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We Need a New Approach to Customer Loyalty Programs

Let’s face it: There needs to be an entirely new approach to customer loyalty programs if brands are to survive the digital and mobile revolution. While many brands realize the urgency of change, the challenges they face are daunting. For starters, a modern customer loyalty program is far more than the “points and plastic” of the past. Those programs were entirely transactional and bred transactional behavior in customers. A modern customer loyalty program consumes far more contextual data about a customer and allows a far richer conversation between the customer and the brand.

But if it was as easy as understanding that, most brands would be more than ready. The fact is, there are obstacles to overcome on the road to real-time customer engagement that may be bigger than marketers realize.

The Challenges in Implementing a Customer Loyalty Platform

The first real problem comes with the way retail brands have been organized. Loyalty programs cut across many organizational boundaries and affect not just marketing, but IT, finance, and sales. Each part of the organization has legitimate concerns about how a broad-reaching program will affect their costs, goals, and internal perception.

The second problem arises from the need to convince executives. They sit at the top of the organization and have the power to mandate change, but are reluctant to do so without solid evidence that investment will have the anticipated returns.

Loyalty Lab JumpStart Program

This is the reason the TIBCO Loyalty Lab JumpStart Program is such a compelling way to find success with customer loyalty marketing. We’ve created a fast, affordable customer engagement platform that allows marketers to quickly gain insights through measurable program results. We’ve added enough functionality to make the Loyalty Lab JumpStart Program very quick and easy to set up, with a low month-to-month cost and minimal need for IT support, so that marketers can quickly make their case.

When the barriers to entry are low, the chance for quick success is much higher. A marketer can have just enough functionality to create tangible proof points that satisfy organizational stakeholders and align the broader business behind the customer loyalty initiative. Where else can you change the future so easily?

Learn how to jumpstart your customer engagement program now at http://www.loyaltylab.com/jumpstart.html.

INFOGRAPHIC: Top 10 Marketing Trends for 2014

 

 

To learn more about TIBCO’s Top 10 Marketing Trends for 2014, download the whitepaper and watch the webinar.

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Simply Spending More Won’t Improve Your Marketing

By Jeanne Roué-Taylor

For most organizations, the digital marketing budget is growing at a rate far greater than traditional technology spend, or even revenue. This represents an acknowledgement that consumer buying activities are migrating to digital channels at a faster rate than anyone expected even a short time ago. Organizations recognize the need to do something differently.

But just spending more isn’t necessarily the way to achieve success in the new marketplace. Simply putting more dollars into digital channels won’t create greater customer engagement and will in fact just add to the noise of an already noisy marketplace.

Characteristic, Context and Channel

Marketing today is less about broad-based spending and more about understanding the characteristics of the customer, the context of the moment of engagement, and the preferred channel for communicating. These are the three elements that matter more than budgetary spend and have a better shot at increasing engagement and spend.

Make Investments in Marketing Technology

The wise way to spend on marketing activities involves investment in technology and techniques that allow an organization to hit all three requirements:

Characteristics of the customer are directly tied to knowing the customer’s history and personal information. This is something a loyalty platform is exceptionally good at managing.

The context of the moment of engagement involves knowing as much about the circumstances of the customer’s interaction as possible. Is the customer online or in the store? What is their recency with the brand? Again, a loyalty platform is the technology that makes this happen.

The channel for communicating not only depends on personal preference, but the moment as well. A text may be welcome at the point-of-sale, but an email may be the preferred channel when a customer isn’t on the website or in the store. Keeping track of communication channels is best done through—you guessed it—a loyalty platform.

The changes happening rapidly in marketing are more than just a chance for a brand to spend more…they are a perfect opportunity to rethink the way a brand interacts with the customer. They are a chance to invest in a loyalty platform that can make the most of the marketing budget.

Learn more about how characteristics, context, and channel are used to engage customers at the right time in this whitepaper.

To Supply and Demand, Add Context and Timing

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

We’ve spent most of our lives hearing about the law of supply and demand. Brands create supply through manufacturing and the building out of service capabilities. Through marketing, quality, and some amount of skill and good fortune, our customers demand our products. Can this well-tested, age-old law survive our times? Yes, but only if it adds two more components: context and timing.

A real-time marketing system does exactly that. The new supply chain is about more than goods and transactions—it is also about relevant marketing that takes into account the subtleties of what’s happening in the customer’s world.

Thanks to fundamental shifts in technology, the new laws look something like this:

Supply – What is my current inventory level? What inventory is stressed because of low sell-through or seasonality? Where are my services overstaffed? From where can I fulfill an order that makes the most sense cost- and timing-wise? Where should I stage my inventory for most efficient sell-through?

Demand – What are my hottest items that shouldn’t be discounted? What is the market talking about, and where can I join the conversation? What can I do to better capture the interest of my customer as both an individual and a refined segment of all of my customers?

Context – What are my customer’s buying patterns: When do they shop, how do they shop, and where do they make their buying decisions? What do their patterns reveal about what they’re most likely to buy next? Where is my customer at this moment? What are the ambient circumstances, like weather, seasonality, location (in store, near store, on web or mobile) that help answer the question, “Customer, what’s going on in your world, right now?”

Timing – When is my customer most likely to be receptive to communication? Do I understand their preferences, including means of communication and timing? Can I reach my customer at the right moment with the most relevant information? Real-time must be right-time marketing.

For marketers who were previously disconnected from the supply chain world, the new laws represent an opportunity to play a much bigger role in moving the brand’s needle. The new world of retail is far more mobile, far more contextual, and far more personal, making it a much more dynamic environment for doing business.

 

Customer Loyalty Is The New Customer Service

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

In a recent post, 3 Reasons Loyalty Programs Aren’t Optional, I pointed out why loyalty programs are a critical part of customer engagement. A sudden surge in tablets and smartphones, the phenomena of Big Data, and the need for customer permission to avoid creepiness were reasons every brand needs to have a loyalty program.

But the reasons go even deeper than technology and privacy. In today’s climate of increasing choice, customer loyalty takes on many of the traditional aspects of customer service. By knowing your customer’s history, preferred channels of communication, current context and—most importantly—your service options, the chance of turning around a bad situation or delighting your customer are significantly improved (learn more in this whitepaper).

Sounds Good, But How?

Understanding your customer’s history, preferences and current context is the job of a loyalty platform for a loyalty program, but taking on the customer service opportunity requires the same knowledge of the customer. By studying customer responses with a test-and-learn approach, customer service based on customer loyalty data allows for segmentation and can be improved upon just like customer loyalty programs. It’s a win-win.

Customer service today is an opportunity to create customer loyalty in new ways and with far better results than in the past. And the best part? It is a by-product of having an excellent customer loyalty platform…and the tools are already available.

Customer Engagement Requires Knowing Your Crowd

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

How well do you know your customers? While most brands would say they know their ideal shopper, how many can break down their customer engagement into finely tuned segments based on analytics? Some can, but too many are still behind the curve when it comes to having the loyalty platform to gather data, visualize and discover patterns of people and behaviors, and respond with the right engagement at the right time. Having a high level of customer intimacy enables right-time marketing and it’s within reach of most businesses (learn about right-time marketing in this whitepaper). We’ve entered a data-rich age where there are fewer and fewer excuses for not knowing your customer crowd.

How to Know Your Crowd

For starters, every customer has unique attributes that we refer to as their characteristics. That set of information includes permanent things like gender and age, but also includes things like past history of interaction and purchases that paint a clearer picture than simple demographics. While age, gender, affluence, and other factors give us broad stroke indicators of buying propensity, finely tuned segmentation requires a richer set of information than traditional groupings.

The second aspect of knowing your crowd is tightly coupled to how your customers communicate with you, which we refer to as channel. These are the pathways of interaction preferred by your audience, and getting the channel right is the difference between having a seamless conversation and being intrusive. Brands that can’t listen and respond across the many, sometimes simultaneous, channels of today’s marketing can’t say they truly know their customer.

The third aspect of knowing your customer is having a context for each moment of interaction. Knowing whether a customer is currently in the act of shopping, at the time of purchase, or just in the information-gathering phase has a strong effect on what interactions are most appropriate and what the timing should be for engagement.

Characteristics, channel and context together are what define truly knowing your customer crowd. Without them, your ability to increase intimacy, gain loyalty, and increase total lifetime value are negatively impacted.

Watch the webinar on right time marketing and learn how to use characteristics, channel and context to determine the best time to market.

3 Reasons Loyalty Programs Aren’t Optional

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

If you happened to be at TUCON 2013, TIBCO’s user conference, you heard about Turning Customers into Fans from Head of Client Technical Services Wen Miao. In Miao’s words, “It is no longer acceptable to have only a transactional relationship with customers.” He’s absolutely correct. We are in an age where we can use our loyalty platform as the way to capture each and every engagement with our customers.

Here are three compelling reasons why loyalty programs are no longer an optional part of marketing:

1.  Mobility – Consumers are on the move and accessing information about brands from traditional sources like stores and the Web, but also on laptops and tablets, sometimes from within physical locations. Keeping track of the use of multiple, even simultaneous interactions, are impossible without a platform that listens and knows the customers voice over any channel. The same goes for outbound engagement—brands need to instantly discern a customer’s preferences, the channel for communication, and the context for each moment of engagement.

2.  Big Data – The amount, variety, and speed with which data moves in today’s marketplace are growing rapidly; but so have the tools and techniques to keep track of what’s happening. Some of that data is in systems of records as transactions and stock, and some is on the move, like geolocation. Brands require a platform that can keep track of historical information, inventory and sell-through, and what’s happening now in the customer’s ambient environment. This amount of data creates analytical treasure troves that can be used to better position offers, test and learn, and increase revenue and loyalty.

3.  Permission – This may be coming last, but the permissioning aspect of a loyalty program is critical to avoid being creepy. Loyalty is more than a reward for spending—it is a customer raising their hand to be part of something more than just a purchase. Loyal customers are advocates as well and spread the good word about a brand. Lastly, loyal customers are forgiving of a brand’s faults and less likely to create “negative press.”

These three reasons for loyalty programs are in themselves enough to compel most brands to start down the path to customer loyalty marketing. This reminds me of the fourth reason for loyalty programs: Your competitor has or is about to launch one.

Loyalty Marketing and Picking Pumpkins for Halloween

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

Would you associate loyalty marketing with Halloween? You will when you finish reading this.

When we were kids we headed each October to the local farms to find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween. The biggest constraint was the size of the pumpkin…it was a rule that we had to be able to carry our choice to the car.

We were a highly motivated bunch, but in the end the size of our pumpkin was always a little less than we would have liked. There was always next year.

The Weight of Loyalty Data

Today’s loyalty marketing has the same challenge. We know intuitively that the more customer engagement data we can “carry,” the higher the value of our loyalty programs. We know that our customers communicate across many channels, including in stores and on the website. We also know we need to engage with them at the time, place, and through the channel of their choosing.

This is a very heavy load for the systems that were built for an earlier time.

Carrying the Load

But, there’s a way out of this challenge that isn’t available in the world of pumpkin picking. As children, we had limitations that very gradually fell away as we grew older. Customer loyalty programs, on the other hand, have the ability to surge forward and manage significantly more data by deploying a loyalty platform that scales with the need for customer engagement. Suddenly, engaging customers is much easier, whether through a mobile platform or across social media and at any time of the day or night. Loyalty marketing just went through a serious growth spurt.

There’s a fantastic opportunity emerging from the heavy load of today’s Big Data and it centers on customer experience management, supported by customer loyalty.

Are you ready to choose your pumpkin?

 

Customer Loyalty is a Bird in the Hand

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

We’ve heard the phrase, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” since childhood. We were being told by wiser adults to value what we have over the things we don’t. Customer engagement has the same lesson at its heart: We can more easily achieve our goals by creating better, more loyal relationships with our existing customers than by focusing our energy on acquiring the customers we don’t already have. Figures vary, but there’s a consistent theme in the marketplace that it costs five times as much to gain a new customer than it does to retain the one that’s already with you.

Enter Loyalty

Loyalty programs are the cornerstone of a successful foundation that supports customer retention and makes that ratio so important. Think of the marketing and advertising budget applied to creating new relationships. Is it one-fifth of the spend on loyalty platforms for most companies? Too often, it isn’t. In fact, many companies spend far more on acquiring new customers than they do on loyalty and customer service combined.

Big Data Heavily Favors Loyalty

In our data-driven times, driving your business through loyalty is a powerful approach. Loyalty programs provide the permissioning that allows for greater information collection, analytics, and actions based on data your customer has agreed to provide. The creepy factor is greatly reduced and over time, your ability to collect and use data only increases. Customers willingly give detailed information to a brand that they trust, to provide a mutual benefit in the relationship. Loyalty programs create a virtuous cycle of brand and customer engagement.

When companies use the same data-driven approach to customer acquisition, the odds of crossing the creepy or annoying line are greatly increased. That challenge alone holds brands back from being nearly as effective when it comes to gaining new customers using personal data. Our Big Data world favors customer engagement and loyalty by a wide margin. Are you ready to engage your customers and benefit from the bird in the hand?

Which Marketing Platforms Are Here to Stay?

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

The sheer number of marketing applications offered as downloads or services is exploding. Everyone wants in on the real-time marketing game, likely because as the U.S. and the world come out of an extended economic downturn, there are few places more ripe for automation leading to efficiency than how we market and sell goods. What’s more, the fast rise of smartphones, maturation of Internet selling models, and high-speed analytics create a technology opportunity for customer engagement that’s hard to ignore for most software vendors.

But like everything that arrives quickly (think: Web companies in the ‘90s), the marketing boom will eventually sort itself out—there will be platforms which brought real value to marketers and those which brought…um…just great marketing.

So who will win and who will lose?

Data-Agnostic and Integration-Ready Marketing Platforms

The winners will be the platforms that have two characteristics: They are data source-agnostic and are able to integrate with other platforms across the marketing ecosystem.

Data source-agnostic — We market in a highly contextual world, and that context flows from many sources today—likely from many more sources tomorrow. Any platform that’s coupled too tightly to specific data sources, or has at its core its own proprietary source of data, won’t be responsive to an evolving marketplace. Experience tells us that marketing is in an ongoing period of rapid change that will alter the landscape enough to render obsolete the platforms that are rigid and data source dependent.

Integration with other platforms — Just like being data source-agnostic, the platforms that will survive will integrate liberally with other platforms, exchanging data and process as necessary to get the larger job of customer engagement done. Self-contained may have been an attractive adjective in a less-connected world, but marketing times have changed and the ability to connect and share information gives marketers more options for understanding context and more ways to engage with the consumer.

The Winner Is…the Open Platform

The real goal of today’s marketer shouldn’t be real-time response to customers, as attractive as that sounds. The goal needs to be right-time marketing that allows the brand to respond to the events that are happening anywhere in the buying environment. It’s the difference between shouting and having a conversation. That means being able to communicate and engage everywhere that matters across a number of platforms: POS, mobile apps, analytics, email services, customer databases, social tools, and whatever comes next. That’s a very integration-rich requirement.

Maybe, most importantly, data-agnostic, integration-ready platforms offer a way to avoid obsolescence of prior IT investments. Everyone likes that one.