For almost three decades now, I have watched, developed and helped to strategically plan numerous loyalty and membership programs. BUT, today they are even more sophisticated, refined and desirable than ever before. With the acceleration of social media, technology and telecommunications in general – the traditional models once used for Airlines, Hotels, Cars, Restaurants, Credit Cards, etc. have also changed.
As Forrester Research stated in their The Forrester Wave™: Customer Loyalty Solutions, Q3 2017 Report,
“Today’s empowered consumers want more than points and discounts in exchange for their loyalty to brands. They demand context, relevance, and individualized treatment that makes them feel valued.”
All have evolved into omnichannel, multichannel and real-time programs that recognize and understand that customers, fans and users interact with brands in multiple ways every day. Even AI and chatbots are expanding rapidly to improve customer and client engagement. So are loyalty interactions that integrate with Apple Wallet and Google Wallet too.
In fact, by 2020, customers are expected to manage 85% of their relationships with enterprises without interacting with a human. Importantly, while chatbots will never replace human relationships and the ability to resolve detailed issues, they are great at resolving issues relating to placing an order for example.
‘Loyalty programs are ubiquitous, but consumer appetite for the promise of savings and recognition is not dwindling.’
The smartest marketers understand that to WIN today, they must leverage, capture and understand the power of loyalty data and customer behavior better than their competition. The companies and brands that are leveraging data the best today are adding immense value to their customers by consolidating even more trust, integrity and value.
Over the years I have often heard various marketing and advertising folks say “Loyalty programs are discount schemes that have little to no impact on customer or client relationships.” BUT, I quickly counter with, “When done right, loyalty programs encourage a company’s or brand’s most engaged customers to identify themselves as fans of the brands.”
I go on to say, “Especially if you capture, collect and use the data to prove it. Amazing customer insights and experiences of perceptions and behavior are genuine sources of loyalty, retention and trust.”
‘Loyalty Programs Reveal Your Most Loyal Customers’
Some of the most visible and respected programs in 2018 that I recommend you investigate include: a US Luxury Car manufacturer, a Brokerage Company, Airline, Hotel, Retailer, Restaurant, Credit Card, Health Insurance, Telecommunications, Home Insurance company or even a Federal Government Agency. (The sky is the limit if you are interested in finding out who your most loyal customers and clients are.)
With the explosion of new market-makers on the landscape, disruptive startups are now reshaping how businesses compete and win. How fast and how you respond to your most loyal customers will ensure your success.
Some Key Take-outs for success in 2018 and beyond:
- Strategies that rely purely on loyalty programs offering points and discounts miss an opportunity to drive deeper engagement through emotional loyalty.
- Be A Loyalty Company, Not A Company With A Loyalty Program
- Build a strategic Loyalty Program that gets your client excited AND, ensure it rewards your loyal customers with points, coupons, or other rewards for posting positively to a multitude of social channels by tracking a loyalty member’s social influences with positive brand mentions or targeted keywords.
- Customer loyalty strategies are synonymous with points and discounts BUT, Loyalty is both behavioral and emotional plus, it must extend beyond a loyalty program designed around transactional rewards today.
- Make sure you deliver beyond the points. In return, loyalty program members display greater potential than the average consumer for a more substantial relationship.
- Always collect rich data about your best customers and clients in order to reward, recognize, and retain them.
- Ensure your Customer loyalty requires strategic alignment, deliberate planning, and financial and cultural commitment. Live by it daily too.
- Always strive to build and maintain a successful loyalty strategy and consistently look to improve, progress and update. This might mean monthly, quarterly or even more frequently upgrades.
- B2B and B2C marketers seeking to build a loyalty strategy that stands out need a game plan that addresses the six competencies of advanced customer loyalty: strategy, data and metrics, performance management, people and organization, program design, and program execution. Raise the bar higher!
- Orchestration and Integration matter – by that I mean, building customer loyalty requires an orchestrated effort from multiple teams: marketing, business technology (BT), customer service, customer insights (CI), customer experience (CX) and more.
- Develop a company/brand playbook. Make sure you highlight: customer loyalty initiatives and ensure that everyone on your team understands the key activities required for success. So you must clarify responsibilities and coordinate activities across roles and functions.
- Personalization matters – Seventy-nine percent of customers surveyed indicated that they are very satisfied with loyalty programs with high personalization and that loyalty programs that make customers feel special and recognized had 2.7 times more satisfied members.
- Strategic Partnerships are exploding – brand partnerships take center stage as a strategy for growth. Over the past few years I’ve also seen an increasing number of brands seeking out strategic partners to stay ahead of the competition. Importantly, great strategic partnerships extend the reach for both brands and connects both to potential new customers and revenue streams!
- Brands with PURPOSE are thriving – in fact, much research concludes this to be especially true with millennials. They expect brands and companies to go beyond generating profit and also serve as drivers of change and become active in their communities. This can have a major impact on loyalty, as consumers are increasingly more likely to support brands with a purpose.
- Premium loyalty programs are becoming more engaging and tempting today – especially a program like Amazon Prime that provides exceptional value and benefits to its members provided they are willing to pay for it. In fact, a consumer study from last year, 62% of respondents said they’d considered joining a fee-based rewards program if their favorite retailer offered one. That’s powerful and encourages loyalty.
- Emotional Loyalty is critical – Both Gallup and Forrester recently published research that highlighted the following points:
- Emotion is one of the strongest unique drivers of loyalty.
- Gallup has demonstrated that emotionally loyal customers are willing to spend with the brand even if meaningful and available alternatives are presented. They found that consumers with strong emotional connections to retailers will visit their stores 32 percent more often and spend 46 percent more money than those without emotional bonds.
- Leveraging a loyalty program, brands can incentivize fans to attain these unique rewards through further engagement. “money-can’t-buy’ experiences!
But when it comes to tracking, identifying, and understanding advocacy behavior, many marketers don’t have a strategy in place but just hope it will happen organically. These reports help loyalty marketers understand why consumer advocacy is important, how to tap into their base of loyal advocates, and when to use incentives.
Importantly, According to statistics, 84% of B2B leaders kick off their buying processes with referrals. This is not surprising given that 92% of consumers say they trust the recommendations of friends and family over any other form of advertising.
Finally, one of the professed benefits of loyal customers is that they recommend you and your product/service to their friends and family. And recommendations and referrals are great ways to acquire qualified prospects who are more likely to be loyal in the first place.
About Geoff De Weaver:
Super strategist who directs Fortune 500 clients to define their vision, create a strategy, and harness their internal innovation to grow their business or reinvent their products. Expert at building and transforming brands, businesses, and digital and physical customer experiences at scale.
History of success developing and executing cross-channel global marketing campaigns to drive brand positioning, equity, and awareness while increasing engagement and sales and loyalty.
Innovative entrepreneur, author, speaker, and advertising executive with vast expertise driving business growth, reinventing brands, and implementing global marketing campaigns.
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