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Customer Loyalty in a Real-Time, Noisy World

We’re reaching a point of saturation where the noise of the connected world can easily outweigh the value of listening. As social media use continues to increase alongside constant connectivity, the voices that matter most to us—the voices we’re loyal to—end up being the only voices we can hear.

The Saturation Point

When consumers hit the saturation point, they’re highly likely to take a step back from the marketing chaos and ask themselves “What matters most?” and “How can I escape the chaos?” They’re likely to limit their focus to the things and places they hold dear. This is exactly where brand loyalty matters more than ever.

The world won’t get any quieter. To make sure they’re heard, a brand needs to make up for increasing noise with better customer engagement that leads to greater loyalty. When a brand is in a trusted relationship with its customers, it knows its customers far better and offers a respite from the need to filter out the irrelevant. It offers peace from the dark aspects of constant connectivity.

Brands and Noise Filters

When a brand engages loyal customers wisely, it offers a noise filter and creates an appreciation from the customer; that leads to brand advocacy. Strong customer appreciation—strong enough to create advocacy—is a hallmark of the brands that enjoy much higher lifetime customer value and powerful networking benefits as their customers are more than willing to vouch for the brand and introduce others to its benefits.

A focus on customer loyalty is an excellent strategy for a real-time, noisy world.

For more on how to cut through the chaos in 2014, check out this TIBCO Loyalty Lab webinar, Top 10 Marketing Trends for 2014.

An End to Pre-Holiday Shouting?

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I am a proud survivor of Black Friday 2013. It was the most impersonal, poorly thought through and aggressive Black Friday I’ve experienced yet.

When I say survived, I’m not referring to the competition for parking spaces, the crush of shoppers or the tough decisions of which bargain would be worth fighting for. I’m not a survivor of the long register lines. No, instead I survived the onslaught of impersonal Black Friday emails that filled every inbox of each email account I maintain.

Black Friday Specials End Tonight!

Sending an email is considered a relatively cheap form of marketing, which is why so many brands blast indiscriminately in an ever-louder effort to get our attention, killing their own effectiveness in the process. As the noise gets louder, what will be the plan for Black Friday 2014? Even more of the same?

I have a crazy idea: What if, as a marketer, instead of spamming every email in my database, I chose to put a focus on segmentation? What if I used that segmentation to define my playing field for interaction with customers so that I could then look at each homogeneous segment’s propensity to respond to interaction at different times, for different reasons, and across differing channels? What if, to cap it off, I created a culture of testing and learning what a sample of each segment actually does when I interact? What if I used those lessons to constantly improve my marketing effectiveness?

Analytics and Actionable Models

Why, then I would have an analytics platform with actionable models that a smart marketer could use to steadily increase the effectiveness of offers and build brand loyalty. I could distinguish myself from the crowd and build a base of loyal customers that know I respect their time and attention.

I could stop shouting and start engaging.

Learn how to lay the foundation for a successful customer loyalty initiative in the whitepaper, 8 Essential Steps: Championing Your Investment in Loyalty Marketing.

Loyalty Lab’s David Rosen Talks The Four Pillars

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Marketing is going through a time of significant change as it embraces a new form of customer loyalty driven by right-time marketing. Few people tell the story better than our own David Rosen. Rosen is particularly good at articulating how today’s marketers are evolving into digitally focused, tech-savvy pros with powerful technology tools and techniques at their disposal.

He understands that changes in marketing are driven by the broader changes in technology and consumer behavior over the past decade, like the fast adoption of social media and increasing dependence on mobile devices.

The Retail Struggle

Retailers have struggled to find the right ways to interact with existing or potential new customers as they learn the new paradigm. Most understand that relevance, timing, and context determine the right time to engage, but finding the right mix of technology and technique is elusive without guiding principles to provide focus for retail loyalty.

Rosen has an answer to that challenge.

The Four Pillars

Rosen is an advocate for the Four Pillars concept, a concept that combines customer-driven relationships, loyalty programs, wider event streams, and test and learn. His work with Virgin America and The North Face provide his evidence that it takes a philosophy to navigate times of significant change. Breaking down the concept looks like this:

Customer-driven relationships – Marketers have a role in how and where to engage, but customers’ preferences, motivations, and attitudes ultimately drive success.

Loyalty programs – Loyalty programs have an important role to play in giving customers an opportunity to raise their hand and provide permissioning for loyalty data to be collected.

Wider event streams – Transactions aren’t enough to know a customer. Brands need to monitor data that streams continuously across social media networks, mobile phones and other software and devices.

Test and learn – It all comes together when a brand can develop strategies to be tested with groups of consumers to find what’s the most effective message, timing, and channel for engagement.

The Four Pillars are a great answer to the challenge of navigating marketing’s changes. Listen to the webinar or download Rosen’s whitepaper on event-driven marketing to learn more.

Everyone Shops for a Different Reason

By Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Customers are rarely a homogenous group. They differ greatly in revenue potential, levels of loyalty, and frequency of contact. What makes loyalty work, therefore, is an ability to segment your customers using powerful analytics. Segmentation allows the right amount of effort and right offers to be applied in the right moments to the right customers.

Knowing enough to segment properly takes powerful analytics. Unless analytics are a key part of your loyalty platform, odds are you won’t be able to do much more than old-fashioned transactional loyalty.

But segmentation isn’t such a simple thing. There are common segments based on how people shop—like price or convenience—but below those broad categories, there are more subtle ways to segment based on what is required to engage a customer in the right moment with the right offer. This is the description of behavioral segmentation, and takes a capability to test and learn that wasn’t available until recent times.

Test and Learn

Test and learn provides a way to find segments that may not otherwise be visible to marketers. By choosing existing segments and testing offers on a smaller scale, new segments can be developed and marketed to in a larger way. The opportunity to test and learn is a benefit of a customer loyalty platform that includes powerful visual analytics.

In the end, everyone shops for a different reason. Marketers armed with the tools to not just segment along traditional lines of age, race, and other factors—but also to test and learn—have a distinct advantage over those who don’t.

 

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.

There Are Two Kinds of Loyalty

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

There’s an enormous amount of buzz in the marketplace around loyalty. But how many of the conversations make the distinction between the two kinds: one of them that’s good for the moment and the other that’s good for the long haul? Knowing the difference has a real impact on how a brand designs, implements, and maintains its customer loyalty program.

Loyalty of Convenience

In a recent blog, Seth Godin referred to the first type as the loyalty of convenience:

“I’m going to look around, sure, but probably won’t switch. Switching is risky, it’s time consuming. Switching means a new account manager or moving my software or reprinting something. Switching means I might make a mistake or lose my miles or have to defend a new decision.”

Loyalty of convenience is only as good as the near-term incentives. It is a loyalty that requires steady, non-stop investment or it breaks and loses its accumulated value. A customer stays loyal only as long as the convenience lasts.

Enduring Loyalty

Enduring loyalty is the kind that comes from relationships, not cash rewards or convenience. In the world of enduring loyalty, customers stay engaged because they feel a connection to the brand. Seth Godin refers to this type of loyalty as, “I’m not even looking.”

A loyal customer who isn’t looking doesn’t care if there’s a lower price or competing product somewhere else. Because they’re invested in the brand, it takes more than just a pretty price to turn their head.

Learn more about what it takes to create enduring loyalty in this whitepaper on Customer Loyalty Management.

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 Management via the Customer Service Silo

By Ted Rubin

All of your employees work in the marketing department, at least to some extent, and they need to understand the role they play. But to create a strong foundation for customer loyalty management, there are a few departments within your company that absolutely need to sync with marketing. Your customer service department is the most important.

Here are four ways you can leverage your customer service team to effectively manage customer loyalty, build relationships, and turn customers into fans. Think Return on Relationship… because there is no better time than when your customers reach out to you.

Method #1: For relevant content inspiration

You already know how important consistent, creative content is for your inbound marketing strategy. The trouble is consistently coming up with new ideas. Even your best content creators will struggle at times to come up with the type of content your audience craves.

It pays to have an open communication line between your content creation team and your customer service team. Content marketers are always looking for new ways to solve problems, and write about them.

Effective customer loyalty management starts with contextual content your audience values.  Who better than customer service representatives to provide firsthand feedback of the primary questions and issues your they hear about every day?

Consider regular meetings between your content and customer service teams to keep up with the problems and hot-button issues your customers currently care about. An immediate added bonus will be real-life case studies and success stories. Also consider using an internal wiki to allow team members from customer service, sales, etc. to share article ideas based on interactions with your customers and prospects in real-time.

Even if you only use a fraction of the suggestions, you never know which one will lead to a piece of content that change the image of your company, not to mention the impact all this listening can have on contextual social messaging creation.

Method #2: For delivering on customer expectations

If your customers don’t feel they’re getting what is promised from the outset, your customer loyalty management efforts, and relationship building, will almost certainly be an uphill battle. Marketing works best when your leads, prospects and most importantly, customers, have a clear, accurate expectation for how your solution will help them.

How can your customer service department help?

When deliverables don’t align with expectations, your customer service department will be the first to know. They can quickly alert marketing when customers feel misled or misunderstood. Marketers will then be able to alter campaigns, and deliverables, to set more accurate expectations for potential customers. Now you have another great opportunity to turn those customers into fans, fans into advocates, and create long-term trust and loyalty.

Method #3: For social media support done right

Most of you already provide customer service via social media. But are you putting the right person on the job? Are you connecting the social team and the customer service team so they understand how best to work together? Your social media account manager may seem like a natural choice, however when it comes to helping and resolving issues, your customer service team likely has the training and on-the-job experience to satisfy customer needs more efficiently.

Creating a customer loyalty management program that allows your customer service team to help with inquiries from social channels can deliver a much better experience for your customers and get issues resolved more efficiently.

Method #4: For consistent, contextual messaging

If your marketing team is doing it, your customer service team should know about it.

Why?

Who is a prospect or customer going to call if they have questions about an event, a promotion, or a product? That’s right, customer service – often because it’s the easiest contact number to find.

Think of your customer service rep as your target audience’s concierge. Why are they calling? What are they trying to accomplish? How can you give customers and prospects the exact help they need and then naturally direct them to the most logical point in your sales cycle?

A simple shared document with login information for events and links to helpful content can eliminate wasted resources and save valuable time. And when your prospects and customers get the help they need immediately, they’re well on their way to becoming fans, and advocates, of your brand.

Building a bridge between your marketing and customer service silos is a great way to stay on top of what matters most to your prospects and customers. After all, how can you be sure you’re offering contextual content to your audience unless you are listening to what they want?

Nobody listens and hears more, if they are doing their job correctly, than your customer service department. Make them a key cog in your approach to social marketing, customer loyalty management, and Return on Relationship.

Learn more about how to build a well-rounded customer loyalty management program in this webinar and whitepaper by TIBCO Loyalty Lab. And learn about Return on Relationship by reading Ted’s book released January 29th.

Ted Rubin is a leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker and Brand Evangelist. In March 2009 he started using and evangelizing the term ROR, Return on Relationship, hashtag #RonR.  As many may have heard, Ted recently left his position as Chief Social Marketing Officer of Collective Bias.

Many people in the social media world know Ted for his enthusiastic, energetic and undeniably personal connection to people. Ted is the most followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine; one of the most interesting CMOs on Twitter according to Say Media, #13 on Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers, 2013, and number #2 on the Leadtail August 2013 list of Top 25 People Most Mentioned by digital marketers.

ROR is the basis of his philosophy…It’s All About Relationships! His book, Return on Relationship was released January 29th. Connect with Ted… http://TedRubin.com or @TedRubin