Truly progressive brands have evolved to look at ALL of their customers through a loyalty lens; not only those who are enrolled in their loyalty program. These innovators practice Big "L” loyalty, using their loyalty strategies and tactics to create exceptional customer experiences, inspire passion and trust and engender long-term relationships. These emotional connections then serve as the steppingstone to matriculate customers into a permission-based loyalty program. From there the brand can glean the data and insights to deepen the relationship and deliver more personalized experiences. And the customer can feel confident that their privacy and preferences are being respected.
In The Forrester Wave™: Loyalty Service Providers, Q3 2019, Forrester found that “…the best loyalty service providers help clients set an enterprise strategy that reimagines loyalty as the outcome of all the experiences a customer has with a brand and reframes programs as the source of customer insight needed to fuel those experiences.” This finding reinforces my philosophy that loyalty should be cultivated holistically, over time and brands must adapt, or risk failure.
Examples of two brands who are setting the gold standard for reimagining loyalty as the outcome of all customer experiences: Amazon and Delta.
Take the Quiz: Forrester Loyalty Marketing Maturity Assessment
Amazon: Primed for long-term engagement
The world’s largest online retailer took its core value propositions for all consumers—wide selection, competitive pricing and convenient shopping—and spun them into a loyalty program for which a large subset of customers is willing to pay more than $150 per year. (And let’s face it—do their customers even know it’s a loyalty program? There are no points, rewards, redemptions, dashboards or tier structures. Yet they continue to build a strong connection with their customers.)
Launched in 2005, Amazon Prime was founded on the customers’ simple desire for fast, free shipping. Since then, subscriptions have expanded to include: streaming of movies, TV shows and music, exclusive shopping deals and selection, unlimited reading and even discounts at Whole Foods stores. According to Statista, the program now has 103 million members, approximately 62% of all Amazon customers–more loyalty members than not. Amazon Prime members spend 2x+ more than non-members and 85% visit at least once a week, and the company continually scores high in retail customer experience rankings.
Delta SkyMiles®: Raising the stakes
Recently I blogged about the future of travel loyalty and the importance of experiential rewards. We all know airline travel can be a highly emotional experience—particularly when something goes wrong. When it’s good (on-time flight, no lost luggage, empty middle seat), it’s table stakes. No big pats on the back. When it’s bad (unforeseen weather, mechanical delays, schedule changes), it’s awful. Cue the irate customers, Twitter rants and viral videos. Delta Airlines has reset the bar on the emotional side of flying, winning several awards and accolades for their customer experience. And its SkyMiles program is making the good even better for its best customers.
Like many airline loyalty programs, members earn miles for flying and everyday activities then use them toward travel on any Delta Air Lines flight or toward a Delta Vacations® package. Members can also redeem for rewards like upgrades, premium drinks at Delta Sky Club® and once in a lifetime experiences. Along with the benefit of no black-out dates, Delta has upped the ante with their technology.
Delta’s customer-friendly app is a must for frequent travelers to find, compare and book flights, manage your trips, profile and customize your travel preferences, check in, view your boarding pass and add it to Apple Wallet. The “Today” feature gathers everything you need for your day of travel into one convenient place, while “Feed” ensures you always have the latest flight updates, gate changes and more. You can even save a photo to remember your parking spot.
Meeting the needs of modern loyalty
Aligning your strategy, technology and people to create differentiated, 1:You customer experiences like Amazon and Delta can be challenging. Especially, if like most brands, you’re focused on your core line of business. That’s why it’s important to partner with a loyalty provider who has:
- A robust technology platform. Find a provider with technology that allows you to personalize at scale, connect with customers in real-time and support your programs with no downtime. Your loyalty program is a solution you use to curate the relationship with your best customers—technical failure is not an option.
- A seasoned team of experts. Seek a partner with a deep bench of loyalty strategy experience; one who has worked with multiple clients and can bring you trends, best practices, strategy, analytics and creative.
- A proven track record. While many loyalty providers may be well-versed in the latest trends and consumer expectations, the trick it to be able to execute on them. You don’t want to put your best customers at risk.
Focusing on all customers through a loyalty lens is a smart way to increase engagement, drive brand preference and ultimately higher business performance. When done well, the resulting brand loyalty will deliver results far beyond just a points-based program.