At its core, loyalty programs will forever be about treating your best customers better. While this remains as true today as it did 20 years ago, what has changed is the way that we court those customers, engage them, and track their behavior and spending. Social media and new technology provides us countless ways to make that valuable customer connection and therein lies where we think loyalty marketers’ focus will remain for the coming year.
Rewards for More
It used to be that loyalty programs were all about giving positive reinforcement for purchasing behavior. You spend X amount, then you’re duly rewarded with some kind of benefit or monetary kick back. Now it seems that there are far more things worthy of your rewards than just purchase behavior alone. How about for referring friends, or sharing an experience on Facebook or posting a photo? Now is the time to look at what you want those best customers to do for you beyond just giving up a share of their wallet, then design rewards that reinforce that behavior.
The Playing Field Becomes Leveled
Social media has become the great equalizer. Now a small retail store can use Facebook to build a loyal customer following and use easy online transaction processing technologies to make it easy to shop. Now they are on just as level of a playing field as their big department store counterparts. Alternately, now that big department store can dive down into all the data they have on a customer and know when to follow up after a purchase with the right kind of information in a way that feels more like a small boutique. Those territories that were once clear-cut are now blurring.
Tell It To Their Financial Hearts
The bottom line with consumers within today’s dicey economy is they want to feel that they have some modicum of control. Fiscal cliffs be damned, we all still want to feel like we can do something to make our situation better and that at the end of the day we scored a better deal than the guy next door. When loyalty marketers tap into that mindset, they have the makings for a compelling reason for customers to become and stay engaged for the long haul.
Get With The Technology
If your loyalty program is stuck at your decades-old point of sale system and not reaching other customer touchpoints, like mobile or social media, then you need to have a heart-to-heart with your IT people. No longer is coming up to speed with technology a luxury, it’s a necessity as customers demand and expect the latest and greatest from the brands they love.
Rush to Be Where Your Customers Are
This year, we will see loyalty programs go outside their box, literally. The loyalty experience is not just about the point of sale. It’s also about being where your customer is, and tah-dah you just so happen to be there too. Whether that is on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or blogs, the idea is to have a brand presence that shows your customers that you “get them” because you are like them and you hang where they hang.
The Loyalty Economy Changes Up
Without much differentiation between programs, consumers are looking for an across-the-board redemption process that treats rewards like cash. This open-loyalty approach allows people to share and pool reward points, and then universally redeems them. Younger tech-savvy consumers that find it easy to shift points into a working currency are embracing this new technology.
One thing is for certain in 2013, loyalty marketing will play an even greater role in the success of a brand’s overall marketing strategy going forward.
Need some advice about how to take the next step with your loyalty initiatives? Ask the experts at Customer Insight Group.