Loyalty programs have come a long way from the days when companies merely rewarded customers for their purchases. They have become a cornerstone of companies’ capacity to build a base of dedicated brand ambassadors. According to recent statistics from Colloquy, 76% of customers see loyalty programs as an important part of their relationship with brands.
This is where harnessing the power of social media becomes pivotal. Adapting your loyalty program to reward customers for 360⁰ social engagement is the key to building lasting relationships with customers. And enduring customer relationships are crucial to companies not just surviving but thriving in the cut-throat world of eCommerce.
In order to gain insight into the latest trends governing loyalty programs, ShopSocially has been connecting with though leaders in the customer service field. To this end, we set out to interview Shep Hyken, a customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. Shep is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession.
According to Bain & Company, customers who engage with companies via social media feel more connected to them and tend to spend an average of 20–40% more with them. This brings us to our first question for Shep.
Q: Is social loyalty the future of loyalty programs for eCommerce?
Shep: Social media gives the customer a voice, amplified like never before. Asking customers to share their comments (both good and bad) suggests that the company wants to deliver an experience that earns them accolades. It raises the bar for employees and benefits the customer. The visibility of interactions is a showcase opportunity for the company. Rewards for leaving comments are an incentive for the customer, but I caution that there needs to be a balance between rewarding loyalty and “bribing” customers for their loyalty.
It is evident that advancement in technology and the rising power of social media are shaping the trends in new age loyalty programs. Tapping on the upcoming trends will aid marketers preserve customer loyalty and drive positive ROI in 2016. Let’s look at some of the imminent trends growing in the customer loyalty arena shared by Shep.
Q: What do you see as the top 3 customer loyalty trends for 2016?
Shep: Many trends occur as a result of growing online/social media opportunities.
• The number one trend I see is the use of analytics. Companies will have better tracking of customers’ activities due to better systems. It’s far beyond a “punch card” for each visit or points rewarded for purchases. Companies will be able to track a large amount of data empowering them to make decisions based on trends in demographics, regions and even individuals.
• Technology enables the customization of loyalty programs. Companies will do more than give points. They will give perks and rewards that are tied to their customers’ behaviors; buying history and more. Generic rewards can become customized rewards.
• Loyal customers will allow their favorite places of business to have more information about them. When customers trust the company, they will give the company personal information – including a cell phone number – and allow the company to communicate via that very personal and valuable channel. Customers may also allow the company to track in-store and buying behaviors. The trick is for companies to not abuse these relationships with irrelevant promotions that will prompt customers to want to end the relationship.
It is crucial for marketers to take an educated guess as to where to focus their marketing resources; how to identify effective strategies; track customer purchasing trends and much more so they can adapt their loyalty programs accordingly and maximize ROI. Advanced analytics tools embedded into socially driven loyalty programs can pinpoint the precise scenario in front of marketers for quantification of ROI and easy decision making. In the next question, Shep shares his views on quantification of ROI for socially driven loyalty programs.
Q. Can social media be integrated into loyalty programs for quantification of ROI?
Shep: The nice thing about social media for loyalty programs – or many/any other programs – is that there are analytics. It’s easy to collect data and quantify trends and ROI.
In the increasingly competitive world of eCommerce, the value of loyalty programs should not be underestimated. Customers are looking to engage with their favorite companies; by giving them the opportunity to do so via a variety of channels, including social media, and rewarding them accordingly, companies can realize the full potential of their loyalty programs to maximize their market share and secure devoted brand ambassadors.