The world of loyalty is changing. Gone are the days when consumers could easily be sated by traditional “spend-and-get” programs that offer points for purchases. Today, consumers have greater expectations, and they demand more from brands than ever.
Traditional loyalty programs have centered on transactions. These programs reward customers for their spending habits. They don’t recognize members for their engagement with a brand or for their social activity, digital engagement, or mobile habits—present-day consumer behavior. While spend-and-get programs remain the foundation of loyalty, they are focused on the single transactional channel. Meanwhile, the loyalty ecosystem is evolving and distancing the focus on such traditional initiatives.
Enter the “disruptors”—companies that are transforming loyalty and prompting consumers to rethink what it means to them. How are brands achieving this? The answer lies within multichannel loyalty and engagement solutions.
A Changing Landscape
Securing customer loyalty and retaining it requires that companies demonstrate the value of their loyalty programs and offer various ways to keep members engaged across every imaginable channel. Companies that offer multichannel loyalty and engagement solutions help brands better understand customers and their buying habits, offer numerous ways to engage across mobile, social, in-store, and digital channels, and keep loyalty top of mind.
This fact is further evidenced by “The Forrester Wave: Customer Loyalty Solutions for Midsize Organizations,” Q1 2016 report. For the first time, Forrester produced a midmarket Wave that includes vendors that offer engagement capabilities, which signals a shift away from traditional loyalty providers. According to the report, several software-as-a-service (Saas) vendors are “taking a page from the disruptor’s handbook and delivering multichannel loyalty capabilities more quickly and at a lower cost.” This reflects the ongoing change in the loyalty landscape.
“As legacy loyalty offerings become more commoditized, improved engagement, strategy, and customer experience (CX) capabilities will dictate which providers will lead the next evolution of loyalty solutions,” the Forrester report said.
The Growth Of Multichannel Loyalty And Engagement
Multichannel loyalty and engagement solutions not only recognize customers for their spend, but for social, mobile, online, and digital activities as well. Such activities include rewarding customers for tweeting with a branded hashtag, reading a blog post, or attending an in-store event. Brands are seeking out SaaS vendors for their speed to market, as well as their easy-to-implement solutions.
For example, multichannel loyalty and engagement programs help brands:
• Acquire and retain customers: Brands use multichannel loyalty and engagement initiatives as an acquisition tool. Typically, brands offer a compelling incentive, such as a discount or loyalty points upon signup to entice consumers to join. Companies keep long-time members active by making relevant offers that are specific to their needs and buying habits.
• Heighten customer experiences: Brands with multichannel loyalty and engagement programs offer members exceptional customer experiences. Whether it involves an invitation to an exclusive brand event or exciting rewards, such as recognition on social media for hitting a specific milestone, brands use loyalty to form emotional bonds with members. These ties are strong, and specific experiences are often long remembered and treasured by customers, which fuels loyalty.
• Immerse consumers in branding: Multichannel loyalty and engagement programs help customers deepen their connections to brands. For example, customer engagement isn’t just limited to in-store experiences, but it extends online via social media, through email communications, and through mobile via mobile apps. Consumers can immerse themselves in a brand and a brand loyalty program at any time though multiple vehicles.
According to the Forrester Wave report, brands are searching for loyalty solutions that “help companies identify and track customers, reward behavior, and drive deeper engagement and relationships. Forward-thinking companies lean on these solutions to do more than simply manage rewards programs—instead they want to apply loyalty insights to improve customer experiences, branding, and even acquisition marketing.”
As technology changes and consumers adopt new social channels and visit more websites, multichannel loyalty vendors are creating new ways for brands to create conversations and strengthen relationships with consumers to drive desired behaviors.
Pepsi is an example of a brand that uses its loyalty program to acquire new customers and engage them as well. The brand ran a campaign in December prompting people to register for its Pepsi Pass loyalty program and enter an exclusive sweepstakes for a chance to win Crystal Pepsi. Members used loyalty points to enter the sweepstakes. Some 13,000 winners received a six-pack of Crystal Pepsi via mail.
To win the loyalty game, brands must take note of their current offering. It’s important that organizations don’t allow their loyalty program to become a commodity. Rather, brands should strive to be a “disruptor” and stand out to create lasting connections with customers across channels.
Earning true loyalty today requires brands to adopt multichannel loyalty and engagement solutions as part of their larger loyalty initiatives. Businesses must also alter their approach to loyalty and focus on building customer relationships across channels, rewarding consumers for the many ways in which they engage with a brand—beyond just transactions.
See what the Twitterverse is saying about customer loyalty: