Mobile Loyalty is the Next Battleground

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Could it be that retailers are finally figuring out how to sell through mobile devices? Since the dawn of the smartphone, the world has predicted that mobile technology would change the retail landscape. Instead, there’s been very slow progress and an unfulfilled prediction regarding mobile loyalty.

Mobile loyalty programs battling

But we’re turning a corner for mobile loyalty, and reports are starting to show that consumers are warming up to mobile commerce. It could be pushed along by the arrival of Google Wallet, Square, or the growing availability of NFC-enabled smartphones. It could also stem from consumers becoming more comfortable with shopping on a device, or an improved mobile shopping experience. Regardless, the opportunity to sell to customers wherever and whenever is arriving. There will be a scramble to attract the mobile customer, but in the end, the battle will be fought to retain them through new kinds of mobile loyalty programs.

But this won’t happen through the loyalty programs that are in place today. The typical plastic card points and rewards program we’re familiar with is undifferentiated and, more importantly, isn’t ready for the complex, real-time world of mobile commerce. Mobile commerce is about context and speed — two critical drivers worth getting into.

Context requires a mobile loyalty platform that tracks a customer’s history with the brand, but also has the ability to understand the customer’s environment where a mobile device is being used. That context can include location, weather, and other factors that provide an indication of what it takes to both get a customer to raise their hand for loyalty and then buy. Add to that the need to know supply chain information, and mobile loyalty becomes an opportunity to match brand supply and strategy to mobile consumer demand in the moments that count.

Speed requires a program to deliver contextual engagement in the heat of the moment, whether that is an offer, information, or anything else the customer expects. Keep in mind that customers using mobile devices aren’t likely to be sitting at a desk, but more likely to be on the go (using their device for short bursts) when a retailer has far less time to influence a potential buyer. Studies show that a mobile decision is made in half the time and mobile loyalty platforms need to match that expectation.

Mobile commerce will explode for a couple simple reasons: It serves consumers and allows brands to influence buying decisions as close to the point of purchase as possible, or whenever they determine it to be the right time. This offers an undeniable advantage to any brand embracing the mobile loyalty commerce opportunity that lies before us. Winning that battle requires more than just mobile commerce technology: There remains an age-old need to acquire customers and keep them regardless of the latest trends…a whole new plan for loyalty. Are you ready?

Transactional Loyalty Programs Breed Transactional Members

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Let’s face it: The vast majority of today’s customer loyalty programs involve earning points through purchases in what can best be called transactional rewards. From a member perspective, these loyalty programs are undifferentiated and become just a kaleidoscope of plastic cards which offer similar savings or other rewards.

These loyalty programs persist because they are simple and generally effective for driving revenue. But there’s a problem: the highly transactional, commodity-driven behavior this breeds in loyalty program members. Without the reward, customers will quickly go elsewhere, making the program only as strong as the investment the brand continues to pour into it. There’s nothing self-sustaining about it.

Genuine connection

If we want customers to be genuinely connected with our brand, we need to move them beyond a point where they are “coin operated,” and instead to a place where they feel invested in the brand and its success. Invested customers are champions, spreading the word “for free” as advocates and having a far higher lifetime value for a brand (learn more in this webinar on the new customer loyalty management).

If transactional behavior isn’t enough of a challenge, the rapid adoption of consumer mobile and social media leaves brands with the need for new ways to reach loyalty program members at the right place and time. Getting to a place where the consumer’s context is known and actionable means having the technical infrastructure to sense and respond to dynamic situations. Most companies aren’t used to such a loyalty program, but they can implement them similarly to TIBCO’s newest program, Turning Customers Into Fans.

The North Face gets it

It’s unreasonable to expect less than real engagement, so what is your company doing to move beyond transactional loyalty programs? Brands are starting to discover ways to engage deeper than the transaction and to create loyalty that isn’t based on constant incentives. Take The North Face for example, where their VIPeak Rewards program offers PeakPoints for participating in local sports events. By rewarding participation in a healthy lifestyle, The North Face has a symbiotic relationship with their customers, which goes far beyond purchase tallying.

The same opportunity is available to any brand that makes the decision to go beyond transactional loyalty programs. Without it, you’re more than likely reinforcing the wrong behavior in your customers and not getting the loyalty you desire.

Meeting Your Customers Where They Are, Anytime, Anywhere

by Chris Taylor 

Many made predictions as 2013 kicked off, but one caught my eye. Forrester’s Nigel Fenwick called this new year the Year of Digital Business. As Fenwick points out, there has been a communications evolution that has many retailers scrambling to find ways to get closer to their customers with innovative new real-time marketing technology to beat the competition. Continue reading

Social Loyalty: How To Do It Right

“Going social” no longer seems like an optional component of the loyalty marketer’s arsenal. Whether you’re engaging with your customers on Facebook, Tweeting out exclusive offers to your followers, or simply promoting campaigns, sales, and products via an opt-in email list, the social realm of loyalty marketing is steadily growing, and continually proving its worth with excellent results.

It’s clear that social is here to stay, and if you haven’t jumped on board, now, more than ever is the time. But the need to implement social in your loyalty program doesn’t mean you should take a one-size-fits-all approach. The ins and outs of social marketing are as delicate and subtle as any other branch of a finely tuned loyalty program — it’s more than email blasting at will, or signing up for a Facebook page and going after as many followers as possible.

We addressed this issue at length in a recent whitepaper with the aim of showcasing the best ways to address your social loyalty needs. In addition to addressing the overridingwhy (traditional media is in a tailspin of a decline, while web, mobile, and social are on a fast-moving upward trajectory), we spotlighted ways to move beyond the obvious means of interacting with your customers across social networks.

Facebook may be one of the most powerful tools to consider when implementing a social side to your loyalty program. The go to approach is to get customers to like a brand, like a campaign, or like a product. But one of the best things about Facebook and loyalty is the ample room it leaves to get creative. We’ve created Facebook campaigns for clients like Nine West with the base strategy of getting customers to like a page or fill out a short questionnaire with points, but further built this out by encouraging customers to really interact on Facebook, fostering a sense of community.

Another valuable Facebook tactic is building a brand program around an app that allows customers to interact with their friends and families while simultaneously promoting the brand, like Kraft’s Mac N Cheese app. By having an opt-in request come from someone you know, you not only build the connection to existing customers, you reach a whole new group of potential buyers.

While Twitter is a giant in the social sphere, and one that should not be ignored, the limited scope of its content makes it less of a fit than Facebook for really exercising creativity in your social loyalty. Still, it’s an important tool for alerting customers of flash sales, presenting exclusive deals and offers, and fostering a casual, back-and-forth level of engagement around certain products, keywords, or events.

Curious to learn more about the TIBCO Loyalty Lab approach to social? Read more about our thoughts and examples of some of our great clients at www.loyaltylab.com/clients

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When the Big Event Isn’t a Sale

by Chris Taylor

We’re heading into Columbus Day Weekend in the U.S., giving us a great chance to look at the fundamental changes that technology is bringing to retail. The new game is event-based marketing.

Big Sale!

A quick look at the LA Times shows who’s in the old game. The pages are full of merchants using discounting as impersonal enticements to come out shopping. The merchants want to move overstocked merchandise, maybe, but more likely are hoping people will buy non-sale items while in the store.

But this isn’t an efficient model. The stores have to re-compete each time for the same customer using ever louder advertisements on the web, emails, print and broadcast media. This is a dead-end game and a broken process but the standard model for those who haven’t invested in loyalty programs. And as a recent article pointed out, loyalty programs are about much more than discounts.

Loyalty’s real purpose

Preceding event-based marketing was trigger-based marketing, and it would be worthwhile to look at what that means: Rather than choose a date like Columbus Day and discount of x%, trigger-based marketing involves really knowing and understanding the actual customer, not just their demographic group. Knowledge of the individual allows key events in the customer and business lifecycle to combine with measurable changes in customer behavior, ‘pulling the trigger’ on specific marketing activities.

Types of triggers include transactional (a purchase or question), recurring (birthdays and other life events), behavioral (initiating new accounts, changes in spending levels), and threshold (amount spent, limits exceeded). Each of these has implications for retention, up-sell and cross-sell that drive profitability.

These triggers are monitored in technology systems that continuously watch for predetermined patterns and enable delivery of marketing activities with the best timing and highest relevancy. Getting those two things right involves doing things, not after the ideal moment has passed. It means reacting to the customer when their actions and business conditions indicate, not before and not after.

But we can do even better.

Anywhere, everywhere

We’re in an omni-channel world…social, , mobile, web, physical location (0nline, in or near store) and already moving beyond trigger-based marketing to event-based. Real-time, mobile and event processing technology takes the trigger idea much further. For example, a customer visits a website, puts things in their shopping cart but then abandons it. If they are within a distance of a local store, they receive an offer delivered to their phone for the things left in the cart. As you can imagine, the response rates are much higher when the system works one-to-one and not one-to-many.

While these sophisticated systems have a cost, it involves up front investment that has recurring return, unlike the traditional advertising model. Where graphic art and a holiday once dominated, information flow, predictive analytics, cross-channel integration and process automation are the new tools of effective retail. Where we once shouted, we now understand, anticipate and act.

Find more by Chris Taylor at his blog, www.successfulworkplace.com and @successfulwork.

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Customer Testimonial: U.S. Cellular’s Choice Program Works With Me, Not Against Me

It all started with a ski trip. I was up at Heavenly in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with a group of friends, getting set for a day of shredding the slopes and carving out some powder. It was snowing that day, seemingly harmless little flurries. Then we boarded the chairlift up the mountain — the flurries turned thick, coating the strands of my hair until it turned icy.

mobile

“No way other way to get down!” we said cheerily. I patted my phone, safely zipped (or so I thought) in the pocket of my coat. Pointing my skis downhill, I sped off — and promptly face-planted in a swiftly growing snowdrift. Spitting the snow from my mouth and wiping off my goggles, I tucked down the mountain, already anticipating a hot beverage.

It was there, over a much-deserved winter drink, that I realized that my phone was gone. My zipped pocket sat tauntingly half-open. “Ugh,” I thought. “Here comes another two-year contract.”

I was spot-on with that prediction. My provider at the time said that, in order to get a new phone on my current plan, I would have to sign on for another two years. Otherwise, I would have to pay an exorbitant fee to break the contract. I’d been planning on doing this as soon as my current contract had run out — until my ill-fated ski trip and my sudden need for a new phone. What’s more, I had been anticipating upgrading to a phone that was being released in about a month — this forced me to settle for the same model I had lost.

That’s where the providers get you. They know you need your phone, and they know you need it now. I sucked it up that time, but as soon as that contract ran out, I left my provider and moved on to U.S. Cellular. I’d read about the launch of their Belief Project, that allowed users to break free from the two-year contract system after signing once. Once! That’s all that was needed to prove that I was a loyal customer. My old provider had forced that new contract on me after I had been a customer for years.

U.S. Cellular makes me feel like they actually value my business; it’s a nice change from feeling forced to stay. I earn points through the Belief Project, and even used them to update to a cool, new smartphone shortly after it was released. I had a particularly heavy texting month recently, and used points to soften the overage charge. Thanks to the Belief Project, I finally feel like I have a mobile provider who’s working with me, not against me.

Oh, and my next ski trip? I’m putting my phone on the inner pocket of my jacket. The snowdrifts won’t have me beat, this time.

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U.S. Cellular’s Belief Project — Making Us Believers in Mobile Loyalty

When it comes to loyalty programs, it seems like a no-brainer that a mobile provider would want to reward its loyal customers. Because these days, it’s basically a given that everyone has a cell phone. And in the U.S., going the pay-as-you-go route is a rarity. We have family plans, two-year contracts, and obligations to stick around if we want to upgrade to the coolest new smartphone — at least, if we want to avoid massive contract-breaking fees.

So it’s hard to believe that U.S. Cellular’s Belief Project, a rewards program that actually benefits its loyal customers, is just two years old. And beyond that, the Belief Project really was the first of its kind.

The Belief Project’s components still feel fresh. Customers are required to sign one two-year contract — once. After that, they are free to switch to paying by the month, allowing them to terminate their contract should something change.

What’s more, switching to the month-by-month option doesn’t prevent members from accessing the rewards that U.S. Cellular has to offer. Actually, just by opting in to the Belief Project, you automatically earn points. The longer you are a member, the more points you earn; you’re even gifted points for your birthday.

And these points are actual valuable entities, something any customer stuck in a frustrating mobile plan can appreciate. You can use your Belief-earned points to add a line to your plan for free; to buy fun ringtones and ringback radio subscriptions; to set up a voicemail-to-text service.

Most significantly, however, you can apply points towards overage forgiveness, and to upgrade to a new phone whenever you’d like. Gone is the frustration of being stuck with your old-school Blackberry, or even a (gasp) flip phone for an extended period of time because you’re forced to wait out your two-year contract. And, your phone upgrade doesn’t necessitate a new contract.

It’s refreshing that U.S. Cellular has made serious efforts to earn its customer’s loyalty over these past two years — rather than forcing them to remain with them by making contracts a necessity. For an industry such as mobile, this kind of consideration and appreciation for loyalty is all the more stand-out — if everyone has a cell phone, many people will end up suckered in to a plan that is not beneficial to, or conscientious of, their needs.

At least, customers not with U.S. Cellular. Their Belief Project has made believers out of us, and has set the standard for loyalty in the mobile space.

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