Ninety-seven percent of U.S. corporate executives say customers want an efficient—that is, fast, cost-effective and personalized—level of experience, according to a recent study by The Harris Poll and Lithium. Today’s consumer looks for experiences and connections and marketers are scrambling to find ways to create these touchpoints. For some brands, this means building customer loyalty by leveraging communities, both internal and external.
A recent “CMO Challenge: Leveraging Internal and External Communities” explored the concept of communities in depth by asking marketing leaders at companies like Charles Schwab, GameStop, the Dallas Cowboys and others one question: “What are the challenges and opportunities to effectively leveraging internal and external communities in your loyalty, customer experience or VOC processes?” The paper details the responses, giving insight into efforts major brands are putting into loyalty strategies, from new technologies to strategic services.
The definition of community remained somewhat fluid, with some companies having structured external communities with reward programs and some focusing on internal relations. One theme was common: the concept of community in today’s marketing landscape is an important one. And one thing most communities have in common is an incentive or rewards program to build loyalty and engagement.
In the report, Kirk Johnson vice president of marketing for IHOP had this to say about rewards, “We’ve found the most effective way to do this [capitalize on existing affection for the brand] is through 1-on-1 engagement… their engagement with us is such an important part of the IHOP community, that we make sure to leverage our social media channels and our Pancake Revolution program where guests can sign up to receive offers from the brand to share their brand love and reward their loyalty.”
To build an active, authentic community – for employees and/or customers – it’s important to “offer the kinds of rewards that lead to true customer loyalty.” Reward programs need to reflect the needs of consumers with features like:
- Personalization: This is vital at every stage – from the powerful moment of reward delivery and ongoing communications with program updates and messaging. Cap Gemini recently found that only 11 percent of loyalty programs offer personalized rewards based on a customer’s purchase history or location data. Technology makes this level of personalization possible today, so your rewards should reflect this and stay ahead of the recipient’s expectations. Give them choices and make the program their own.
- Technology forward: Wielding technology deftly and with forethought can make the reward process more powerful for everyone involved. From an API platform that offers efficiencies from initial implementation all the way to instant, digital reward delivery on the recipient’s platform of choice (think mobile first), technology can have huge impacts on the success of communities.
- Build Relationships: Because of the way digital rewards are delivered, there is an opportunity for limitless communications. Relationships can be built and maintained through regular outreach containing things like reward program updates, additional offers and other pertinent information. With rewards, brands, employers and market research companies can keep target audiences engaged for longer periods of time…building relationships that last!
The right rewards program can empower communities and give brands important touchpoints with target audience members. Choosing the right digital reward can create a more meaningful, personalized experience for the consumer, as they benefit from relevant messaging and the marketer benefits from greater satisfaction equaling ongoing future engagement. Explore the new paper’s findings in depth.
Author bio: Jonathan Price is a pioneer in the incentive and reward industry, and has led Virtual Incentives to develop an industry leading incentive platform that enables businesses to reward in a way that is simple, cost-effective, secure, reliable, green and, most importantly, instant. @virtualvisa