Customer loyalty has a significant impact on retailers and brands’ bottom lines — increasing customer retention rates by 5 per cent and increasing profits by 25 to 95 per cent, according to research by Bain & Company.
Today, loyalty is a conscious consumer choice. Customers want more than points and discounts; they’re increasingly choosing to spend more with businesses they have an emotional connection to.
Because loyalty today is based on emotional connection and trust, businesses need to make loyalty an organisation-wide priority actively. This is what’s called loyalty-driven commerce. It’s an approach and mindset that will make customer loyalty a top priority for the entire C-suite and a way to future-proof an organisation’s commerce business.
Everyone has a stake in customer loyalty
Does your company want to become more customer-centric? If so, you’re going to have to shift your company thinking. In many businesses, the CMO is the classic ‘owner’ of customer loyalty. But actually, every member of the C-suite should care about, and commit to, a loyalty-driven approach.
After all, customer loyalty drives company finances which is the core focus of the CFO. Supply chain issues are one of the fastest ways to drive customers to your competitors – and supply chain is the COO’s realm.
Staff recruitment and training, notably for customer-facing roles such as store staff and customer service, has a huge effect on the customer experience and loyalty, which is another part of the COO’s remit.
The data-driven insights from loyalty programmes do more than boost customer lifetime value. They inform and future-proof business strategies. This means the CIO has a critical interest in loyalty. Any loyalty programme worth its salt will also utilise great tech and connect across consumer channels.
Ultimately, without customer loyalty, the CEO will be unable to meet their objectives.
Organisations are re-envisioning loyalty programmes
As the holiday shopping season quickly approaches, now is the time to re-envision loyalty programmes. Winning and well-architected loyalty programmes are essential when consumers and retailers struggle financially. A strategic loyalty programme design can incentivise customers to adopt “new normal” shopping behaviours such as ordering online and picking up in-store or curbside when shipping costs are high.
Additionally, stricter privacy laws and the moving away from third-party cookies necessitate retailers to shift and think creatively about ways to collect first- and zero-party data. Owning your customer data is crucial now that third-party cookie data is scarce. Google has said it will stop supporting third-party cookies from 2023, which means brands need new data sources.
Loyalty programmes can serve an important objective of collecting customer data and preferences that can then be used to personalise offers throughout the year ahead.
This zero-party data is especially valuable for retailers as it indicates customers are most interested in forming a relationship with the brand since the information is given voluntarily.
The three levels of customer loyalty
It’s important to understand what “loyalty” actually means because it can be different for different companies, and the definition has evolved.
Typically, we talk about three levels of loyalty – traditional, membership, and natural loyalty. Each approach has been proven to work and deliver a significant return on investment. Each business needs to decide on the right approach based on its situation and appetite for change.
Let’s dig a little deeper–
Traditional Loyalty: A traditional loyalty programme is a cost-effective way for companies to understand customer behaviour, collect data and personalise the shopping experience. It gives you real data about how customers shop with you, which is particularly valuable now that many shoppers are moving between channels in their shopping journeys.
A major benefit of traditional loyalty schemes delivered digitally is that they keep customers engaged with brand apps. Statista says app retention rates hover at about 38 per cent. Anything brands can do to boost app engagement will help the company overall.
Membership Loyalty: While traditional loyalty programmes are great, customers are becoming more discerning, and an enhanced membership programme could help bring customers closer to your brand.
Many different customer actions benefit your brand beyond buying – for example, leaving a review, sharing a selfie, following your brand on social media, exploring more of your store, attending an event and lots more.
Membership-based programmes can reward all of these behaviours. Typically, rewards translate into perks – enhanced, exclusive or VIP brand experiences – rather than simple discounts. Membership-based programmes don’t just bring customers closer to your brand. They keep them interested, too.
These rewards are often free for the brand to deliver, such as first access to the sale or invite to special focus groups, but these perks hold value for customers. This encourages them to spend more time with the brand at every turn, both in earning and redeeming rewards, building an authentic and informed relationship that will ultimately translate into improved advocacy and sales.
Brands must be sure they keep up to date with customer needs so that they offer relevant rewards and services at all times. The most common reasons customers leave loyalty programmes are outdated rewards and wrongly used member data in communication.
Natural Loyalty: Natural loyalty is possibly the easiest thing for a brand to commit to – who doesn’t want to be a great brand? Of course, it’s also the hardest to execute, as it’s an all-encompassing, never-ending journey. However, it does lead to the best results. It’s not uncommon for brands to lower their operating costs whilst improving their overall customer experience.
Ultimately, natural loyalty is about meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Some even argue that “loyalty is the new brand”, meaning that all the efforts you put into the customer promise, offering and delivery to build that customer loyalty are the foundation for a solid brand.
Natural loyalty may be the most desirable, but it’s easier to obtain if you have traditional or membership-based programmes that gather data. This can generate insights to help you understand what customers want so that you can stay relevant in communication and offerings, which will help you build natural loyalty.
Building a customer loyalty business mindset
Establishing an organisation-wide customer experience-first mindset will ensure you place customer loyalty at the forefront. You will then be able to prioritise activities that remove friction in the buying journey and create opportunities for dialogues with the customer – both crucial elements to building solid relationships. In today’s modern commerce world of fierce competition and consumer volatility, customer loyalty can’t be treated as a project or initiative; it must be part of your business DNA and a key driver of all business decisions.
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