There is a myriad of opportunities and challenges for loyalty marketers today, yet one of those that falls into the opportunity basket revolves around brand identity and customer loyalty.

Loyalty360 talked to Ruben Guallar, Director, Strategic Sourcing & Fulfillment, LoyaltyEdge, about this and other issues connected to customer loyalty.

What are the biggest opportunities/challenges for brands and marketers today? If you could recommend one thing to a client (or prospective client), what would it be?

Guallar: An area with great opportunity concerns addressing the linkage between brand identity and customer loyalty. Numerous studies have shown the positive correlation between the two, which is important to building strong brands, but there is still much work to be done. Marketers should continuously refer back to the brand’s identity, voice, and personality when creating customer messages to gain trust and create sustainable long-lasting customer relationships.

Can you define what the phrase “customer journey” means to you? What does it mean to brands? And how do you see it changing?

Guallar: One way to define the “customer journey”, and what it means to brands, is to understand the meaning of “ecosystems”. According to Wikipedia, “an ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water, and mineral soil), interacting as a system”.

For a brand, the customer journey can be defined by the interactions between its customers (living organisms) and the brands’ products and services (nonliving components) in a way that fits with the brand promise and identity (actions and emotions). Like the evolution of natural ecosystems, the dynamics of the customer journey are continuously changing. Successful brands look at their customer journey developing only products and services that can coexist instead of looking for the “next best thing” that has no way of surviving in the community.

We continue to hear about brands that are looking to create alignment between their customer loyalty efforts and the brand promise. Should all brands try to become the next “Apple” or “Amazon?” Or is it more realistic and/or beneficial for brands to understand their own unique brand identity, and then define objectives, process, and programs that align with that unique identity?   

Guallar: Brands like Apple or Amazon have successfully created a strong bond between their brand promise and their customers, setting benchmarks for others to follow. That being said, it is more important to understand how this link works rather than replicating the tools that make it work. Without this understanding, brands are simply looking at tools short of a value strategy and more often than the tools fail to deliver what brands like Apple or Amazon have accomplished. The real benefit of becoming the next Apple or Amazon is unlocking the bond between brands and their customers.

There is so much focus on customer data and around creating actionable insight now. So how should brands be managing data in a way that is less complex, easier to understand, and more impactful?

Guallar: Much of the complexities getting in the way of managing data effectively today are self-imposed. Occasionally, companies start off the ground with sophisticated models even before they’ve had a chance to understand the fundamental levers that move their business model. This is compounded by the multitude of analytic offerings in the marketplace promising to deliver actionable insights that only ‘they’ can deliver.
Having a good sense of direction is often more important than knowing whether you’re one degree or two degrees off course. For data to be impactful, brands should follow the path starting with data (raw facts), through information (processed data), and insights (analyzed information with conclusions).

If you could ask a brand, a customer, or a competitor one question, what would it be? Effectively, if you had a crystal ball and could ask any question, what would it be?

Guallar: If I had a crystal ball and could ask any question, I would ask what my brand is going to look like five years from now or 10 years from now. Regardless of the time horizon, having clues as to how your brand needs to evolve to stay relevant to your customers and keep evolving with their needs, that would be the biggest single advantage any crystal ball could provide.

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