A version of this post originally appeared on AdAge.
It's harder than ever to earn your customers' loyalty. They are "always on," have instant access to myriad choices, and can easily find the cheapest prices from any supplier. Many companies think they've solved this with a loyalty program, but the competition is stiff there, too. On average, consumers belong to eight loyalty programs -- the majority of which are ruled by points, discounts and financial rewards. And let's face it: These transactional benefits are more about increasing frequency and spend than influencing emotional loyalty and devotion to a company.
The bad news? Traditional approaches to loyalty don't cut it anymore.
The good news? I'm not going to tell you to scrap your loyalty program. But, in my new report on customer loyalty, I am going to tell you to reframe how you think about your program. It should be treated as one of several tools -- alongside customer experience, brand and customer service -- that helps foster customer loyalty wherever customers interact.
Be A Loyalty Company, Not Just A Company With A Loyalty Program
Truly great loyalty strategies create a meaningful exchange of value between the company and the customer. This exchange encourages customers to share all kinds of profile, preference and behavioral data. And the insights derived from that customer knowledge have broad applications for all customer-facing strategies, and should radiate out across the enterprise to do the following:
CRM is the foundational building block that allows empowered consumers and connected employees to do business in ways we could not imagine just a few years ago. Historically, CRM strategies have focused around operational efficiency gains like reduced marketing costs, increased revenues from salespeople, shorter sales cycles, or better customer service productivity. Its no wonder that CRM is widely deployed in all companies – both big and small.
In my last blog post I outlined Forrester’s key customer insights (CI) predictions for 2015. Now I’d like to drill down into some of the key barriers to CI effectiveness we’re seeing among Asia Pacific-based organizations. This content was pulled from my recently published report, which Forrester clients can access here.
Core competencies of effective CI pros have typically centered on customer segmentation and campaign performance measurement. When extending these capabilities to digital marketing strategies, the goal is typically to enable more effective customer acquisition and onboarding by extending reach. In other words, digital innovation often simply means “better campaigns.”
But what happens once that process is complete? It’s not enough to have a world-class digital capability for acquiring new customers. Empowered customers expect the same type of seamless experience, improved efficiency, and heightened responsiveness in all subsequent interactions with your brand.
So why so many firms struggling to realize the full potential of customer analytics to effectively serve and retain their customers? I’ll give you four reasons:
with Allison Smith, Xiaofeng Wang and Vanessa Zeng
Chinese social platforms have started to engage in commerce via partnerships with eCommerce marketplaces, but online sales conversion rates from social traffic have been disappointing. For example, in May, 360buy (JD.com) — the second-largest B2C eCommerce marketplace — received a level-one access point on WeChat, the hottest social platform in China, but this didn’t deliver the large quantity of fulfilled mobile orders that the company expected. Haoyu Shen, CEO of JD.com, confirmed during the company’s Q3 financial earnings call that the majority of fulfilled mobile orders still originate from JD.com’s own mobile app. Forrester sees two major inhibitors of social commerce in China:
People don’t expect to see commercial promotions of products they don’t want on social media. Consumers normally blacklist friends or public accounts that push these ads, making it difficult to implement traditional B2C or C2C eCommerce models on social platforms. However, if social marketplaces can provide people a tool in those moments in which they actually want to buy a certain product, it may enable social commerce.
Customers have poor discovery and buying experiences on social commerce platforms. Social platforms in China that sell products and services online have limited search functionality, which does not make for a user-friendly customer discovery stage. Chinese consumers have gotten used to being able to compare many products and prices when making online purchases — but current social commerce platforms can’t support that.
As researchers, we can’t underestimate the power of perspective. When the Eiffel Tower was erected 125 years ago, it became the tallest manmade structure in the world and, more importantly, allowed visitors to look down over Paris for the first time; perhaps it was the first real instance of a “birds-eye view.” At the same time, artists like Picasso and Stein were pushing the limits of perspective by portraying every angle of 3-dimensional concepts in one painting or poem. In many ways, the research world today is akin to this historical period of creativity. With more data at our fingertips than ever before, we are able to observe consumer behavior from new vantage points and produce a fresh understanding of customer trends by analyzing multiple angles at the same time.
Here on the data insights innovation team at Forrester, we’ve called our multiperspective research approach Technographics 360. Officially launched this year, Technographics 360 blends Consumer Technographics® survey output, ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight, social listening data, and passive mobile behavioral tracking to synthesize a 360-degree view of consumer behavior. Instead of analyzing research questions by breaking them down, we can synthesize comprehensive solutions by building our knowledge up.
Forrester recently published its 2015 Predictions for Asia Pacific. I wanted to highlight some specific trends around customer insights (CI) and big data, two very hot topics for many AP-based organizations.
We strongly believe that success for many organizations hinges on your ability to close the gap between available data and actionable insight. Marketing is taking the lead here, as CI pros seek to use data to fuel customer engagement improvements. Hence 2015 will be a year of increased fragmentation as reliance on analytics spreads across organizations.
What will this mean for you? More cloud-based and mobile analytics, more demand for interactive and responsive analytics, and more use of specialist and niche BI and analytics service providers. Given this backdrop, Forrester believes that:
Analytics spending will increase by at least 10% across the region. Yes analytics spending will increase, but less of it will be visible in the CIO's budget. Marketing and other business departments will drive analytics investments to address specific challenges and opportunities. The technology management (TM) organization will have little control over the implementation and deployment of niche and specialist BI and analytics services.
In 2014, Forrester outlined a new approach to marketing that requires brands to harness customer context to deliver self-perpetuating cycles of real-time, two-way, insight-driven interactions. In 2015, we’ll see more marketers obsess over customers’ context. As more interaction data floods customer databases and marketing automation systems, customer-obsessed marketing leaders will strive to orchestrate brand experiences that drive unprecedented levels of engagement. For example, we predict that:
Digital marketing investments will drive brand experiences across the customer life cycle. By the end of 2015, spend on digital marketing will top $67 billion — growing to 27% of all ad spend. In fact, we believe this will surpass TV spend by 2016; there’s more to the story than ad spend. We believe marketers will branch out of expected digital media buys to stimulate more insight-driven interactions with customers throughout the entire customer life cycle. Supported by new streams of situational customer data and powered by the ability to precisely target audiences with programmatic media buying, marketers will deliver highly engaging brand experiences rather than just feed the top of the funnel.
Chinese people are hypersocial in their lifestyle and daily work, and Forrester forecasts that 681 million of them will be using social media by 2019. Online Chinese are actively engaging with brands and companies on social media: 29 brands or companies on Sina Weibo and 32 brands or companies on WeChat on average. Chinese businesses have realized the importance of social for customer life-cycle management. While they’ve started using social to increase brand awareness — such as broadcasting on Sina Weibo — they can’t recognize potential customers in this one-way communication. They use public WeChat accounts to shorten response times to client service requests — but they can’t predict these requests in advance. To address these challenges, businesses in China are starting to use enterprise-class analytics tools for Chinese social platforms.
Language is evolving; the written word is giving way to visual vocabulary.
Interpersonal communications are shifting from being text-based to image-based, and you don't have to look far for the evidence: We spell using the Emoji alphabet; we comment with photographs; we engage through pictures.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumer adoption of visual social networks is growing and that social chatter is becoming increasingly pictorial. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that US online consumers across generations are interacting with content on Instagram and Pinterest more than before:
As consumers become increasingly versed in the language of visual content, curated images become a powerful means of expressing opinions, conveying emotion, and recounting experiences. As a result, pure text analytics no longer suffice to interpret social chatter; instead, insights professionals have an opportunity to mine the wealth of media-rich data that increasingly pervades social networking sites.
How does the CI pro responsible for marketing technology buying make an informed decision when faced with so many options? Well, to quote Ron Davies (feel free to summon the voices of Three Dog Night, David Bowie or Shelby Lynne, if you prefer), “It Ain’t Easy!” To help CI pros with their decision-making, my latest brief The Marketing Technology Buyer’s Dilemma provides advice on how to maintain customer focus while navigating market changes.