I’ve recently had a discussion with one of our VPs on what loyalty is and should be, and unsurprisingly, we found the term ‘loyalty’ too broad to be defined. Should it be used as a tool to drive sales or should it be reward-based in exchange for consumers’ trust? Perhaps the complexity is enhanced when the people involved in the discussion is a marketer and the other with an engineer background tasked with designing a loyalty concept.
The consensus is that an ideal loyalty strategy involves consumer retention as part of a reward scheme to drive sales in the long-term by creating value-added relationships. At least, this was my takeaway as a marketer- details can be up for debate.
Ultimately, the loyalty solution has to be of some value to the end-user. Merely having a loyalty program today is not enough. Unfortunately for companies, today’s consumers are increasingly demanding and priggish – me included. We expect companies to be a step ahead of us in our shopping patterns, and especially so if we submit to a loyalty program. God forbid we don’t get rewarded for handing over our personal data, receiving spam mails, and spending our time and hard-earned money on products we succumb to.
Harsh accusations this may be; but the bottom line is that companies (especially those in consumer goods) need to do more than offer incentives in return for repeat businesses. They need to build relationships beyond that of a transactional one- they need to care.
Here we introduce 4 main factors to a value-added loyalty program.
Loyalty programs today are a dime a dozen. Those that knows to stand out have a comprehensive CRM game plan by making use of their existing database and all customer facing touch-points to deliver incentives on a personalised level.
Merely having a reward scheme does incentivise a purchase which is psychologically motivating for a consumer. However, if the incentives are not of value or attractive to the consumer, will that stimulate a subsequent purchase? Personalisation is the game chip for the prize of a meaningful relationship, and relationships are built upon 2-way communication.
With the proliferation of smart technology, companies are now able to engage with consumers on all touch-points of a consumer experience. That’s not all, with the data collected on each consumer (if part of a loyalty program), you can use this data to analyse their behaviour and preferences outside of their relationship with you.
Technology has long helped companies in capturing customer data, but the analytical capabilities have paled in comparison. Using deep learning, computers can do more than churn out obvious data. It can uncover correlations between groups of data sets, which gives you further insights on your consumer’s behaviour. Computer algorithms can comprehend exactly what the data is saying, eliminating much manual work on your part. To understand how deep learning/machine learning works, read our previous article on it here.
Successful loyalty programs, especially those implemented by conglomerates, are presented as part of a coalition program that entwines a family of products/services.
Let’s take the travel industry for example. A typical travel reward program can bind together participating brands with different offerings— airlines, hotels, and car rentals— around a common point system that allow program members to choose how they would like to be rewarded. With this flexibility, the value of a ‘point’ (or whichever reward currency used) is immediately multiplied to the consumer.
When the frequency of loyalty redemption increases as a direct result of increased perceived value, machine learning becomes better in predicting preferences and can better recommend future offers that are more relevant to the consumer. This leads to the creation of a tailored recommendation engine that personalise the consumer’s journey with your company.
Additionally, by co-sharing a loyalty program with other partners, you are able to widen your consumer data and thus, broaden the data network. The more data you have - the more you know – the more you can do.
Data derived from Merkle Loyalty (2017)
3. Social Listening
Social media has long been noted for its effectiveness in reaching much of today’s market, and is vital in any digital marketing strategy. What else is important is that it’s where consumers congregate, and where they openly exchange information.
Thus, it is imperative to track what these consumers are saying about your brand online, and react to them effectively. Despite your target audience, social media is probably the best tool for an instant reach to your consumers. Through the data derived from social listening, companies can better target a loyalty program to actually address underlying issues.
4. Channel Integration
Brands need to create an integrated experience consistent across all channels be it online or offline, elevating the overall brand experience for members. When you link up the data you have on their lifecycle, spending history, purchase frequency, and preferred purchasing channel (in-store or online), you can then focus on creating the best experience for them.
Invest in an integrated experience through technology, and be able to reach consumers at the moments that most influence their decisions. New customer acquisition, customer retention, gathering customer data and insights, driving incremental sales, and building brand affinity – all rely on a multitude of integrated technologies. The good news is that the manual and analytic parts can both be done with machine learning algorithms.
Besides, with the Internet of Things (IoT), anything with sensors can be connected. Imagine a seamless inter-connected network where CRM programs and POS systems are linked, data inter-shared, recommendation engines utilised across all consumer touchpoints. Better yet, as mobile applications occupy the majority of ‘phone space’, you will have the best execution tool you need.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, focus on your consumers and let our machines power the analytics of your data. The best way to their pockets may very well be through their trust.
With a mobile solution equipped with deep learning, the future of consumer relationships is here.
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