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Words alone can make better business

Research* by language consultancy The Writer, finds the real impact of better writing on businesses: keeping and winning more customers.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Words alone can make better business

Research* by language consultancy The Writer, finds the real impact of better writing on businesses: keeping and winning more customers.

The results showed:

* even great brands can lose customers through poor writing

* honest writing is more persuasive than writing that’s merely clear

* a few simple linguistic changes mean customers warm to brands more.

The Writer surveyed 2,000 people to test their reaction to a series of customer scenarios, based purely on the writing they would encounter. They blind-tested writing samples from three leading UK retailer brands as well as an invented sample from The Writer for each scenario.

Neil Taylor, The Writer’s creative director, said: "We hear it all the time when we’re training people. Almost everyone prefers natural writing that has more personality, but they have doubts about how customers will react. So we wanted to measure what happens to the customer experience when you strip away everything but the words."

One scenario tested the impact of language on whether people apply for loyalty cards online. Based on the writing alone:

* only 7% would apply for a loyalty card from House of Fraser

* 16%  would apply for a loyalty card from Costa

* 23% would apply for a loyalty card from Tesco

* but a quarter would choose The Writer’s ‘really honest’ version.

Taylor said: "To get people motivated enough to actually do something, we decided to sacrifice a bit of clarity for personality and it paid off. We were deliberately really honest in owning up to the fact that there’s something in it for the company if people keep coming back. We even said ‘shop with us (and not them)’. Though people felt Tesco’s writing was clearer (25% to our 20%), we pipped them in the end because people warmed more to the writing with more personality. It was more polarising, but ultimately more effective."

The research also asked people to pick which loyalty card of the four they would opt for – based on the writing alone – if push came to shove. People were on average 20 per cent more likely to pick the card with writing that was most honest:

* 11% would choose House of Fraser’s.

* 21% would choose Costa’s.

* 28% would choose Tesco’s.

* Well over a third (40%) would choose the imaginary card from The Writer.


Taylor concluded: "Businesses are missing a trick with their language. They don’t think hard enough about the potential impact of each piece of writing. Because a brand’s writing touches customers in so many ways, it’s one of the most pervasive and cost effective ways to keep customers happy when things go wrong. And one of the best ways to help businesses stand out and win new ones."

*The research was conducted online by independent research company ICM in October 2012. They interviewed a random sample of 2,000 adults aged 18+. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of GB adults.

**For each scenario people were asked which words they’d used to describe the writing, such as ‘honest’, ‘friendly’, ‘confusing’, ‘useful’, ‘cold’.
 
Make sure you have this date in your diary: 12th June 2013 which is when the Retail Bulletin’s 4th Customer Loyalty Conference takes place. Register now for this one day, timely interactive event.

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