The Landscape Of Loyalty Providers: Everything But The Kitchen Sink?

Emily Collins

I field a lot of inquires from clients in various stages of loyalty vendor selection projects. Some come with a tightly defined short list, but more often than not, they aren't even sure where to start. Customer loyalty initiatives take several forms including highly structured programs and loosely tied customer service, marketing, and product development tactics spread throughout the organization. As such, vendors of all types -- from loyalty-specific service providers and platforms to customer engagement agencies and analytics service providers -- bring loyalty strategy, management, and marketing chops to the table: 

Loyalty provider categories

With so many different providers knocking on their door, it's no surprise that marketers feel overwhelmed by the selection process. My most recent report cuts through the clutter by organizing loyalty providers into categories based on their core offerings and delivery models. But, before you start dropping vendor names into a shortlist, you first must answer these three questions:

  • How does your company approach loyalty? Take stock of your existing retention tactics and how customers currently interact with your products, services, and brand. Outlining your organization’s approach will help you select new partners but also potentially enrich relationships with existing partners.
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Do you have what it takes to be a loyalty legend?

Emily Collins

There are more than a few loyalty-esque proverbs that float around marketing departments and boardrooms everywhere: "repeat customers spend more," "it costs five times more to acquire a customer than to retain a customer,"  "80% of your revenue is driven by 20% of your customer base." If you are reading this blog post, chances are that you have uttered at least one of these phrases at some point in your career. But, if you've ever tried to put your money where your mouth is, you also know that achieving true customer loyalty requires strategic alignment, deliberate planning, and financial and cultural commitments. Loyalty is both behavioral and emotional, and companies that really want to compete for their customers’ loyalty need an evolved approach that extends beyond the program.

To help you understand where your loyalty strategy stacks up, Forrester has developed new self-assessments that examine loyalty from two points of view: the business' and the member's:

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Perking Up Your Loyalty Program Benefits Is As Easy As A-B-C

Emily Collins

Consumers and marketers don't always see eye to eye when it comes to customer loyalty programs. Consumers tell us they enroll in programs for the points, discounts, and savings, while companies tell us boosting customer engagement is a top goal for their loyalty programs. Sixty-seven percent of consumers consider themselves active in programs they join, yet the marketers who run loyalty programs report that only 16% of customers are active program participants. Regardless of which camp you fall into, one thing is clear: a program is only as strong as the members who participate in it. And, the value exchange a program creates is central to attracting members today and getting them to come back tomorrow, next month, and next year.

But, choosing program benefits can create some anxiety. Marketers need a mix of rewards that satisfies consumers' desire for savings while encouraging deeper engagement, and acknowledging/recognizing customer value. Forrester clients often ask me questions like "What can we offer besides points?," and "How do we make customers feel valued?." The short answer is that there are a lot of options that have varying objectives for the customer:

Table of benefits and customer impact

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Differentiating On The Claims Experience: Why Better Claims Handling Results In Higher Customer Loyalty And Lower Costs

Ellen Carney

For consumers, there are two key insurance moments:  when coverage is bought and then when it’s used, with hopefully a long span of time between the two.  And if there is a claim, then it’s up to the insurer to react to help the claimant recover.  But too often, the claims experience spurs policyholders to consider changing insurers, especially among policyholders who’ve been customers longer (and have been paying premiums longer).[i]  What else happens when there’s a policyholder unhappy about a claim?  Claimants readily take to social bully pulpits with their claims grievances, effectively using Twitter and Facebook to “regulate” insurers into action. 

In addition, they also file complaints with state insurance regulators, an activity that about 34,000 US consumers did in 2013.What’s their biggest gripe?  A look at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) stats reveals that 56% of consumer complaints filed in 2013 were issues related to claims handling, with the biggest chunk, 24%, because of perceived delays. And that’s not counting delays associated with getting referrals, pre-authorizations, and finding willing providers.[ii]

Over the past year, I’ve been involved in a variety of client advisories focused on the claims experience for both consumers as well as insurer work teams responsible for getting claims paid.   Why is the claim experience so easy to go off track?  For starters:

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Make Mobile A Loyalty Priority

Emily Collins

I belong to more loyalty programs than the average consumer. As a result, on any given day, my wallet is overflowing with loyalty cards and loyalty program related paraphernalia. At the register, I’m often rummaging through my purse to locate reward certificates, half-filled punch cards, coupons, and the like.More often than I would like to admit, rewards go unredeemed simply because I didn’t have access to them when I needed or wanted to make a purchase.

I am also — like 42% of US online adults — a perpetually connected consumer. Whether I’m “just looking,” comparing specific products and prices, searching for coupons in my email, or making a purchase, I rely on my smartphone as a trusty sidekick. In that vein, my mobile phone has recently helped me reduce some of the physical bulk that comes with loyalty program membership. I have an app that digitally manages all of my membership cards in one place, a loyalty program folder to corral branded apps that offer loyalty program functionality, and more than one retailer lets me scan rewards barcodes at the POS.

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Calling All Loyalty Program Marketers: Take Our 2013 Customer Loyalty Program Benchmark Survey

Emily Collins

Do you manage or make decisions about your company's customer loyalty program? If so, we want to hear from you. We're teaming up with Loyalty360, The Loyalty Marketers Association, to investigate loyalty program size, organization, performance, strategies, and challenges. Take our 2013 Customer Loyalty Program Benchmark survey, and we'll send you complimentary a copy of the resulting research.

Take the customer loyalty benchmark survey

You can use the survey results to:

  • Spot trends and see best practices to incorporate into your loyalty strategy. 
  • Compare your program performance, spend levels, and loyalty technology adoption to those of other loyalty marketing professionals. 
  • Provide justification for a business case in your 2013 loyalty road map. 

The survey will close on Friday, February 15, and the completed research report will publish later this spring. I will also present the findings in a free Webinar and in advisory sessions to interested clients.

Take the customer loyalty benchmark survey 

Please share this blog post and survey link with friends and colleagues who share an interest in customer loyalty programs. Thanks in advance for your involvement!

330 Days Left To Mobilize Your Loyalty Program In 2013

Emily Collins

New Year’s resolutions were so last month. But if devising a mobile loyalty strategy wasn’t already on your to-do list, you should add it ASAP. All signs point to continued explosive growth in consumer adoption and use of mobile devices across the customer life cycle — from discovery to purchase and beyond. And as the charter for loyalty programs expands to encompass emotional as well as transactional engagement, mobile will be crucial to meeting evolving consumer expectations. Still not convinced? Taking your loyalty program into the mobile channels yields three key benefits:

  1. More access to your members. Most loyalty programs interact with members through purpose-driven activities such as enrollment, online profile completion, point-of-sale (POS) transactions, and reward redemption. But this approach has a limited line of sight into further opportunities for engagement. Enabling a mobile strategy literally puts the loyalty programs in members' hands — wherever they are in the customer life cycle — and creates the potential for a wider range of customer interactions.
  2. Expanded member knowledge. Empowered consumers increasingly rely on mobile devices as companions to their interactions with a brand and generate behavioral, transactional, and location data. Since mobile channels are highly trackable, loyalty programs that collect that information can create deep customer insights that drive personalized communications, experiences, and offers.
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Shiny Pennies Beware: Our Latest Research Vets 13 Loyalty Program Tools

Emily Collins

If Loyalty 1.0 was all about discounts, points, and miles, Loyalty 2.0 is all about differentiation and engagement. Competition for customer attention is steeper than ever, and companies are always looking for innovative ways to set their loyalty programs apart. But the loyalty landscape is chock full of shiny pennies (and some not-so-shiny pennies) claiming to offer a solution to this engagement problem. Throw rapidly evolving technologies, channels, and tactics into the mix, and marketers have a lot to consider when deciding where to make their bets.

If you’re nodding your head, you aren’t alone, and you are in the right place. Cutting through the clutter is exactly what our latest report, “TechRadar™ For Customer Intelligence Professionals: Customer Loyalty Programs, Q1 2013” (subscription required) is all about. We spent the past several months investigating the current maturity, business value-add, and future trajectory of 13 loyalty tools, including affiliate networks, card-linked rewards, coupons, location-based services, mobile applications, program websites, and social rewards. At a high level, we came away with two key observations:

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Drive Intelligent Customer Loyalty With Forrester's New Customer Loyalty Playbook

Emily Collins

Over the past year-and-a-half, I’ve seen a surge of loyalty programs in the marketplace. And it’s not just existing programs expanding into emerging channels or revamping their reward mix. Industries that typically shied away from loyalty programs, like utilities, media and insurance, are jumping on the bandwagon. But although marketers understand that value of identifying, retaining, and improving relationship with their best customers, their execution usually doesn’t lead to lasting loyalty. Loyalty programs largely revolve around financial incentives that drive spikes in short-term behavior but don’t necessarily establish deeper or long-term customer relationships.

To add to that challenge, consumers see declining value in the programs that exist in the marketplace, and if marketers want to develop better relationships with their best consumers, their programs need more differentiation. And that’s where customer intelligence comes in. Loyalty programs generate a lot of customer data that often goes unused. Customer intelligence helps marketers create customer insights that improve their strategy and programs through targeting and segmentation, and customized offers. To assist marketers in applying customer intelligence and evolving their customer loyalty strategies, I’m excited to introduce Forrester’s Customer Loyalty Playbook.

The Customer Loyalty Playbook lays out the path to help you establish the right framework and mature your practices around executing loyalty programs that drive long-term customer engagement and incremental value. It contains twelve reports, focusing on four key phases:

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Joining The CI Analyst Ranks

Emily Collins

I’ve been on the CI team for a few years in a supporting role and, more recently, working behind the scenes with Suresh Vittal to drive our research around loyalty. I’m excited to announce that, going forward, I will be the analyst leading our coverage of the technologies, services, and analytics that support customer loyalty.

My first report in this new role will provide best practices on building a world-class loyalty program. Then keep an eye out for an analysis of existing and emerging loyalty program features. Future research will dive into topics that include reward design, revenue models for loyalty programs, the future of loyalty, and more Wave evaluations of the loyalty vendor ecosystem.

I am looking forward to getting to know many of you better and following the evolution of this exciting space. Whether you have insights to share, questions to ask, or loyalty technology and services that you want to tell me about, I want to hear from you! Please engage with me via our Inquiry and/or Briefing teams, or track me down at Forrester’s upcoming Customer Intelligence Forum (April 18-19 in Los Angeles).