Is Your Brand Future-Proofed For The Evolving Loyalty Landscape?

This article was originally published on CMO.com

We don’t need to look far to feel the impact of the shift taking place in the marketing landscape. Whether it’s at Adobe SummitForrester’s Consumer Marketing conference, or this week’s MarTech conference in San Francisco, discussion revolves around how it’s changing at a rapid clip, and its momentum, driven mostly by technology, is gaining steam.

The conductor behind much of this force is the customer experience and the ability (or inability) for brands to deliver contextually relevant moments at those precise times of need. In tandem with this increasing prevalence of the customer experience is the concept of brand loyalty, interwoven throughout the customer journey in a way that compels allegiance and preference for a brand at every touchpoint.

Loyalty is now a constant, not a concept confined to points or a program. And as marketers continue to face big challenges—be it competition, emerging channels, new technologies, legacy systems, or a crowded marketplace—the need for brands to future-proof themselves is becoming more and more clear for not just loyalty marketers, but for all marketers. Here’s my take on three ways to do just that.

1. Treat Loyalty As An Outcome, Not A Program
Loyalty programs are ubiquitous these days. But more and more, loyalty members are becoming disengaged as virtually every brand is luring its frequent and best customers with an experience that is heavily anchored on a transactional, points-based reward, currency, or similar incentive. But it’s not enough to stop there.

While there is no doubt that programs like these still continue to attract and retain customers—and remain tremendously valuable to both brands and members alike—it’s also paramount that we as marketers, loyalty or otherwise, understand the ongoing shift happening quietly behind the scenes. Loyalty program or not, the most successful brands are treating loyalty as an outcome and long-term business strategy in building advocacy, not just a way to keep customers on the hook.

2. Find And Capitalize On The In-Between Moments
You’re sitting at the airport. Suddenly, your flight gets canceled or significantly delayed. You’re obviously upset, and as you grumble to yourself and start to call your rental car company and hotel, you get a push notification from your travel app or rental car company, saying that they’ve been notified and are not just holding your reservation, but because of your tier status, they’ve gone ahead and given you an upgrade to a nicer car to ease your weary mind.

Or perhaps your flight isn’t canceled, but on the way to the hotel from the airport you get a notification from them acknowledging your arrival and that your room is not only ready, but that you can check in and go straight to your suite. In-between moments like these can elevate experiences and differentiate your brand by delivering contextual relevance when your customers need it most.

3. Be Unwavering In Your Brand Promise And Deliver That Value
You have a favorite brand. In fact, you probably have several. And you probably know precisely why you love them. Is it service? Experience? Is it because they get you or because the clothes always fit just right? You don’t expect the same thing from your car dealership as you do from your favorite clothing retailer, so what’s the difference?

The difference is that they do something relevant to the experience well. Extremely well, in fact. They’ve doubled down on something they believe in and strive to get that thing right, every time. The most effective brands are unabashedly firm on providing the value they deliver to consumers, and shape experiences around them in ways that create confidence, remove friction, and foster loyalty.

The key takeaway? Consumers don’t just want the best offer or the cheapest deal; they want to be valued and they want to feel appreciated. In other words, they don’t want to be treated as consumers at all. They want to be treated like people. And we, as marketers, should strive to do just that.