Channels and Challenges in Driving Customer Engagement

Aug 19, 2013

The decrease in customer engagement combined with the increase in loyalty program proliferation has divided and conquered members’ attention spans and wallets. It’s also resulted in higher churn rates as loyalty providers struggle to reconnect with their members.

Margaret Meraw, Kobie Marketing’s Vice President of Loyalty Operations, discusses why omnichannel loyalty is important for increasing customer engagement levels as is the importance of seamlessness–in terms of both program execution and the customer experience.

What is most important for omnichannel loyalty implementation?

One of the biggest challenges with omnichannel loyalty, an enterprise-level initiative to drive, track, measure and reward incremental behavior throughout the enterprise and customer experience, is the volume of channels through which the customer can participate–and understanding which channels are most effective and relevant to both brand and customer to drive engagement. Because we have so many different communications channels to use, the customer needs to know that no matter which channel, platform or device they have preference for, they will have the same, consistent experience from the brand across every single one.

With more marketing channels than ever before, has seamlessness become more difficult or easier to achieve?

The channel landscape is becoming very cluttered which means there are more messages out there that need management. Knowing which message fits for which channel is critical and it must be easily digestible through that medium. While a customer doesn’t expect identical messaging from SMS to, say, a website, or at POS, they do expect similar messaging, stimulating a cohesive brand experience where their preferences are recognized throughout the transaction. No matter what channel a customer is engaged on, the experience must preserve channel continuity – even if the cross-channel messaging isn’t 100% identical.

Does operational excellence differ across industry verticals or are the basic indicators and performance metrics the same?

The standard for operational excellence in each vertical is the same. What will vary are the tactics required to achieve that excellence as each industry has its own requirements and activities specific to that vertical. But every vertical could be using multiple channels, from SMS to a full-blown website or a mobile-optimized website. Some brands may want a mobile app or mobile web capabilities, or they may want to track the program through social media, while other verticals don’t have the same requirements. For example, brick-and-mortar stores will have different requirements from web-only programs. It comes down to evaluating channel needs and requirements as they relate to specific verticals and which evaluative indicators work best. Not all brands need to be on all channels all the time. Operational excellence begins with cutting back on what’s not necessary just as much as embracing what is.

What loyalty programs have achieved a high level of operational excellence and are models worth emulating?

Hotel programs are a great example of successful and operationally effective programs. Most of the reward currency earned is redeemed directly back into the hotel company or group of companies. These hotel brands give its members points that can be redeemed for on-property stays at typically nominal cost since hotel properties have on average 25 to 40 percentage vacancy. In addition, these reward stays drive additional revenue activity on-property such as restaurant visits, room service, bar service, family-oriented activities at a resort, or spa services. Likewise, retailers and airlines have programs where, if members redeem points, they can come back to the brand to redeem their reward, the redeemed value remains within the company or group of companies. What’s interesting to note is that credit card only issuer programs do not have this same opportunity as their members’ reward currency is generally redeemed externally.

The bottom line

Regardless of the vertical in which a loyalty program operates, technology is changing  rapidly and what engages customers on one channel today may not be as effective several months from now. As a result, every loyalty program must be constantly evaluated and evolve to ensure it is operating at peak performance.

A few takeaways to consider:

  • Consumers crave genuine connectivity; generic offers can lead to disengagement.
  • Employ digital marketing channels like SMS, push notification and social media outreach – but don’t forget traditional channels, like one-to-one communication and brick-and-mortar communication and surveys.
  • Connectivity includes the real-time listening to and addressing of customers’ loyalty program challenges and concerns.

How are you identifying which channels are most effective at driving engagement with your customers?

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