Nicole Shapiro: Authenticity in brand positioning is key. Picture: SUPPLIED
Nicole Shapiro: Authenticity in brand positioning is key. Picture: SUPPLIED

This year could be one in which brands fighting for market share and relevance struggle even more — unless they embrace a culture of "enhanced storytelling" in their marketing and accelerate customers’ digital experience.

New research from Verint Systems that engaged consumers in 12 countries finds those who prefer digital engagement channels to human customer service are highly likely to switch brands or service providers.

The survey finds consumers in SA, India, Mexico, Brazil and the UK are more prone to switch, while French, Japanese, Dutch and German consumers stay longer with their providers.

Banks lead the way in terms of customer retention. At the same time, says Nicole Shapiro from the Added Value agency, authentic and well-told stories in an age of burgeoning platforms and enhanced social media visibility can help brands thrive, enhance their ability to charge a premium and create brand loyalists.

So how can brands tap into the power of storytelling to enhance brand equity?

Shapiro suggests brands may consider using their founders or a persona to tell a successful story. Many successful brands and businesses also have a "higher raison d’être", which goes beyond solely focusing on profit.

"This ‘purpose’ could be based on realising nonfinancial ambitions such as solving a problem, helping people or fulfilling an unmet need," says Shapiro. "The financial reward follows naturally."

She believes consumers are hardwired to support the underdog and that authenticity in brand positioning and narrative is a new key to unlocking brand growth.

The Verint survey provides crucial information on customer likes and dislikes. Almost 75% of consumers don’t like dealing with companies that don’t provide a phone number; 65% feel they get better service speaking to someone rather than engaging online; 50% believe an e-mail inquiry is likely to be ignored; and 70% feel they can negotiate a better deal in-store or on the phone than online.

Banks lead in terms of customer retention, with 73% of consumers reporting they have been with their bank for more than three years. Mobile phone providers rank second best. Japanese companies had the highest retention rates of the countries surveyed — an average of 64% of consumers have been with their providers for more than three years.

SA comes in at 53%, while consumers here are the least loyal towards online service providers and retailers, and are most likely to shop around when it comes to these brands. South Africans still prefer speaking to someone on the phone or in person rather than using digital channels, but indicate they would increasingly like to interact with service providers via a mobile app and an online account in future.

Rachel Lane, director of customer analytics at Verint, notes: "What’s clear is that a more personal touch in customer service helps drive retention and loyalty. This is a wake-up call for many organisations looking to introduce more digital channels with the aim of reducing costs and improving customer convenience. Consumers feel more positive about a brand when they interact directly with a person, so organisations need to consider how to make the digital experience more personal to avoid increased customer churn."

Please sign in or register to comment.