As a loyalty marketer, I have been the beneficiary of two umbrella trends that have vastly increased the prominence of our discipline:
- The rising level of importance that marketing plays within organizations.
- The increased need for robust, first-party customer data (which loyalty is well suited to supply) to drive marketing’s efforts.
These trends have led to a second loyalty boom, as we focus on new solutions and resources to fulfill the need to continuously improve customer experience and engagement. While this has been an exhilarating evolution for those of us in the loyalty field, it begs the question: “At what point will customers stop caring about loyalty or personalization?”
Many customers have already come to expect their loyalty to be rewarded, so how can the program and the experience continue to drive engagement, satisfaction and, ultimately, incremental sales? In thinking through the potential risk, I’ve come to believe there are three key areas in which a brand must focus to stand out from the crowd and stay top of mind with its customers:
1. Get out of the way. Remove friction everywhere you see it.
Friction—making the experience, path to purchase or loyalty engagements more time consuming or difficult—is arguably the second most common issue behind only a deficient product. We encourage marketers to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes and seek to understand every area in the brand’s experience (loyalty or otherwise) that is sub-optimal. It is our job as marketers to actively seek out these areas of friction and treat them as opportunities. Wherever there is friction in the customer experience, there is an opportunity to delight. Remember that delighting the customer doesn’t always mean sending them an exciting new offer. Sometimes it’s as simple as providing great customer service—especially if a customer brings forth an issue that demonstrates friction within the experience. Train and empower your customer-facing employees to acknowledge the issue and immediately do what they can to make it right. Your social media team will thank you for it.
2. Remember that creativity counts more than ever.
In a world where almost every brand seems to have a loyalty program offering very similar benefits, there are few ways to truly differentiate. The reality is that infusing creativity in strategy, messaging and communications are what will help your program stand out in the “sea of sameness.” Are you making the most of every customer touchpoint? Has your email marketing program seen decreases in opens and clicks? It may be time to rethink your strategy and expand how you are reaching and engaging your customers today. Despite the notion that automation and optimization will kill creative departments, standing out by being different and unique, while risky, can pay great dividends. Creativity is alive and well, embrace it.
3. Drive relevancy and value.
As consumers receive an ever-increasing number of “personalized” offers each day, marketers should expand their definition of the “value” they provide to consumers. This “value” does not mean providing more discounts or sending more emails; it means treating your customer’s time and attention, their most valuable assets, with great care. It may mean connecting with your customers in ways that make them “feel valued” as an individual person. Have you asked if the offers you’re sending are relevant? A simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down can speak volumes. Do you know how often your customers want to hear from you or how they felt about the last product purchase/interaction they had with your brand? Set your brand up for success by enabling your communications to be contextually relevant, be based on your customers expressed or implied preferences and be able to consistently capture feedback so you can analyze and provide continuous value-adds.
Ultimately, by focusing your loyalty marketing efforts on these three areas, I believe your brand will be better positioned to attract and retain target customers and stand out among the crowd.