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Technology, loyalty, and trends in brand marketing: an interview with Dr. Mansur Khamitov

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(Summary description)We asked from a top Rethink retail influencer Professor Mansur Khamitov how technology can help retailers to strengthen customer brand loyalty.

Technology, loyalty, and trends in brand marketing: an interview with Dr. Mansur Khamitov

(Summary description)We asked from a top Rethink retail influencer Professor Mansur Khamitov how technology can help retailers to strengthen customer brand loyalty.

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It's not a secret that retail solutions, besides a high-tech customer experience, are a powerful tool for precision marketing. We asked from a top Rethink retail influencer Professor Mansur Khamitov how technology can help retailers to strengthen customer brand loyalty.

 

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Dr. Mansur Khamitov, I am the Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, and a Communications Chair of Society for Consumer Psychology.

I research branding, teach and occasionally engage in consulting projects related to brand loyalty and brand relationships. I also work on brand transgressions: management of crisis situations, and how consumers react and why they react in such way.

 

What are the latest trends in branding?

These days there is an ongoing trend with personalization in advanced technology, especially online personalized marketing. Undoubtedly, personalization enhances the connection between customer and the brand, but it should stem from a pre-existing relationship, and not out of the blue. I and my co-authors have found during our research that consumers tend to react negatively when personalization efforts are too creepy/intrusive and unwanted.   

 

How can marketers cope with this negative perception?

It all starts with proper data-driven segmentation and targeting. For many brands it’s still a challenge to perfectly follow all customer data protection regulations such as transparency about the data collection and explicit consent. Being transparent, upfront, and explicit helps, as does making sure that consumers understand they own their data and can easily revoke that consent.

 

How do you drive loyalty between the brand and the customer?

Based on our JCR research, there are five different overarching types of customer-brand  relational strategies. When brands aim to reach the maximum levels of customer loyalty, they can opt for either the brand trust, brand attachment, brand love, self-brand connection or brand identification route. Trust, for instance, is used often in the brand communication strategies, both across product and service offerings (think Toyota, State Farm).

 

If you create consistent experiences, where customers can rely and depend on your brand, and ensure quality offerings with stability over time, this is a reliable way to establish brand trust.

 

But trust here is just one approach. Other brands heavily rely on the identity route: they either talk about how their brand is connected to the consumer’s sense of self (e.g., Apple, Sephora), or they create ways through which consumers want to identify with a brand and belong to the brand community (e.g., Peloton, Harley Davidson).

 

There are also a number of trending topics including, but not limited to brand purpose, corporate sociopolitical activism, DEI, and carbon neutrality. If you as a consumer identify yourself as an activist or feel that CSR issues are important, then the brand is likely to align with your sense of self by taking a proactive stand on these topics. Thus, you are going to be more likely to feel a greater sense of affiliation and connection with the brand, be drawn closer to it, and ultimately become more loyal to the brand.

 

How does consistency of the brand experience co-exist with the trend for experiential economy?

There is some sort of an interesting interaction between the two. The experiential economy and obsession with all things ‘experiences’ oftentimes go hand in hand with immersive technologies and branded entertainment (very popular trend these days across the globe and particularly in Asia), but consistency is still a key. Thinking about Disney resorts or franchises like Taco Bell, the particular experience you will get is going to be reliably similar. Importantly, being consistent doesn't mean that you cannot surprise your customers or entice them.

 

You want to tell a compelling and passionate story of your brand and make it an interactive two-way street with the right technology for the consumers.

 

There is a big push these days to create exciting and consistent experiences across different customer journey touchpoints. The notion of the experiential economy itself is also hugely impacted by the emerging brand storytelling trend. The underlying idea here is that brand marketers are eager to tell a consumer side of the story, and how their offering enables consumers to share their passions and generate a sense of belonging.

 

What are the current challenges for brand loyalty?

The classic challenge here is the seeming conflict between short-term profits versus long-term brand building. The exogenous shocks such as COVID, rising inflation, and supply chain issues represent another notable challenge for brand loyalty and retailers’ ability to deliver on their stated promises. Another interesting challenge is at the interface between technology and branding. Be it conversational AI, predictive analytics, Internet of Things, or other technologies, brand marketers and retailers face a constant struggle to identify the next big thing that will move the needle for the brands and allow them to get ever-close to their customers.

 

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