Loyalty is an emotional state, not a transactional one.
For this reason, growing customer loyalty has to involve more than offering sales that are exclusive to loyalty members. Measuring customer loyalty has to take into account more than revenue increases.
When businesses nurture their customers' loyalty, those customers develop positive feelings. Brand commitment becomes the result of having successfully cultivated a positive emotional state, which leads to increased visits and spending, brand affinity and advocacy, and overall customer retention.
In 2021, growing customer loyalty will require that you, as a business owner, provide exceptional customer experience (CX) that offers the latest 21st Century technologies. There are emerging challenges when it comes to staying technologically innovative, of course, but this article will examine what's on the digital horizon for CX and how you can keep your loyalty program current.
A.I. & PERSONALIZATION
The biggest benefit retailers experience after implementing a customer loyalty rewards program is the heightened personalization of marketing store promotions to loyalty members. Without a rewards program in place, retailers can only guess which customers will be interested in which sale. The trial and error process of honing in on a sales strategy that will lead to increased revenue can be time consuming, frustrating, and potentially unsuccessful. However, when a loyalty program is used, collecting customer data becomes automated, organized, and easily leveraged into targeted promotions that yield an impressive engagement rate. Members appreciate the focused personalization that comes with loyalty program enrollment.
The technology used to collect customer data for the purposes of launching targeted promotional campaigns will continue to develop as 2021 unfolds, and as it does, we will see loyalty program integration with A.I. (artificial intelligence). The advances in A.I. that can be expected will bring more complex personalization to all manners of digital marketing, including rewards programs. Machine-learning A.I. technology has the potential to deliver rewards program personalization that expands into the areas of customer service, direct communications, customer experiences, and of course focused promotional campaigns.
Machine-learning A.I. could very well revolutionize not only loyalty program digital marketing, but also in-store CX, phone and web communications, and customer service contact center operations, ultimately reducing the costs of human personnel without compromising the quality of the retailer's business.
As collecting detailed customer data remains a critical, ever-evolving effort for loyalty rewards programs, privacy concerns have begun to emerge recently that will complicate the legalities and protocols of collecting valuable customer data. Consumers have become mindful, and also downright skeptical, of where their data is being sold and by whom. Their concerns have reached government legislatures and consumer privacy rights have been debated in senate hearings as a result. While these legislative hearings have mainly targeted tech giants and big tech social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, all businesses that use technology to mine for consumer data need to be aware of the implications.
A reputable loyalty rewards program will include a comprehensive Terms of Services policy that should protect the retailer from liability, however smart retailers should be equally concerned with their loyalty members' comfort level and emotional security. In order to safely shield your members' privacy and remain ethical in your uses of their customer data, we recommend that you aim to capture zero-party and first-party data, nothing else, and never sell the data you've collected to third parties. Zero-party data is strictly the information that results from customers intentionally and proactively sharing their data with you. First-party data refers to the information that your loyalty program collects as the loyalty members interact with the program.
Ethical collection of customer and loyalty member data is more than possible when you use a well-built loyalty platform, such as Loyal~n~Save, with data solicitation strategies that include surveys, quizzes, contests, gamification, and social media engagement via an integrated loyalty app.
CX & MEMBER EXPECTATIONS
As technologies across all digital platforms, apps, and websites evolve, customer expectations increase. Consumers have access to just about every product, service, convenience, and experience with the touch of their smartphones. Speed and simplicity are the leading characteristics of quality, as far as consumers are concerned, and as they navigate from one app to the next, they are constantly comparing CX between competitors. Your customer loyalty rewards program is fundamentally different than Uber, for example, but that doesn't mean your members aren't judging your rewards program with Uber's speed, simplicity, and convenience in mind. Consumers have come to expect a lot from technology because technology thus far has seriously delivered. Your loyalty program needs built-in digital capabilities that keep up, and with 21st Century developments in the loyalty sphere, it can.
What are your loyalty members' "pains" and "passions"? Identifying your members' "pain points", otherwise known as the problems they experience that your company can solve with its products and services, is the first step you must take if you want your business to meet and exceed their expectations. Research the shortcomings of your competitors and develop strategies to offer consumers improvements in those trouble areas. For instance, if a competitor fails to accurately predict shipment delivery dates, how can you offer reliable shipping information?
Use your customer loyalty rewards program platform to find out who your customers are, what they care about, their complaints with other retailers, and how you can improve your operations. Once you understand what to improve, you can utilize loyalty program technology and A.I. personalization to impress your members.
GAMES & GAMIFICATION
Incorporating a gamification element into the process of earning and redeeming loyalty points is still relatively new, which indicates it will remain a rapidly developing area. Gamifying your rewards program to promote member engagement is only possible when the program includes a digital app, or at the very least, a digital platform. Technology in this space is diversifying as well, and advanced loyalty apps now come with actual games. This isn't to be confused with the gamification that encourages members to shop deals, earn points, and burn points.
Members perceive gamified promotional campaigns as the program's effort to get them to spend money in a fun, interactive way, which positively contributes to their overall CX. When a loyalty program offers straightforward games that can be played in-app for sheer entertainment, the CX expands and the retailer's brand becomes more valuable in the members' eyes. Loyalty program gamification and innovative games will rely on technological app developments, as well as emerging trends. Smart retailers have carefully chosen their loyalty program providers with this developing area in mind.
When your loyalty program provider is committed to following trends, developing software according to ever-advancing technology, and offering you and your customers more and more sophisticated gamification, games, and solutions, you will save yourself time and money, and experience a high ROI.
TOUCH-FREE & CONVENIENCE
This time last year, touch-screen technology was on the rise and highly sought after by retailers seeking to offer their customers the latest and greatest. Today, the objective to supply consumer convenience with in-store touch-screen technology has completely reversed course. The worldwide response to COVID-19 has prompted a sudden effort to make day-to-day life as "touch-free" as possible. Luckily, smartphone devices have provided an ideal foundation to touch-free innovations. Retailers who transpose their in-store touch-screen services into mobile apps for customers to download and use will stay ahead of the curve and, even better, offer superior convenience to consumers.
Loyalty programs will play a huge role in providing touch-free convenience. By integrating forward-thinking technologies within their loyalty program apps, retailers can go beyond the convenience of touch-free payment solutions and A.I. personalization. They can deliver unique options to enhance the stay-at-home, shop-from-home experience that could soon dip into the virtual reality space.
While virtual reality devices might not be here, yet, they are certainly on the horizon, and your loyalty program provider should already be considering future technologies that will harness this possibility, so that you don't have to.
When a retailer uses a rewards program to market exclusive deals to their loyal customer base, an exchange of monetary currency ensues as soon as loyalty members begin to engage. Every discount has a real-world value to both the retailer and the customer. Likewise, redeemed points and the transactions that lead to them all have dollar-and-cents costs and savings. As you look forward to the technological advances of 2021, there's no getting around developing innovations in the national and worldwide currency systems and their ever-shifting evolution towards the purely-digital.
Cryptocurrency is on the rise. While ten years ago, the notion of buying "Bitcoin" might have sounded like a risky financial move, if not a presumed waste of money, today Bitcoin and other blockchain-based cryptocurrencies are considered the safest investment available. This is due in part to the growing instability of the dollar and other currencies that are no longer backed by gold as they once had been. Blockchain cryptocurrency has also been established as easy to trace and difficult to steal, making it an ideal currency. Though retailers would be wise to proceed with a measured degree of caution if they're currently aiming to make a full-blown currency switch, incorporating cryptocurrency integration into their customer loyalty rewards programs as an option can only benefit their business.
Merging a tap-and-earn digital blockchain wallet option that includes cryptocurrency into your retail rewards app will keep you at the forefront of 21st Century technology.
LOYALTY WRAP UP
Focus on building brand loyalty, not just customer loyalty, and always keep the big picture in mind when investing in technologies to enhance CX. As we laid out in this article, a positive customer experience will be the result of customer satisfaction, and the best way to ensure your loyalty members are satisfied is to create personalization and convenience.
Loyal~n~Save is committed to researching the latest digital technologies. Our team of loyalty strategists and tech development experts strive to invent high-tech solutions that integrate easily to serve our clients' digital marketing needs and engage their loyalty members. As we look towards the future, we are already developing loyalty rewards program features and mobile app cryptocurrency options to meet the ever-evolving needs of consumers with the goal of supporting our clients throughout 2021 and beyond.
For a peek at what's coming from Loyal~n~Save in the near and distant future, here's a short list of features we're most excited about.
- Teams--Though our loyalty program currently includes team modules where users can create their own team and earn rewards tokens, it will soon be fully implemented in our mobile app and on our website.
- Microservices--We're restructuring our architectural level to make our loyalty program based on microservices, the most major design feature of which will associate each module with a separate service.
- Gaming--Soon our platform will include a virtual arcade gaming zone where loyalty members can play games, earn "gems", and convert those gems into rewards tokens to be redeemed in-store and at the swag shop.
- Games--Aiming to fulfill consumer enjoyment, we have shortlisted six games that retailers can subscribe to and offer their loyalty members. These fun, highly-advanced games come with built-in rewards structures that will take the guess-work out of retailers having to devise their own rewards schemes.
- Cryptocurrency--We will soon offer a tap & earn blockchain wallet system as well as an ICO blockchain coin offering. This two-part endeavor will provide an online digital wallet to loyalty members where blockchain-based currency can be held and spent. We are also developing crypto coins and crypto tokens so that loyalty members can easily convert rewards.
Our new features won't stop there, so be sure to keep up with the Loyal~n~Save blog if you want to be the first to know when new technologies and features are available. Have questions about where our loyalty rewards program can take your business in 2021? Contact Us anytime, we would love to help you take your retail store to the next level. And to all, we say, Happy New Year!
This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.