Why Personalization is the Linchpin of Loyalty

Dec 26, 2012


Why Personalization is the Linchpin of LoyaltyThe second in Kobie’s end-of-year predictions (big data, personalization, mobile, and channel convergence) got me thinking about The King and I, the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical and its iconic song.

For those of you who don’t know it, the chorus goes like this:

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

It’s amazing that these 20 words, written in 1951, do a better job encapsulating the goal of personalization and loyalty’s essence than many conference sessions I’ve attended or articles I’ve read. Kudos to simplicity.

The Loyalty Show Must Go On

In 2013 greater personalization will become critical because that’s what consumers have always wanted and, more accurately, yearned for since the early information age when consumers became numbers to be crunched rather than names with histories to be learned. Now, thanks to the proliferation of smart mobile devices, the Big Data they accumulate and the granular consumer information they turn into actionable engagement, personalization is up for revival.

As in any good show there are at least two acts, in this case it’s “Personalization 1.0” and “Personalization 2.0,” And both could use a few more “dress rehearsals” before the New Year stops feeling, well, so new.

Personalization 1.0 speaks to the need for personalized SMS, emails or even web landing pages. Think about The Weather Channel app and its homepage. Type in your zip code and not only will you get a region-specific graphical forecast, complete with a current conditions skyscape, you’ll see corresponding videos too. Netflix is another company that tailors its mobile web and app landing pages to the individual’s specific movie and genre interests. Although this seems like “personalization 1.0,” many brands are still missing opportunities to tailor their customers’ experience in even these relatively simple and straightforward ways.

Standing O For the Second Act

Beyond personalized SMS and emails, look to personalize, in real time,  consumer-facing touch points that integrate further with social media through emerging tools like gamification and augmented reality (AR) – an increasingly popular technology which pulls digital information from web-based sources. That includes sites like Google Maps and social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook. AR superimposes that data on real-time images of physical world objects such as restaurants (so consumers can browse menus simply by pointing their smartphones at the buildings), hotels, retail stores, airports, etc. While it’s still a technology looking to fully hit its stride, the recent turnaround in mainstream media is particularly exciting. Juniper research already predicts AR apps will generate $300 million in global revenue in 2013. Not bad for a technology that was largely dismissed during most of 2012.

The bottom line is that consumers want their brand interaction to be personal, genuine and on their channel(s) of choice – whatever, whenever and wherever they may be. They don’t just want personalization 1.0. They’re yearning for something better. They want a loyalty marketing and customer reward program that has a King and I effect: an experience to be enjoyed time and time again – and in multiple channels.

For The King and I, that meant Broadway revivals, new casts and a major motion picture. For rewards programs, multichannel (and omnichannel) it means smartphones, tablets, SMS, social media, kiosks, digital signage, traditional print, TV, radio and actual physical customer interaction. Great reward programs, like great performers, may alter the specifics of their delivery. But the basics of what underlies their continued success must remain consistent.

So think about the “getting to know you” chorus. Simple words but profound enough for every loyalty program manager. And please check back in a few days for the next in our 2013 predictions. We’ll be looking at mobile trends and how our ever-smarter smart devices are becoming their own loyalty success.