Mobile’s Big Leap into Loyalty

Dec 28, 2012

Mobile leapVery often technological innovations build off what follows and aren’t fully appreciated until after the fact. Sometimes they seem totally unrelated. Perhaps one day we’ll look back and say that mobile and the floodtide of consumer metrics gathered from these increasingly smart devices were loyalty programs’ game-changer just as other technologies that have come before. Like SIM cards and smartphones, mobile and loyalty should be a partnership that endures.

Ditch the Daily Deal? Mobile Can do a Whole Lot More
As we close out the year, it’s become quite clear that, for loyalty program providers, mobile shouldn’t be an afterthought, but integral in successful consumer engagement and loyalty marketing strategies. And considering how technologies and marketing channels are merging, the degree to which data generation from these channels drives positive feedback is critical. The result is a customer rewards program – tailored in real time to member wants and needs – that improves with each engagement cycle.

Equally crucial are the findings from a November 2012 study, which shows that daily deals and discounts may not be all they’re cracked up to be when it comes to brand revenue and loyalty acquisition. According to Utpal Dholakia, a professor of management at Rice University Graduate School of Business, fewer than half, (48%) of business owners opt for a second daily deal attempt. Put another way, daily deal disappointment is yet more proof that consumers are looking for something more. Thankfully, mobile, with its tap-friendly and visually engaging environment, is able to deliver the loyalty experience and not just the daily deal goods.

Critical Mass has Passed
Adoption numbers alone should tell loyalty marketers and brands that mobile is where they need to be in 2013 –  if they’re not there already. More than one in four members prefers to access a given loyalty program via mobile whereas about half of the US adult population owns a smartphone. And, according to research by Banyan Branch and VIPdesk, nearly half (47%) of program providers have or are planning to develop a mobile app – all in an effort to capture the predicted $18 billion that mobile commerce will net by 2014.

Get Smart About Your Smart Device
One of the most interesting recent developments within mobile as it relates to loyalty came in September 2012 with the launch of Apple’s iOS6 software and its newest app, Passbook. Designed as a one-stop-shop to organize users’ virtual gift cards, coupons, passes, tickets and loyalty memberships without physical cards, the app’s growing list of brands suggests that companies recognize the fully digital, paperless and card-less world is fast approaching. Passbook has been gaining traction since its launch – all the more reason for brands and consumers to remain loyal to its progress. On Christmas Eve, Mashable reported that Apple had filed a new patent for an upgrade to its popular app that may include NFC technology, the contactless radio frequency digital wallet payment option. While NFC excitement remains slim, if any company has a chance at turning an existing technology into a blockbuster, it’s Apple. So will 2013 be NFC-enabled? Certainly in greater measure than it is today.

The Golden Goose Lays its Golden Egg
Mobile and the consumer metrics gathered from devices including purchases made, types of purchases sought, channel preference, average purchase price point, location of purchase, demographics and loyalty rewards desires, really do suggest a “golden goose” of technology has arrived in the form of the smartphone . Just think, it was only a few years ago that people thought of their mobile phones as nothing more than portable landlines – albeit capable of storing a phonebook’s-worth of numbers. Today they’ve matured into mini-computers with mega-potential.

With millions of smartphone-toting Americans and millions more soon to jump on board, the loyalty-mobile partnership is just getting started. I can’t wait to see what new 2013 mobile loyalty initiatives evolve, how many more “golden eggs” will be laid, and the degree to which channel convergence – the topic of our fourth and final 2013 loyalty trends  – will continue to connect the dots between mobile, Big Data and personalization.  Stay tuned.