How to drive customer acquisition in the cost-of-living crisis

By Edenred

If 2022 will be remembered as the year of the cost-of-living crisis, 2023 will be the year when its impact is felt most keenly.

Behind a headline rate of inflation – stubbornly stuck at around 10% since April – are formidable increases in petrol, gas, electricity rent and, of course, utilities.

Today, it costs twice as much to put the heating on and 60% more to boil a kettle as it did a year ago. Add to that potential increases and rising housing costs and the pool of disposable income is fast evaporating.

For marketers tasked with acquiring new customers, the squeeze on consumer finances at a time of suppressed wage growth will make a challenging job even tougher in the year ahead.

The great customer resignation

A lack of money is already changing consumer behaviour.

According to research from Ipsos in the US, rising bills will force 80% of consumers to change their shopping habits.

This means a reduction in consumption, more shopping around, value-seeking in every purchase, and being more selective in what money is spent on.

As the overall share of the spending pie is dominated by the essentials – food, heating, broadband, and other utilities – discretionary spending on food, going out and electrical goods will become less frequent.

Altogether the scene is set in 2023 for a ‘great customer resignation’ with one study, suggesting UK brands will lose as many as one in three of their customers.


Opportunity from volatility

For every brand, this highly volatile landscape will present a challenge to customer acquisition.

But with an increased propensity to switch brands or look for greater value, incentives, and rewards in the form of or gift cards is set to play a key role in bringing new customers through the door.

Based on our own experience of working with brands on customer acquisition here are five actions for brands to consider in their planning for the year ahead:

1 Reward loyal customers

According to Forrester, when a brand shows a consumer that they are appreciated, 76% will continue doing business with them.

This isn’t just about a reward for loyalty when it comes to an annual renewal but rewards at different points of the customer lifecycle. This could be for staying with you beyond a trial period or for repeat purchases.

It should also extend to ‘regrets’ where customers get compensation for mistakes or shortfalls in what you deliver.

Putting these incentives in place show you value them and so creates a barrier to exit which will make them think twice about leaving.

2 Incentivise customer referrals

Referrals are the most cost-effective way of generating leads and new business in the marketing playbook.

Rewarding customers on a one-off or tiered basis for referrals can cut your marketing costs because the leads tend to be better qualified and more likely to convert. They also foster loyalty in your existing clients.

Whatever the nature of your business, if you don’t have a referral strategy or scheme in place, now is the time to get one and reach customers without having to go head-to-head with them in the open market.

3 Create stand-out incentives for new customers

As people make purchases less frequently, it becomes even more important to win new customers as they come to the market.

Whether you operate in a category of discretionary spend – like furniture, hospitality or entertainment – or a must-buy product like a utility, one way of differentiating yourself is through rewards or incentives you offer new customers as the opportunity to win them becomes few and far between. 

This could be the nature of the reward itself – we are seeing significant growth in sustainable reward options – enriching the experience of receiving or redeeming the reward or adding elements of gamification.

4 Design a payment strategy that will reduce churn

The way people pay for a service has an impact on customer churn. One study suggests that between 20-40% of customers who leave a supplier do so because of payment failure.

This means that marketers who can encourage customers to switch to a payment method which is less likely to fail will be able to hold on to them for longer.

You can also look at payments in other ways. In the current environment, offering monthly payments may be more attractive to consumers who want to spread their spending commitments and reduce churn. Equally, faced by inflation, incentivising customers to lock in a rate for a longer contract length or for recurring orders at guaranteed price will mean you are less vulnerable to losing their business.

5 Invest in a rapid-response marketing capability

As competition gets more intense, brands will need to be able to quickly match or improve the offers, incentives, and packages on offer from the competition.

This means honing the agility of the marketing team so it can gather intelligence, formulate profitable offers and deploy them to market quickly to disrupt or better the activity of competitors.  You will also need to work with partners who can quickly support and fulfil promotions at short notice, with high reliability, and give you the key performance indicators you need to manage budgets in real time.


There are, of course, many more opportunities that marketers can take to secure growth which will depend on the marketing channels they use and the different steps in the customer acquisition journey.

The key takeaway is that in a value-seeking environment – one where up to 50% of consumers say they will seek out discounts and promotions to make fixed household budgets go further – incentives and rewards are a key tool for every marketer.

To find out more about Edenred’s incentive solutions visit us here.