Looking Ahead After Looking Back: Effective Loyalty Programs

As 2016 wraps up, we want to close out by collecting our forward view for 2017 for consideration, as we feel the year will only bring greater emphasis to the marketing and business shift to customer centricity and customer marketing as a priority business strategy. 

Readers of this blog know that rDialogue has for a decade counseled and supported our clients to put customers at the center of their marketing strategy – and their business strategy. Over the past year, we saw some significant third-party, independent research from people and firms we deeply respect that have more than validated our long held views. And beyond the traditional link between customer marketing and business strategy, now we see even more focus on the specific need for distinction and innovation for a distinct loyalty strategies and yes, even effective loyalty programs.

Among the highlights:

  • Forrester’s Emily Collins, in line with the firm’s view that this is “the age of the customer”, recently noted the stark difference between “companies with loyalty programs” and “loyalty companies.” 
  • Collinson global loyalty study found a stunning 20 percent decline in loyalty membership among the global affluent. This correlates the significant growth in loyalty programs and their low activation rates observed in studies from Colloquy.
  • Collinson’s research also confirmed that effective loyalty programs must uniquely reflect businesses and brands – avoiding being undifferentiated, “me too” efforts (affirming rDialogue’s technology independent approach).
  • Wall Street is paying attention. Smart analysts (especially those from the buy-side versus the sell-side) on earnings calls are asking questions about loyalty marketing, publishing research that increasingly recognizes these efforts, and – importantly – calling out companies where they succeed or fail.

So what does this mean to marketers or more general business managers?

  • Loyalty marketing is not a program, it is a strategy
  • Consumers are signaling a need for change in effective loyalty programs from the traditional and simple points-based membership propositions.
  • A brand must demonstrate loyalty to the customer even before the customer is loyal to the brand. A paradigm shift that we spoke and wrote about in many instances in 2016. That requires leadership in a loyalty-leading organization to recognizes this and make it a top priority.  When it does not, brand leadership is often and ultimately challenged (and challenging).
  • Accordingly, a more relevant customer experience going forward is one that is omni-present, not omni-channel. The approach moves well beyond communications channels and sales vehicles into tight integration across the all consumer touchpoints across the enterprise driving that customer experience.
  • CRM investments are now being driven by the CMO, and those that we have seen (and will continue to see) from nearly all of our clients this year will pay dividends in the form of insights to drive that business strategy and transform the customer experience. 

It’s been proven time and time again that a customer-centric approach to business has been the domain of courageous leaders – many of whom we’ve been fortunate to support over the past ten years. With better customer marketing increasingly becoming the norm, today’s courageous leaders will continue to push for even more radical customer-centricity.

Keep watching, these will be the stories we’ll highlight in 2017 as bold, courageous and true, game changers are the company we keep. And the companies that Wall Street prizes.

We look forward to sharing more effective loyalty programs that we uncover or help shape in the coming year and beyond.