How many of those annoying little loyalty cards do you have cluttering your purse? When you’re fumbling around at the bottom of your handbag, do you really feel like a VIP?
Purchasing behaviour has changed drastically in last 20 years. ‘The customer is always right’ has formed the customer agenda, and they have far greater expectations from their experiences, over a growing number of channels. Brands are used to the traditional sales funnel, and controlling the information that guides a prospect toward a purchase. That process is now controlled by the consumer, and the sales journey is no longer linear. Every sector will be affected by new advances driven by the internet, mobile and cheap cloud resources, toppling conventional ways of doing business. Paradoxically, these trends make it more important than ever to retain loyalty, but at the same time harder than ever to build strong and durable customer relationships.
“We’re at the dawn of an age of disruption and marketers are in the driver’s seat” – Yvonne Genovese, group vice president, Gartner for Marketers.
A report by Gartner showed that 25% of CMO’s say that leading the customer experience is the most-increased expectation CEO’s have of them. Creating a relationship isn’t enough; it’s about creating the right kind of relationship with your customers – then, and only then, do you have loyalty. We need to modify the formula, as the commercial world did 10-15 years ago, and there are extraordinary opportunities for pioneering companies to establish themselves as leaders. How we measure satisfaction and retention must change because our customers are demanding a holistic approach. That means interacting beyond the traditional points-and-currency system. The future doesn’t belong to the big, it belongs to the fast. Loyal customers are worth their weight in gold, and finding and keeping them means making them feel like your number one business objective:
Listen to your audience & focus on the right metrics
Rewards have got to be relevant and easy to attain. The future of loyalty is about immediacy and use of data. Although digital continues to grow, now more than ever, a single customer view and a loyalty program that is cross- device and omnichannel is critical. 65% of consumers admit to having switched at least one provider in the past year due to poor experiences. So, harness actionable insights – by integrating transaction, channel, interaction and other data, brands can understand what customers want from the brand relationship and get a fuller picture of behaviour, context, interests, preferences and who your best customers are (not always who you’d think). Details that are impossible to discern in a bricks and mortar setting – for example, what do customers look at but not buy, what do they add to their wish list, and what do they share on Facebook or Pinterest? Hone in on customer pain points like Amazon prime (their customers’ biggest pain was shipping costs). Insights can be used to deliver relevant offers and content when and how the customer wants. Perhaps more importantly, they can be used to make better business decisions.
Personalisation is nothing new to marketers, but consumers increasingly expect brands to deliver in this area and it’s expected as a bare minimum for online experiences. Most personalisation today isn’t even really personalised – personalisation today is essentially items you’ve searched for that follow you around. It’s about creating & maintaining a positive emotional connection, so you can no longer view and treat customers in amassed, demographic categories; you need to see them as individuals to turn them into loyal customers. Like Innovid’s personalised ad for Channel 4 and 20th Century Fox, and Rosetta Stone’s tailored content. With machine learning and a great strategy, companies can actually personalise the customer experience, and according to Accenture Strategy’s 11th annual Global Consumer Pulse Research, 36% of UK consumers would share more personal information if it resulted in more personalised experiences.
Chatbots, AI, VR, mixed reality, and deeper data insights all have the potential to deliver new types of customer experiences, deeper loyalty programs, and more meaningful customer relationships at scale. One big advantage of mobile is that it is much easier and cheaper to deliver personalised offers and content digitally than in store. Plus, it’s more convenient for customers, and according to Forrester, 80% of U.S. adults report that the quality they most value in a customer service exchange is when the company values their time. Gartner predict that 85% of total customer interactions will not be managed by humans as of the year 2020. The true hurdle that remains is for companies to recognize and champion the need for data-driven technology, whether in-house or through a vendor. To see the results, people need to invest in the technology and utilise new technology and PR strategies to create real loyalty, like Clarabridge, miners of the actual customer voice.
Fulfil customer expectations
While almost every business says they put their customers first, few actually make the investments in people, data analytics, technology, personalised marketing programs, etc. that are truly required to run the company from the customer out. Deliver on your value proposition. Unfulfilled expectations have a powerful opposite effect and can damage reputation. Create something like Virgin – provide exceptional experience every time a customer interacts on any channel. It’s more than just points, even more than marketing. It’s creating a convenient experience for the customer, one that customers want to use. Like the Starbucks app: place an order, access streamed music, redeem rewards in real time – it reinforces the brand as a lifestyle enhancement. Or Nike, with their “be like Mike” Jordan shoes (a fantastic case study for creating brand loyalty – Jordan retired in 1998 and the shoe brand is still expanding).
It doesn’t stop at loyalty programs; this needs to feed into all company content and permeate every touchpoint – loyalty comes from so many areas, not just rewards for gifts. Rewards for tapping into their psyches. Creating a loyal customer requires an entrepreneurial view, the right marketing tactics, an innovative, diverse and inclusive environment within the organisation where ideas flow freely and hard work is recognised, and a maintained standard of integrity with customers. That’s the glue that makes customers really stick, even in the face of worthy competition. So, clarify your business goals, define your customers (new and existing) and how their customer value is measured, and hit the drawing board.