Once upon a time, loyalty programs were an ad hoc side dish, a mechanical bolt-on for brands delivering little more than dollars off, discounts or the occasional free item. But there’s a new trend now, one that requires a different way of thinking and approaching the entire marketing plan itself. Because today’s customers expect companies to be loyal to them, not the other way around: Loyalty as the center of your world.
What does that mean?
Those embracing this idea are reaping the rewards (pun intended) by building emotional connections with customers through thoughtful engagement, full integration at every touchpoint, and pain-point predictive innovation (more on that in a minute). Doing this, and doing it right, requires enterprise-level strategy and execution. And there are diverse ways we’re seeing this happen:
- Companies like Domino’s Pizza are making loyalty the centerpiece of their marketing, communications, and customer experience. National TV commercials feature their Piece of the Pie Rewards program quite possibly with as much airtime as the pizza itself.
- The Hilton HHonors app has become the key point of interaction for guests, allowing mobile reservations, room selection, check-in, and our favorite – the use of their phone as a room key. Outside of the app, members who use the lobby to check in are greeted personally and given two bottles of water and a snack if they’re Elite status (who doesn’t welcome that after a long day of traveling?).
- The My Starbucks Rewards app allows for advanced ordering and in-store pickup (a perk when you’re in desperate need for a pick-me-up), through-app payment – and it even streams music, connecting with customers who love the new-release free-download cards found in stores.
- As for brands who use loyalty as the center of their customer experience without an actual purchase-point-reward loyalty “program,” MyLowe’s is an excellent example. The service offers easier returns, purchase history, online product inventory, shopping lists, seasonal-need reminders (air filters, weed killer, and the like), and more. Their key advertising hook: MyLowe’s remembers, so you don’t have to.
How do you do it?
We know how challenging this next part is, and we specialize in helping to make it happen. The entire enterprise – from marketing, to sales, to customer service, to finance, and even HR – needs to understand that nurturing customer relationships (and employee relationships) is everybody’s priority. They’re all one team running towards the same goal. Loyalty isn’t a program, it’s a strategy – from outbound messaging to CX design – how your brand is perceived anywhere and everywhere is the core concept behind making it the center of your world.
Why should you do it?
Like we started, today’s customers expect companies to be loyal to them, not the other way around. This means you should anticipate and alleviate their problems and pain points before they encounter them. For instance, Walgreen’s Balance Rewards not only offers seasonal health tips but also notifies members of prescriptions that may be running low. That’s the kind of pain-point predictive innovation all brands need to embrace, no matter which industry.
When loyalty delivers so many services, perks, and convenience as Hilton, Walgreen’s or Starbucks, the brand becomes indispensable to customers. They rely on it. Putting loyalty at the center of your world (and therefore your customers’ world) puts your brand first – and keeps it there at every interaction, every touchpoint, and at each emotionally-engaging opportunity. It’s where our industry is evolving and we’re excited to be one of the innovators in this space.