It is never the need for brands to develop and strengthen personalized loyalty programs that is disputed, but the most effective way to enact these programs and engage with customers. So when we consider customers’ new willingness to hand over personal information in order to benefit from exclusivity and personalized rewards, the next advancement seems almost obvious: encourage customers to personalize their own loyalty programs. This natural step will strengthen the relationship between customers and their favorite brands and even allow that relationship to evolve with their personal lives.
In the loyalty program’s current existence, customers opt-in to receive VIP offers, invitations to special events, and a unique experience targeted directly to them. Brands, in turn, not only reap the benefits of more loyal customers but also harvest a wealth of data that gives them more information about their customers’ patterns, needs, and desires, all of which give brands the opportunity to target their customers in an even more personal, and sometimes even intimate, way.
As technology has evolved, loyalty programs have been translated to new devices and it is agreed upon that loyalty programs must be adopted for mobile use. Digby’s VP of Marketing, Dan Lowden, describes the app as “the new loyalty card that is location-sensitive, able to receive special offers and enable commerce.” Mobile enhances loyalty programs’ innate ability to reach customers with relevant, custom content in “real-time.” But in evolution, pre-existing structures tend to first be “translated,” not created, and there is always a hiccup in translation. As we evolve, we must continue to challenge ourselves to create new ways of delivering content and not simply continue upon the same paths.
If we take a look at customers’ opinions on the constant stream of information—from social media, email, phone calls, and text messages—it is unsurprising that some customers feel intruded upon. It is only natural to fear that this intrusion could worsen as loyalty programs find their way to mobile, especially when we consider the increased intimacy users have with their smartphones. So too do marketers worry about their customers feeling misunderstood, an experience Doug Wick describes: “Most of us have encountered the downside of segmentation marketing at some point. I call it ‘Amazon confusion.’ I’ve bought so many gifts for so many different people in my family over time on Amazon that I have now rendered their recommendation engine mostly useless. It doesn’t know who I am.”
Fortunately, costumers have become more likely to give personal information to brands in order to receive a better shopping experience, a trend analyzed by Holly Krenek in “The New Consumer: Hyper-Connected, Tech Savvy, and Ready to Dish & Tell.” But what if brands allowed us to customize the loyalty program ourselves? A more personal relationship could develop that is typically reserved for local businesses, where a customer can walk into a store, be welcomed by name and recommended a brand-new product. Even better, the combination of customers handing over information and mobile devices calculating marketable figures allows customers the opportunity to not have to ask for what we want, but to have their needs and desires intuited by their favorite brands.
Consider it this way: a department store that sells multiple clothing lines allows you to inform them of your favorites, giving you relevant offers and suggesting other brands based on your preference. Or a home good store allows you to share big moments in your life, like your upcoming wedding or the arrival of a baby into your family. By passing this information to the brand willingly, customers remove the eerie feeling of surprise they get when they receive a slew of offers for newborns—whether or not they are pregnant. Instead, by excitedly sharing the news with the brand, brands have a chance to congratulate their customers in an even more personal way. After all, as Krenek puts it, “the more personalized engagement between a brand and consumer, the more long-term commitment the consumer will have to be a shopper of the brand.”
We all know that feeling of joy when Pandora intuits our tastes and introduces us to a band we love. But with brands, we have the opportunity to not only experience this excitement, this surprise, but to also feel assurance in a relationship that we’ve helped build. To feel comfort in a brand’s ability to know who we are: our locations, our relationships, our personalities, our life experiences.
Kirsty Hughan is Digby‘s Marketing Manager and as such is excited by the opportunity mobile provides to finally allow for a 1:1 marketing strategy for brands. To stay in touch, you can find her on Digby’s Facebook, Twitter or the Digby Blog.