This week we feature an article by Jess Mizerak discussing the future of brand loyalty and how to continue to be successful in the world of E-commerce. We want the customer to feel a sense of ownership in the relationship they have with us. That’s what your loyalty program should do. – Shep Hyken
Back when E-commerce was really growing, it was little surprise to learn when our favorite retailers opened for business online. Now that Ecomm is well developed, it’s more surprising when brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have an online presence. Even more interesting is the trend over the last few years as major companies go analog after having built up a successful business 100% online. Names like Rent the Runway, Google and Amazon are making the move to brick-and-mortar. After those dozens of doomsday opinion posts, we’re now seeing that offline retail is definitely not dead.
It’s all just a part of consumer demand, and customers still demand the in-store experience. That’s important because customer-centricity continues to be the driving force behind sales, and true customer loyalty.
So, what’s the future of brand loyalty? Well, it sounds a whole lot like the past…. except there’s a lot more technology at retailers’ disposal to help make consumers’ high expectations a reality.
1. Build relationships with better engagement
If you’re only engaging during, around, or because of the purchase process, you’re doing it wrong. You and I are consumers, too, so you probably know how it feels when brands only reach out to you to say “Hey you. Get back on our site and buy.” I personally don’t really like this obvious approach, and I know I’m not the only one.
Brands have to get clever and get rid of checkout tunnel vision because that’s not going to help build the relationship. You have to add more depth to it.
Retailers can make it happen by rewarding customers for actions that have nothing to do with the purchase but have solid ties to their brand and brand values. Is your brand eco-focused? If you’re selling beauty products, make like Lush and reward customers for bringing back your used containers. Or if you’re in the fashion business, like Madewell, for recycling their used shirts. Consider your brand values and brainstorm every possible customer action that you could reward, and show customers you care.
2. Unique rewards and special experiences
Did you catch Intelligence Report 2017? The report indicated that loyalty program members aren’t always interested in discounts. They’d rather see better tiers, product samples and get access to VIP experiences. And it makes sense because these are all things they can use, (hopefully) love and remember!
Discounts are important, and they’re the basis of any rewards program, but if that’s all you’re offering, chances are the repeat purchases you’re getting are fleeting and not customer “loyalty” at all! And if you’re not inducing true loyalty, your business is not future-proof.
3. Loyalty programs shouldn’t exist in a vacuum
Just like online brands are delving into the world of in-person experiences, loyalty program presence should also be diversified. Rewards programs should be visible on each channel that a brand is already on, and continually seek to incorporate new channels, where their customers already are.
It seems like there’s a lot of work to be done here. Intelligence Report 2017 found that 71% of loyalty program mentions are in an email subject. They’re also mentioned often on the homepage. If brands continue to promote in predictable ways only, they’ll miss out on the chance to engage potential members (and potential returning customers!) that browse, recommend and shop in less predictable ways.
In the ROI of Customer Loyalty, Forrester’s research indicates that brands are still talking about pumping up customer retention efforts. However, brands are still spending far more on customer acquisition than retention. So where do we go from here? We take a look at our past. The customer is always right. It’s time to consider what they’re already asking for.
Technology has already been built to improve the customer experience, provide a greater variety of memorable rewards, and spread the experience across all channels. You’re only job is to take advantage of it.
Jess Mizerak has worked with clients at Antavo Loyalty Software to structure and build truly engaging loyalty programs in a range of industries. Her idea of relaxation involves drinking a warm coffee and perusing the latest articles from Adweek.
For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.
Read Shep’s latest Forbes Article: Your Customer Service Isn’t As Good As You Think It Is