Conference Preview: Creating partnerships with charities can help retailers boost customer loyalty
Ahead of taking part in a panel discussion at the 4th Retail Bulletin Customer Loyalty Conference 2013 on June 12th, Klara Kozlov, senior advisor for corporate at the Charities Aid Foundation, highlights how corporate partnerships between retailers and charities can be massively beneficial to both parties.
“Retailers need to demonstrate their brand is more than just a product. Partnerships are about building brand equity through values and creating a narrative beyond the products and the business. This is increasingly important as retailers need differentiation,” she says.
Such partnerships also help retailers drive longer term engagement with their customers as it enables them to speak at a more emotive level and it is this that Kozlov says helps drive repeat purchases.
The most important element is for the charity to be “credible” and that its selection by the retailer shows that the partnership has been taken seriously. This can involve selecting on the basis that the charity helps demonstrate “ideas of where the retailers’ business is going”.
Kozlov says an approach can alternatively come from a charity – as in the case of The Samaritans that looked to partner with Network Rail. This tie-up also highlights how such arrangements are not always about money being given by the corporate to the charity.
“It involved training the staff and running an awareness campaign to raise the issue of suicides on the railways. And it set a target of lowering suicides,” she says. Another successful partnership has involved UNICEF and Co-operative Pharmacy that ran a cause related marketing (CRM) campaign around hygiene and sanitisation.
As well as providing a percentage of the sales price of certain products to help improve sanitisation in developing counties the partnership also raised awareness of hygiene issues in the UK. This raising of funds can either be achieved through CRM or by the retailers holding fund raising events with their staff.
Although Kozlov says “CRM has become passé to some people,” she says others continue to enjoy great benefits: “What it needs is authenticity and innovation.” This innovation could include a greater use of social media, which she highlights as a platform that is proving tough to utilise as it remains hard to get people to commit to giving to charitable causes online.
What is also changing is the recognition by retailers that partnerships with charities are strategic to their businesses. They are viewing them as more long-term, according to Kozlov, who says: “They want in-built sustainability whereby if the partnership comes together for a specific purpose then they want that [imperative] to continue when the partnership ends.”
Although partnerships are commonplace among the larger companies – the Tesco tie up with the Alzheimer’s Society being cited as particularly successful – Kozlov says there are many smaller companies that have embraced it and it has become a fundamental part of their businesses.
“It’s in the DNA of some companies like Innocent Drinks. It’s more than something that is at the Point-of-Sale, it’s become their mantra. And this can drive operational growth and business growth. Small companies recognise that the customer today wants a social purpose in a business,” she suggests.
To view the full programme and to register, please click here.
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