In the first installment of “Where Your Loyalty Program Should Stack Up in Your Retail Brand Identity,”
Pamela Sullins, Kobie’s Director of Client Services, and I discussed the top identity-related challenges and held up AMC Theatres as an example of a company that’s doing a great job of merging its loyalty program with its brand identity.
We now continue our conversation about the need for loyalty programs to be involved in a brand’s overall business strategy.
At what point in their lifecycle do companies need to start thinking about loyalty programs? And how often do they need to reexamine their loyalty program as it relates to their business strategies?
It’s extremely important for loyalty programs to be involved in a brand’s overall business strategy. While not every brand requires a loyalty program immediately, it’s critical that there are at least preliminary discussions on the matter as well as continuing ones. Sometimes after just two years, I’ve seen loyalty programs undergo an entire overhaul. That doesn’t mean the initial program was a failure. It means there may have been a profound market shift and the program needed updating. And brand strategies can shift too – and sometimes do a complete turnaround, just like J.C. Penney. I hesitate to use the term easier just because it’s never easy – but when you can start from the outset of having:
- Overall executive buy-in
- Operational buy-in
- IT technology buy-in
- Brand marketing and the overall executive management support – tied into a POS system
- Omnichannel usage (smartphones, tablets, email and passbook, among others)
Why is this top-to-bottom buy-in so critical?
When all levels and departments of a company are on the same page, it will be that much easier to create a loyalty program that works in a cohesive, brand-identifying manner. This way targeted special offers, communications and data gathering from the loyalty side will help drive unique experiences that can promote brand loyalty – winning over new program members – and, ideally, drive consumers’ conversion into brand ambassadors, taking to multiple channels to express their brand satisfaction.
Only through a seamless and omnichannel functional framework that weds a brand’s loyalty program to its business strategy can brands preserve their identities. If such cohesiveness can’t be achieved from the start, then it should at least be on the table for immediate discussion. As loyalty program satisfaction remains in the engagement doldrums, making sure your program lives up to your brand’s own promise is key to reversing that trend.
How is your brand tackling the challenges of staying true to brand identity while implementing loyalty programs? And what are some of the actions you are taking to address these? Please share your insights with the Kobie community below.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more insights from Kobie executives, you might also like this commentary from G. Ashby Green, Kobie’s VP of Finance and Administration, on Loyalty Mega Trends: What to Expect for the Remainder of 2013.