Are You TRUE in Your Customer Experience Management?

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

We’re months past the winter holidays and sellers have a great chance to think about what we’ve learned, now that the dust has settled. Each holiday shopping season is an intense, focused study in what motivates customers to buy and brings many opportunities for improvement. Looking back, it would be too easy to think that a customer completing a long shopping list for gifts would be most motivated by price, but Forrester Principal Analyst Tracy Stokes says otherwise. Stokes recently blogged her advice to big-box retailers, saying that superior customer experience is the differentiator for retail marketers.

TRUE

Stokes uses the acronym TRUE to summarize the approach that she recommends, which stands for trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential. These are certainly great targets for any brand, especially one that wishes to avoid racing to the pricing bottom each season. But how does a brand interact with a customer in a way that meets those requirements both at the holidays and throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall?

Answering that question is more of a challenge than those four adjectives would imply.

Gaining Trust

Consumer expectations are rising fast in the digital age. Knowing where and when a customer wants to be engaged is an enormous part of being trusted. Unwanted or tone-deaf communication breaks trust.

Appearing Remarkable

Great marketing gets attention from the customer and, even more, makes them a brand advocate. An advocate tells their network about their experience because it was that good. But it has to be perceived as repeatable to be shared.

Being Unmistakable 

Being just another bright red flyer in the mailbox isn’t very unmistakable. For a brand to be set apart, it has to promise and deliver an experience that is very personalized and relevant.

Perceived as Essential

Being essential means there’s no competitor that can match a brand’s service or customer experience. A customer feels they have no alternative but to continue to do business with the brand because that’s the best path to satisfaction.

Savvy consumers increasingly using digital means to choose brands will channel their spending toward brands that can delivery on these concepts. Loyalty platforms are the essential tool that make being TRUE possible in a highly competitive marketplace. Are you ready to be TRUE to your customers? You have months before crunch time comes again and now’s the time to create your new plan of action.

Learn more at www.loyaltylab.com/expertise, and watch our webinar, The Top 10 Marketing Trends for 2014.

 

Making Marketing Magic Happen

By Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Customer experience management is a simple term that describes both a level of effort and wealth of insight that’s never before been required of marketers. The effort is higher because a customer’s experience is very personal and connected to a wide-ranging set of information that describes every past interaction with a brand—whether online, in the store, or on their smartphone. To top that off, customer experience is also defined by the environment around a customer at the moment in which they interact. It is a perfect combination of past and present.

The Enterprise Service Bus

Making the magic happen is all about being able to see customer historical data combined with contextual data arriving in real time. A company needs to be able to capture and use this data—that makes the magic happen. This isn’t a simple affair; it requires a level of connectivity provided by technologies like an enterprise service bus (ESB).

When we talk about integration technology like an ESB, it’s really important to make the distinction between technologies that connect the entire enterprise and technologies that connect anything less. Only an enterprise-wide integration plan can pull together the many pieces of data that support a great customer experience. Marketing analysis of an unlimited set of data is what sets the stage for everything to happen.

Establishing Meaningful KPIs

Given enough data, self-discovery visualization tools create insights leading to development of triggers that allow a brand to intervene in moments of risk or opportunity. It could be a customer about to depart a loyalty program or contract, or a chance to cross-sell or up-sell a purchase. Regardless, the rules that are written to create the best brand responses need to be used in simulation to prove their value and improve their accuracy. This proof step allows KPIs to be established that will be used later to ensure campaigns are working as planned. Having KPIs planned early, when risk is low, is a very important step.

The best approach isn’t a monolithic system that purports to do it all for you as marketing-in-a-box—that would be inflexible. In reality, it all comes together as agile marketing magic when marketers access enterprise data for analytics, a simulation environment to test their insights, and a way to measure the outcomes and change course when necessary during campaigns.

Are you ready to create marketing magic?

Watch our webinar, The Top 10 Marketing Trends for 2014, to learn more about how loyalty, integration, and analytics technologies are intersecting and empowering marketers.

Marketing in the Eye of the Storm: The Trends You Must Understand

By Jeanne Roué-Taylor

To say marketing is in the eye of the storm may sound a bit overblown, but it’s an accurate analogy. Customer experience management (CEM), driven by Big Data, mobile, analytics, social media, and a host of other rapidly changing trends, are fundamentally shifting the game away from everything we knew just a short time ago. In the midst of so much change, the most important action to take first is to break down the components of change so that a clear marketing strategy can emerge from that understanding.

Top Marketing Trends for 2014

The trends that are changing marketing this year include the following:

  1. Highly valuable customer data will go unused.
  2. At the same time, marketing will become even more data driven.
  3. Analytics will become a very hot skill.
  4. CIOs everywhere will cede control over marketing data to the CMO.
  5. Actionable models and analytics will steal the show.
These are just some of the topics that will be covered in detail in our upcoming webinar, Top 10 Trends Marketing Trends for 2014, on Thursday, February 13.

Marketing in the Eye of the Storm

Storms aren’t necessarily a bad thing when they bring renewal and fresh business opportunities. For those caught napping, a storm is a bad event that only brings risk of potential failure. Don’t miss the webinar and learn how to make the most of the storm.

Why Is Great Customer Experience Management So Elusive?

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Forrester updated its view into Customer Experience Management (CEM) earlier this year, with very interesting survey data. Retail continues to score highest among consumers and airlines stayed near the bottom. That’s why it came as no surprise when airlines moved quickly to be the first to announce that they would allow device use during takeoff and landing, just days after the FAA recently changed the regulations.

Airlines Aren’t Alone in the Struggle

Airlines aren’t the only ones to improve customer experience management. While retailers lead Forrester’s CEM survey, customer experience scores vary greatly between brands. Several of the highest scores were cost-cutting retailers—not surprising during a downturn in the economy.

But not all retailers mentioned were cost-cutters. For brands that want to compete on more than simply price, customer experience takes on a new urgency. At least one retail chain listed in the survey scored higher than cost-cutting brands, even though they don’t compete on price.

Rather than racing to the pricing bottom, brands are increasingly taking advantage of strong loyalty programs, executive through loyalty platforms, to improve the customer experience and retention.

The Danger of Competing on Price Alone

Competing on price alone is a cutthroat business model with a constant threat of disruption. It only takes a lower price to take the customer elsewhere. Competing on great customer experience, on the other hand, is a virtuous model that offers customer advocacy, revenue lift, and forgiveness for the occasional slip up.

Great CEM is elusive for brands that lack a focus on customer service, don’t know their customers well, or have outdated, transaction-focused loyalty programs.

 

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?

 

Real-Time Marketing or Right-Time Marketing?

by Ted Rubin

Webinar 7/18 – sign up now! Right-Time Marketing vs Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing is all the rage, though as TIBCO Loyalty Lab’s David Rosen is quick to point out, brands really need to be focused on right-time marketing. “The speed and reaction of marketing needs to be relevant when the consumer is discovering, shopping or sharing,” he said.

Brands need to act with relevance and timeliness without crossing over into creepiness, Rosen warned. “You need to have customers’ permission to collect data and contact them in the time of decision-making. When that relationship is within a loyalty program, it’s far less creepy,” he explained. I agree because when the relationship exists, and it is documented via membership, the consumer feels a connection that otherwise may not exist.

Loyalty and rewards may be the first thing to get right first, he suggests, noting that “…it creates the permission-based relationship between a brand and its consumers.” There’s a value exchange there, he explained; customers have consented and contributed to the brand-consumer relationship. This is a great point because in many ways it makes it easier for the marketer than initially spending time on relationship building without a guarantee the C-suite often requires to fund relationship building.

The collection and analysis of the data available in a loyalty relationship allows marketers an edge in real-time marketing, with greater insight into which messages or offers are most likely to influence a customer in that critical moment. But keep in mind… data and analytics can’t replace judgment. Along with data, be sure to let judgement, learning, inspiration be your guides, not simply numbers.

Simple, Compelling Offers for the Win

The future of offers and real-time marketing is simplicity, according to Rosen. “The best rewards program is simple enough that any employee can describe it. It’s compelling enough that people will naturally want to sign up,” he said, noting that Sports Authority is a perfect example. They offer 5% back on all purchases, an offer everyone can comprehend and appreciate. It’s simple to use and doesn’t require that the customer understand a complex spend and earn program. I find this so incredibly important… ease of use and participation is key!

“If you can achieve high rates for enrollment and out of the gate, you’ll get immediate attention from senior management. If management doesn’t care, you don’t get buy-in and won’t have their support and budget to effectively run your program,” Rosen warned. Simple, compelling offers appeal to customers and can win the support of internal decision-makers.

Marketers are realizing the potential of next generation marketing tactics and tools, such as game mechanics, to essentially stimulate activity, add an element of fun, and change people’s behaviors in different ways. Game elements also help to cement the relationship by keep people involved and engaged.

“In this realm, you’ll see offers like group rewards, where consumers enter as a group to win prizes,” Rosen explained. “Retailers can link a number of behaviors and get consumers to accomplish certain tasks, ie: wearing a certain product and having a picture taken and posted to Instagram.”

Communication = Relationship Management

Better communication with loyalty program members means much more than simply delivering the content they want in a format they prefer. Brands needs to use the information gleaned from the program and other data available to them—through the website, email marketing, social channels and in-store—in order to effectively manage their customer relationships. When your customers are engaging via loyalty initiatives you have the opportunity to interact and engage them on a more personal level.

Are your customers shopping online, making returns, opening or responding to emails, or taking other actions from which you can draw insight?

Customers have come to expect that brands will deliver messages and offers relevant to their needs. This is the power of real-time marketing—the ability to act almost instantly on customer insights. Easing communication means understanding the needs of each customer and communicating the right message to them, at the right time.

It’s so important to keep in mind that right-time marketing means making a connection that goes beyond simply time and place, but takes it a step further and builds the connection… and therefore the relationship. Consumers desperately want to feel heard, connected, and valued, so remember to take it beyond the simple offer to engage and build Return on Relationship.

Analytics

Information has exploded, between the type of information we keep stored in databases —such as past purchasing behavior or past flight behavior—and the types of insights gleaned from activities happening in real time. “Customer loyalty marketing is not really marketing to people in real time, but using events, happenings, behaviors that are happening in real-time in order to very quickly make decisions about what to do next,” Rosen explained.

Analytics are critical for taking these masses of real-time and stored (historical) data and identifying patterns, in order to determine what to do next.

“The other piece of analytics that is incredibly compelling is that it gives the creative marketer the ability to be more creative,” Rosen explained. “You don’t have to get it right. You just need to have a great idea that it testable. If you have a great idea, you can make a moderate investment and put it in front of a limited amount of consumers and test that; you can measure the impact it had on people.” Great analytics takes away the risk of failure, he noted. Again I will add that analytics can only get you so far, it is easy to interpret data to mean what you are looking to hear, so be sure to let judgement reign.

Powerful reporting helps communicate the value of the program across the organization, not just to senior management, but across other teams, logistics partners, creative partners, etc. Dashboards, reporting and success metrics have become incredibly powerful and are critical for customer loyalty management.

Rosen’s recommendations are designed to help marketers move beyond the traditional loyalty program/offers model, to a relationship-based, mutually rewarding customer loyalty marketing solution. So use the all-important data, but remember the value in the data is in deepening the relationship connection.

“The whole idea is, don’t overcomplicate things,” Rosen advised. “Create a simple program with a compelling hook—this will become your canvas for testing and refining these other amazing things. That doesn’t mean it’s so vanilla people won’t sign up. But once you have that permission-based relationship with your customers, you can really do anything if you’re a good marketer.”

How effective is your brand at real-time marketing, using current and historical insights to influence purchasing behavior at the right time, in the proper channel, and building true relationships at the same time? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Hear more from David on right-time marketing and reimagining loyalty in the webinar, Customer Loyalty Management: Marrying the Art & Science of Loyalty.

Read more by Ted on his blog, and follow him @tedrubin and @R_onR.

Finding the Holy Grail of Marketing

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

The remarkable amount of change in the consumer world is ushering in a new definition of loyalty. What have long been static programs of points and plastic cards are becoming dynamic, individualized and much, much more engaging.

The old way of simple ledgers and confusing redemption schemes was a fundamentally flawed proposition. Customers were able to accumulate points but struggled to keep track of and gain real value in return. Something had to change.

Enter Customer Loyalty Management

Customer Loyalty Management is the new, holistic approach to driving higher levels of loyalty to brands. It puts a focus on what have emerged as the four ‘pillars’ of loyalty:

  • Loyalty programs
  • Wider event streams
  • Marketer-driven relationship marketing
  • Test & learn

Each of these four is key to finding the ‘Holy Grail’ of marketing: creating ‘fans’—people who think of a brand first and represent a much higher lifetime value. But today’s technology combines social, mobile and analytics to create new ways to drive another layer atop the four pillars, including higher trust, greater insight and relevance, and recognition leading to virtuous cycles of increasing value.

These are lofty goals that would be impossible without the new approach in technology and strategy offered by Customer Loyalty Management.

Aligning the Tools and Techniques

As consumers’ buying patterns change, the tools and techniques of loyalty need to change alongside them. There are four specific areas where the tools and techniques align with the four pillars and matter the most for the new Customer Loyalty Management:

  • Social
  • Mobile
  • In-store
  • On-line

Each of these areas is impacted by those changing buying patterns, and there’s an opportunity for brands to avoid disruption and benefit from the shift. These points of personal and digital engagement are the new realities of letting consumers engage in ways that increase their experience and create true fans.

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The Widening Gap of Loyalty Programs

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Travel and other loyalty programs are going through challenging times. Programs that floated along for decades, blissfully counting up points based on spend, transactions, nights or miles are suddenly finding themselves in an increasingly mobile, connected world that allows for something more.

The problem isn’t that traditional loyalty programs haven’t answered the call. The real challenge arrives unexpectedly when smarter companies come up to speed quickly with modern platforms and programs that are more engaging and effective.

The North Face

Look no further than The North Face, where the VIPeak program rewrites the way customers are engaged around their passions and not just their purchases. The North Face knew that staying competitive in the changing landscape of business required taking a new look at the customer and what creates for them a more enjoyable and meaningful experience. This is ultimately the only way to create a greater lifetime customer value for the brand.

Who’s next?

Companies that understand this will change course, but it won’t be an easy thing to recognize. Existing loyalty programs are self-reinforcing and continue to deliver value to brands even as customers shift to more engaging experiences elsewhere. The temptation is to double down on existing programs with the theory that more effort will deliver more value—but it won’t.

As consumers experience programs like that of The North Face, the luster of simply earning points based on purchases goes away. New and innovative programs are opening the customers’ eyes and setting new expectations. Loyalty is the new field of competition and no longer a place where each brand matches the next step for step.

This means loyalty has become something much more dynamic than in the past. It has to evolve with the consumer and the competition. It stops being a hard-coded application, implemented and changed with teams of technology people, and becomes a platform that faces the business—flexible, nimble and cloud-based. It looks a lot like Loyalty Lab Reward.

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Better to Ask Permission Than to Beg Forgiveness

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission” used as an excuse to move forward without the official nod from the higher ups. While there are situations where that works well, marketing is increasingly not one of those scenarios.

As the Internet matures and its users become more sophisticated, asking permission becomes the way to open lines of communication to consumers. Skipping the permission step is an easy way to be ignored or even blocked by the intended audience.

There are those who would argue this point and say that unsolicited offers are still working well, but if you peel back the onion, you’ll see two clear facts: 1) the more often email marketers use their tools, the less effective those tools become, and, 2) email is in decline as an effective marketing tool. Email marketing simply doesn’t scale.

Asking permission

Fortunately, there is a way to ask permission that scales remarkably well: Loyalty programs. A well-executed loyalty program creates a relationship between the seller and buyer that allows for implicit mutual benefit: I will reward you for engaging more closely with you and in return, I will offer you a higher level of service, exclusivity and, in some cases, better pricing on the things you buy.

I say ‘some cases’ because it doesn’t have to be about better prices. We engage with a brand because we feel a level of affinity that doesn’t necessarily come from economic benefits. Each consumer is different and while some are motivated by discounts, others are drawn in by increased sense of worth, common goals, and even game mechanics, where achieving levels or benefits is the outcome of a competitive framework.

Measure and modify your program

What truly makes loyalty work is the ability to create, test and modify loyalty programs. Loyalty programs that improve constantly will increase consumer commitment, increase spend, and create a loyal fan that stays around and has a much higher lifetime value to the brand.

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Blurring of the Marketing/CRM Line

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

There is a significant blurring of the line between marketing and customer relationship management.  This blurring has enormous impact on the way we operate our businesses and engage with our customers.

We need to stop thinking about functions and start thinking about fans.

Traditional silos

Traditionally, marketing has been about defining market segments and delivering offers while CRM was about knowing the fine-grained details of your accounts.

Even though we call it CRM, it has been, for most companies, about the sales funnel more than customer relationships; leads go in, revenue comes out.  Marketing sat above that funnel.

Expanding roles

Marketing is expanding and is less about segmenting the potential customers you don’t know and much more about finding prospects to know and interact with as marketers, before they enter “the funnel”. CRM, meanwhile, is being used to continually interact with customers in new ways of cross selling and upselling that used to look like marketing.  Where does marketing end and CRM begin? It’s very blurry.

Technology/strategy breakthroughs in recent years and changing consumer patterns allow each end of the marketing-to-CRM spectrum to continue to widen even as the difference between them blurs. This, in a nutshell, creates friction between applications, databases, departments, business owners, platforms, and ultimately prevents cohesive management of the spectrum.

Conflict

It manifests as battles over budget, politics over positioning, and conflict over control. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it isn’t for companies that recognize the benefit of seeing this spectrum as turning customers into fans.

Turning customers into fans must be the over-arching goal of any 21st century company that wants to stay relevant, build trust, open lines of communication and find success despite turbulence and a constantly evolving customer. Are you ready?

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