Loyalty Expo 2017: Three Key Themes

Thoughts from this year's conference

Olson 1to1 attended this month’s Loyalty Expo in Orlando—and in good company. We had the privilege of being accompanied by several clients while at the conference, including Luxottica, Fanatics and Wyndham Hotels, who shared some of their thought leadership on various stages. Indeed, from panels and keynotes to sessions and breakouts, industries spanning from retail to travel and hospitality weighed in on trends and challenges in today’s loyalty landscape. Below are three key themes from this year’s show:

All Marketing Is Loyalty

You know the saying, “everything old is new again?” Outside of anything disco era-related (like those old bell bottoms in your closet), old trends do indeed tend to resurface. And this is true in marketing, specifically in loyalty marketing, where we’re seeing a shift from transactions to experiences, from behaviors to emotions. This is nothing new—in fact, we at Olson 1to1 believe and have for years that loyalty is an outcome, not an output. The customer experience, and being able to foster loyalty throughout each brand interaction and across every touchpoint, is fundamental for loyalty and non-loyalty marketers as a long-term strategy, from the creative, communications, triggers, events and the technology that enables it. The goal of a loyalty program is to engender loyalty to the brand, not to the program. You can read more about that here.

Program Needs Versus Brand Needs

Taking a holistic approach is one thing. Delivering on it is another. As a brand, organization or agency, it’s crucial to employ the right tactics, strategies and experiences while also understanding the drivers behind why your customers interact with you in the first place. For example, Caesars Entertainment, operating over 50 casinos and hotels, multiple golf courses and several brands, has been seeing a steady trend in less frequent visitation to their properties, more options and competition and overall less loyalty to a particular brand. They found success in extending their approach to loyalty through partnership expansion and even rewarding certain high-value customers by sending them directly to their competitors, like a weekend trip to Atlantis. Another example, 1-800-FLOWERS.com, focuses on cultivating and fostering multi-brand customer relationships through its creation of a celebratory ecosystem, providing relevant and genuine recommendations for trying new lines or products to its members while ensuring a simplified and seamless shopping experience across its family of eight brands.

Organizational Soul Searching

What would a loyalty conference be without some good old-fashioned motivational speaking? Yup. Let’s get a little introspective: Linda Kaplan Thaler, author of “The Power of Nice,” and Lonnie Mayne, Founder & CEO of Red Shoes Living—both impressive and experienced storytellers with successful careers and track records—inspired us to look inward (and outward) to find ways to be exceptional as brands, organizations and individuals, and to extend that to how we practice our “art” and in the work we do. But it’s more than simply being nice or finding the “sole” of your company; it’s a call to action. As marketers, how can we elevate our purpose, be stewards of our customers and create work that resonates on a connected, human level? At the end of the day, loyalty is an emotional, two-way street. And I would argue that being exceptional as a marketer requires being people-centric, not just customer-centric, with a healthy dose of empathy.