Taking an Omnichannel Approach to Customer Loyalty Programs
With the range of brands and products available today, consumers have an unprecedented number of options along their path to purchase, leaving retailers competing harder for consumer attention and pulling out all the stops just for a single purchase. It's important for resellers to work closely with retail partners to ensure retailers have the resources needed to connect with consumers successfully.
The high volume of options allows consumers to purchase when the experience is convenient and rewarding to them. It's also increasing the expectations of consumers. Brand Keys’ 19th Annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index found that customer expectations of brands have grown by almost a third, yet brands’ abilities to meet those demands have only increased by 7 percent.
Connecting to consumers is key to creating customer loyalty — but it's much harder to achieve, especially when so many brands are competing for consumers’ attention.
Today’s customers aren’t loyal to a brand, they're loyal to an experience. Retailers are only as good as their last interaction, and a negative encounter can have a lasting impact, even on long-term customer relationships. This is because the retail landscape has shifted.
Before the advent of e-commerce, customers had to shop in physical stores, usually within easy traveling distance of their homes. They were more tolerant of poor customer service if it gave them convenience. Today, if a customer receives poor service, they can log onto their smartphone and make a purchase through a rival company before they've even left the store.
However, being able to consistently meet customer needs is just part of the relationship-building process. No matter how logistically complex it is to fulfill customer demands behind the scenes, consumers expect retailers to provide continuously fulfilling interactions just to maintain their business — and securing their long-term loyalty demands more.
Improving the customer experience has become more important. Rather than simply rewarding transactions alone, retailers have begun to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the customer. As retailers look for ways to tailor their loyalty strategies to connect on a more personal level, resellers can put retailers in a better position by recommending ways to tailor their loyalty strategies to become more personal to each shopper, reaching out to and rewarding customers for reasons beyond purchases.
By making loyalty incentives more experiential, retailers can develop a deeper connection with their customers. The customer’s ability to accrue points on their terms is crucial as shoppers like the feeling of getting something that’s exclusive — or at the least extremely personalized to them. For many retailers, it can be difficult to think of where to start on a loyalty strategy. Below are some recommended approaches that resellers should help retailers implement to take advantage of the omnichannel opportunity:
- Implement mobile loyalty technologies that allow shoppers to transact via mobile, collect points, redeem promotions and act on real-time offers and incentives.
- Digitize your loyalty programs so that you can blend promotions across channels (in-store and online), allowing shoppers to choose the channel that’s most convenient to them and get more value for their money.
- Offer experiential rewards that incentivize customers with more exclusive offers the more they shop.
- Offer exclusive sales and discounts (e.g., “Friends and Family” sales).
- Partner with other businesses to form a loyalty network and give shoppers greater choice
This is where deep consumer connections comes into play for loyalty. By tailoring promotions based on data-driven insights (e.g., how often customers shop, what they shop for), the customer will feel truly valued by a brand. It’s important that retailers connect to consumers by using a few methods, such as:
- Using mobile point of sale to not only link to the product catalog, but also enhance the customer’s shopping experience by showing product videos or offering on-the-spot promotions.
- Using mobile push marketing through Bluetooth or NFC beacons, which send shoppers personalized messages and promotions.
- Emailing newsletters based off individual searches.
In today’s omnichannel retail environment, customer loyalty programs can no longer afford to be two dimensional. Instead, retailers must use all the technologies and strategies at their disposal to connect with their customers. When they do, these connections will be deep, meaningful and long-lasting.
Paula Da Silva is the senior vice president of sales for CitiXsys, a provider of retail consulting, retail management software and point-of-sale systems.