Realising the value of the customer-retailer relationship in a post-Covid-19 world

By: Sandra Perriot

11th May 2020

This month our Retail and Experience Strategy Director Sandra Perriot shared her thoughts with The Grocer on what grocery retailers can learn about the value of loyal customers during the current coronavirus crisis.

We’ve included an excerpt of the piece below:

Exceptional times demand exceptional measures and the coronavirus crisis is throwing that into sharp relief. With the situation evolving on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis, retailers are constantly evolving how they react in order to best serve their communities.

One of the most pressing questions has been how to keep those in greatest need supplied with what they require. In an admirable show of responsiveness, many measures have been put in place to make sure the vulnerable and key workers have prioritised access to goods, without disadvantaging the general public who also need access to essentials.

This could also become the moment that customer data comes into its own. According to a report in The Guardian, the Government has handed details of the UK’s 1.5 million most vulnerable patients over to supermarkets to make sure they receive priority treatment when it comes to grocery delivery.

The inalienable rights of an individual to the control over their own data is something very closely protected in both UK and EU law. But, these are very exceptional circumstances and the sharing of information without the user’s explicit prior permission is happening within very limited parameters and exclusively for their benefit. 

These exceptional times may also reveal more about how customer data can and should be used in the future. Having seen the potential of information such as health data to improve their own personal experience, might customers be more willing to share intimate data for similar benefits ‘in peacetime’?

In fact, our own research would suggest that this is already the case. A third of consumers would be happy to share data as intimate as their own DNA information with supermarkets, in exchange for health advice. Even though there are still many concerns from the public over how their data is used and how securely it is held, they still find it an acceptable quid pro quo if what they get in return delivers on promises.

But, this also shines a light on the wider question of what it means to be a loyal customer. Before Covid-19, understanding what the value of exchanging data and sign-ups with retailers was often a vague concept for customers. Perhaps there would be vouchers in exchange for gathered points or some half-heartedly targeted discounts on frequently bought items.

However today, we are seeing the importance of being a ‘registered’ customer. Brands such as Naked Wines (some might argue the degree of essential shopping here) and Dairy Crest’s Milk & More found themselves so overwhelmed by new orders at the height of the stockpiling trend, that they had to temporarily stop taking on new customers. Registered members, though, were sitting pretty.

During this time consumers more than ever are appreciating the efforts of our key workers in grocery retail. And in addition to that, more of them are realising the value of the data exchange and being ‘part of the retail club’. If retailers can continue their better service promise, they will have brand loyal customers waiting for them at the end of this crisis. 

You can read the piece in full here: