A New Era of Loyalty Programs? How Conversational Marketing Enhances the Customer Experience
According to Salesforce, nearly half of U.S. consumers have lost trust in a brand this past year, with many citing that they’d liked to have deeper relationships with the brands they love. As a result, brands are tasked with figuring out ways to build back that trust and keep customers engaged long term. While loyalty programs have been around for decades and are a great incentive to deepen connections, customers want more from their favorite brands than just standard rewards.
Traditionally, most brands’ loyalty programs followed similar frameworks: a customer would spend a certain amount and, in turn, receive a coupon or reward for their next purchase. While the customer is still essentially being “rewarded” for their patronage, this model doesn’t allow brands to personalize offers to consumers or enable one-to-one interactions.
Many brands are rolling out new loyalty programs or revamping existing ones in an effort to put the customer at the center and personalize their experience. For example, Athleta recently launched AthletaWell, a new platform that gives the company’s reward members access to online forums, vetted experts, and exclusive virtual fitness classes. Additionally, McDonald’s jumped on the loyalty program bandwagon, kicking off its first ever U.S. loyalty program in July.
More than 80 percent of consumers say they're more likely to make a purchase when a brand offers a personalized experience. While loyalty programs have the potential to make customer interactions more personalized, many brands continue to rely on high-frequency, one-way communications. If brands want to truly enhance their customer interactions, especially on mobile, then they will need to focus on incorporating conversational marketing into their overall efforts to build more loyalty and offer personalized experiences to their customers.
Conversational Marketing Builds Brand Loyalty
As brands continue to upgrade their loyalty programs, they need to consider how they will incorporate consumers’ individual wants and needs into their offerings and overall marketing strategy. After all, for a customer journey to be successful, brands need to understand their customer’s needs from the very moment they begin considering a purchase.
Conversational marketing has the power to make brands more proactive and engage with customers on a more personal level by creating a two-way dialogue. Combine this with SMS/MMS for maximum reach and engagement (the SMS open rate is 98 percent, and 90 percent of messages are read within three seconds), and brands have a uniquely powerful direct connection to their customers. This is especially critical as they look to build brand loyalty.
Conversational marketing enables the customer to go deeper than the traditional “pushed” offer that they're used to: customers can share concerns, ask questions, and get personalized offers tailored to their specific needs. Responding to customer inquiries in real time is the key to conversational marketing. Through conversational marketing, brands can customize their messages via artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots and allow customers to engage in the channels that they prefer.
Rather than price or product, consumers award their loyalty according to the experience they receive. And when customers have a positive experience, brands are rewarded with their loyalty. Investing in a conversational marketing approach can create stronger relationships and sustained loyalty among customers, and the technology to support this level of customer engagement already exists. For brands, it's just a matter of getting the process started and incorporating it into their existing framework.
Matt Ramerman is the president of Sinch for Marketing, a mobile messaging platform to transform your brand experience.
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