research and of cause budgets. Although the media landscape can at times seem bleak there are still many ways to reach out to your target audience. If you would like to talk about realising your objectives feel free to get in touch. or 01625 533102.