Digital Love and the birth of Omni-Digital: Why Loyalty Programs May Never be the Same

May 17, 2013

One would think that with all the talk of mobile technology and digital loyalty solutions there would be little left to write. Hasn’t everyone “gone digital?” 

Not quite yet.

There are still plenty of traditional loyalty card holdouts, and based on Colloquy’s data, many loyalty program members are active in name only. In other instances, fully digital customer rewards programs have yet to reach maximum capability – even as they’ve proven vital in the collection and analysis of, as well as real-time action upon, consumer metrics. It’s also a way to obtain granular customer insights so downstream errors can be corrected immediately.

While we often speak of fostering omnichannel loyalty, an enterprise-level initiative to drive, track, measure and reward incremental behavior throughout the enterprise and customer experience, we in the industry don’t talk enough about the additional steps brands can take to augment their omnichannel experience. That means strongly considering an “omni-digital” approach to loyalty, or the pre-steps to successful omnichannel engagement, as well.

“Omni-digital” means collecting and sharing data not just within a single company or vertical, but across verticals too. While digital loyalty programs have a little longer to go before complete ubiquity, the good news is there are numerous examples of companies realizing digital loyalty’s benefits – or at least embracing high-tech attributes. These include:

  • 7-Eleven: In April 2013, the convenience store franchise announced it was joining Belly, the Chicago-based local business rewards aggregator, for a trial basis. Not to be left out, McDonald’s, Domino’s, Subway and Chick-fil-A have also made clear they will be testing the platform. With Belly being used by more brands, the idea of loyalty aggregation, that is, sharing points between companies (in this case convenience stores), might gain an even more mainstream appeal.
  • Hotel 1000: Recently ranked as one of America’s top 10 highest tech hotels, the downtown Seattle “technolodge” features everything from a virtual golf course, silent heat-sensing room doorbells, video phones and an intelligent mini-bar that alerts the front desk it needs re-stocking. Such digital and “smart” amenities suggest that this is what guests want to see and, more importantly, experience. It’s time for other hotels to catch up.
  • Radius Financial:  The Toronto-based mortgage lender recently launched its Radius Affinity tiered loyalty program. Designed to incentivize brokers with perks like preferred rates and rate hold pre-approvals, this is the company’s first loyalty program of its kind. While many rewards programs are customer-facing, it’s important to recognize the upside to employee-based loyalty programs. Because a happy, motivated staff is proven to be a productive and revenue-generating one.

The bottom line: If brands as diverse as 7-Eleven, Hotel 1000 and Radius Financial are going “omni-digital” and embracing a tech-savvy approach to consumer outreach, isn’t it time your brand did too?

What are some other examples of digital’s impact on loyalty programs? What brand/s is/are truly lapping the loyalty competition? Going omnichannel is great. But the need to deliver unique offerings that attract, retain and engage customers is just as important.