The essence of loyalty marketing has not changed since its invention; incentivize your best customers and they will not only remain patrons, they will tell their friends about their experiences with your brand. The rise of social technologies has multiplied the positive effects of a brand supporter and underscores the importance of influential evangelists.
Though the substance of loyalty has not changed in the past 30 years, the tactics and technologies required to implement a loyalty program have been displaced -- so much so that history may designate the years between 2012 through 2015 as a renaissance in customer loyalty. Here are a few guidelines to use when planning your customer loyalty programs for 2013:
Don't Just Be Social, Be Helpful
According to a survey by American Express one in five American's have used social media for customer service. Furthermore, customers, on average, are willing to spend 21% more with companies that provide great service. Given that social media is an ideal channel to directly interact with your customers, a strategic approach is imperative. The mere presence on popular social networks is no longer enough. Simple, canned responses to comments on social networks no longer meet consumer expectations. It is crucial for social media to be treated as a service channel in addition to a promotional channel. The installation of an uninformed employee, armed with no more than a hyperlink to a customer service page is only slightly better than ignoring comments made within social networks.
Forget Gamification, Learn The Game
The Gamification gold rush has led many brands to the construction of superfluous "cart before the horse" initiatives in which badges and leaderboards serve little to no strategic purpose. There are countless theories that marketers can borrow from games, but in order to accurately take advantage of such ideas in an effective manner, marketers must dig deeper and strive to realize the various compulsion loops and social dynamics that make games "sticky" (apologies for the late 90's lingo). Here are a few links for inspiration:
Feel The Power of Post-PC
The post-PC era has put massive computing power, packed in every shape and size screen, in the palm of the everyday consumer. If your legacy POS system is getting in the way of allowing you to implement a cutting edge loyalty program, consider taking advantage of consumer grade products to get the job done.
Take a look at the following payments systems that have integrated elements of loyalty into their platform:
Learn to Outsmart "Showrooming"
"Showrooming" has become a plague for retailers. According to eMarketer, 59% of US smartphone owners have engaged in "showrooming". Ironically, the very same mobile device that consumers are using to "showroom" can be used to create value. Marketers should look at the way in which luxury brands create value. Luxury marketers are notorious for creating value adding experiences in lieu of price breaks—as such, mobile has become a no-brainer for luxury marketers. According to the Luxury Institute, luxury shoppers expect the following from mobile applications:
- 46% expect loyalty programs
- 45% expect early access to sales
- 53% want access to a sales professional that can help with finding the right product
Remember That Likes Don't Equal Loves
These days, it is all too easy to create a "like-gated" promotion yet many of the programs that ask for personal information in exchange for entrance into a contest fall flat when it comes to any type of long term engagement. In the endless debate about the value of a "like," many marketers have concluded that a like is only as good as the communications that follow it. Loyalty can certainly begin with a like, but a like is not guaranteed to get you to a "love". According to eMarketer, nearly half of branded "likes" have no influence on consumer purchase decisions.
Though last on this list, this is the most important thing a brand can do. We have seen brands like Zappos and Warby Parker take brand "amore" to new heights. Each brand uses social media and technology in exciting new ways, but each brand also manages to present their costumers with something marketers and advertisers speak about ad nauseam, "surprise and delight." There are a variety of new brands such as Warby Parker that are set up as B Corporations. This corporate structure requires a company to generate some sort of "general benefit for society" as part of the way it defines profit. While long established plans will likely not reincorporate, this model has loyalty baked in and big brands should be looking at the types of ways these companies do business
As you are planning your loyalty efforts for 2013, do your best not to get so caught up in the trees that you forget to look at the forest. The seemingly endless number of mobile and social loyalty platforms can be so overwhelming, they can divert even the most savvy of marketers from their core objectives. With the above guides and a constant eye on ROI, 2013 should be a banner year for customer loyalty.
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