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:
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:
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:
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).