With great rewards like cash back, travel miles, and big savings, why do you think some brands say their loyalty programs have lower than expected member participation?
That question highlights for me how the conversation about customer loyalty has experienced a paradigm shift. I’ve been in the loyalty game for a while and our dialogue is evolving beyond just programmatic concerns, like having a good value proposition, to making a loyalty program compelling. In fact, if that’s all we continue to focus on as marketers working with brands, we’ve completely missed our goal for customer loyalty and engagement.
If brands are saying their loyalty programs are underperforming, that’s when I’d invite them to take a step back and look at the full picture of their customer engagement experience. What are the numbers saying to us – sales and revenue, campaign response rates, opt-ins, UX survey results, return rates, voice of customer survey findings, promotions profitability, and abandonment versus conversion rates?
Those are just some of what I’d recommend we look at together to assess where to make change. Then we figure out what we need to do so we can get customers interested and engaged with the brand, with the product, and not just the points or loyalty program. When we solve that, we’ll see it reflected in member participation goals being met.
How have leading brands won their customers’ loyalty by focusing even more on customer engagement?
When we look at what industry analysts have told marketers and retailers to be concerned with over the last few years, we see it’s not an and/or game. Everything we do contributes to the win or loss. We’re all after the same thing, right? We want our customers to buy our product, to choose us, to tell their friends how great of an experience we facilitate and how they should check us out.
I like to keep the customer at the heart of our game plan. This means we’re looking at what data they’ve decided to share with us through their profile creation, their digital social activity, and their browsing and purchase behavior.
Then we’re using that data to make decisions about what’s valuable to our customers and what makes them respond to us – the offers we give them, the content we curate for them, and the experience that keeps them engaged regardless of whether we’re deep-discounting. Happy customers who are engaged with their favorite brands are going to be loyal if the ties are strong and maintained by the brand’s efforts.
What do you think is next in customer engagement and brand loyalty?
I think we’re all focused on the whole, and shifting from very siloed thinking and ways of designing and organizing. It’s a “yes, and” game, and I think it will continue to be so. It has to be about the customer, realizing it’s their choice and they’re in control.
In the current and changing loyalty landscape, we all know points and rewards alone can’t deliver real and deep customer loyalty. When the next shiny reward comes along, what’s to stop customers from chasing that – especially when they haven’t forged enough of a connection with your brand? Our customers expect us to understand them so well from the data they’ve chosen to give on our platforms that we can give them personalized and relevant experiences regardless of the channel they engage in – online, in-app, or in-store.
Now and in the future, we must keep the customer at the core of our planning so that all things start and end with them. This allows them to be so engaged, they’ll choose the brand regardless of market conditions. When our customers are at this loyalty state of customer engagement, we all win!