Aimia, the global loyalty program management company, has released the findings of its international Aimia Loyalty Lens survey, fielded by market research company, Research Now between June and July 2014. The study surveys 24,335 respondents in ten international markets: UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, US, Australia, India, and the Gulf (KSA & UAE). The Aimia Loyalty Lens report analyzes trends in consumer loyalty, engagement with technology and attitudes towards data privacy.
The survey finds that shoppers in the Gulf region are among the most open with their personal information, with 67 percent willing to share their data, second only to India. It highlights the room for the growth of loyalty programs in the Gulf, with only 71 percent of consumers in the UAE using a loyalty program versus the global average of 84 percent; with numbers going as high as 90 percent in Canada and France.
“The results demonstrate what we have believed for some time; the Gulf and wider Middle East is a particularly strong area for growth in the loyalty industry. Whilst we have seen the number of programs increase over recent years, there is clearly still huge potential for organizations to create or expand their loyalty offering,” says Paul Lacey, managing director, Aimia Middle East in a press statement.
Just how much customers in the Gulf are willing to share, and to whom, varies greatly by industry. When consumers were asked to rank – on a scale of one to ten – the degree to which, they are comfortable with businesses handling their personal data, an overwhelming majority of consumers (81 percent) put banks in the top three, along with supermarkets (73 percent) and telecommunication providers (72 percent). Conversely, 32 percent of consumers place social networks in the bottom two of the institutions they trust and 28 percent of consumers place online search engines at the bottom.
“Consumers are increasingly required to trust companies to handle their personal details. Transparency about how data is being collected and used will become a key differentiator for businesses going forward. Businesses that are clear and offer a better customer experience through the use of that information will build greater trust and loyalty,” adds Lacey.
How much is too much?
The study reveals that customers in the Gulf region are more trusting than customers in other market, with only 12 percent having concerns over data security versus the global average of 20 percent.
Considering customer data that retailers now possess, they can greet each customer by name. In the Gulf, 63 percent of customers would be comfortable if hotel staff addressed them by their first name, while only 44 percent of customers would be comfortable if fuel attendants did the same. Supermarket customers were the happiest if the company sent them offers on their mobile phone (56 percent), while only 41 percent of those customers would be comfortable if supermarkets advertised to them based on previous online searches.
Lacey explains that opportunities for personalizing messages to Gulf consumers need to be met with caution and adjusted based on the audience: “While growth and the potential for the launch of more loyalty programs is positive news for consumers it means the pressure is on for providers to maintain and increase this level of engagement through relevant and rewarding experiences,” he says.
“The appetite shown by customers in the Gulf to share information will allow many retailers to put extra focus on personalizing communications for customers. But it’s important for businesses to know when and where it’s appropriate to use this information to engage consumers, and the variations between industries and nationalities. The companies that win will be the ones that listen to their consumers’ preferences and use data wisely to build mutually beneficial relationships,” he adds.