What does loyalty look like today?

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Customer loyalty

Loyalty is far from dead. But the mechanics of customer loyalty schemes designed to promote and reward frequency have to evolve and meet digitally empowered consumer expectations of value and relevance.

Regardless of the length of the customer lifecycle, wanting to be someone’s go-to grocer for daily staples like bread and milk, or a person’s favourite fashion brand for their annual wardrobe update is still worthwhile. The difference today is the means of recognising and rewarding customers is going digital.

Not only does this represent a fantastic opportunity to give them more of what they want, it’s actually what consumers want too. Price has always had the greatest influence on choice of retailer or brand. But it is closely followed by relevant and timely promotions or discounts, and loyalty schemes or other rewards that recognise continued custom.

So, if consumers aren’t looking for a bargain, they are looking for a better deal or level of service or recognition from retailers and brands they frequent than if they were a cash-paying, one-time customer.

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Digital has had a profound impact on the dynamics of engagement between businesses and consumers. Mass media broadcast communications just don’t resonate delivered via personal devices or generic engagement. Today’s ‘always-on’ culture has made consumers keenly aware of their power to influence their own shopping journeys, using digital tools for search, browsing and discovery, through to ordering, payment and fulfilment.

Any digitally-enabled interaction with a retailer or brand creates a “give to get” dynamic, where the better deal or service the customer expects is proportional to the amount of information they may choose to share. So much so, that analogue loyalty engagement, which still relies on paper coupons and vouchers, cards that you stamp or swipe simply won’t cut it for those customers who already do most of their shopping online.

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It is also why so many businesses are embracing mobile to bridge the gap in visibility between the online journeys of their best customers and what they do offline, during a visit to your store, bar or restaurant.

Mobile has the power to act as the glue between different digital customer touchpoints, irrespective of whether they are accessed sat at home on a sofa, or while using secure public W-Fi in the store.

For those seeking to eliminate friction, the ability to browse online, and use Google or an app to navigate their way to and around a store can provide enough incentive to also collect points or redeem a discount code. Interaction with any one of these touchpoints represents an opportunity to engage, acquire and convert a customer. Lasting customer retention and loyalty requires a range of useful and relevant offers and services.

So, digital and mobile services like order ahead, scan and pay and click & collect are booming in popularity. They provide the necessary online-to-offline utility to build the necessary frequency to make loyalty pay.

Do this by joining up a ‘single customer view’ from data customers share across touchpoints to tailor offers and engagement according to preferences, lifecycle stage and value, and channel, location and time of day.

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Originally published Oct 23, 2019, updated Jan 16, 2023

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