Annex Cloud provides customer marketing solutions designed to help clients improve customer loyalty, referral marketing, and user generated content marketing. Its platform is intended to build customer connections and grow customer bases through social media and email channels. It also helps build brand confidence through ratings and reviews and uses customer product pictures as a visual commerce strategy. The platform provides gamification and omnichannel engagement as well.
 
Recently, Loyalty360 discussed the state of customer loyalty heading into 2019 with Al Lalani, CEO for Annex Cloud.
 
What is changing in the approach to building loyalty programs in 2019?
 
Loyalty programs have historically been made up from the points-for-purchase model. Airline miles, grocery store rewards, and hotel loyalty, all built on this concept. Over the last several years we have evolved out of this to incorporate and celebrate customer action.
 
Currently, rewarding people for social actions is a pivotal trend and will continue to progress in 2019. Whether it's connecting on social, referring people, or participating in events, we have evolved tremendously in terms of loyalty. We went from a purchase-focused behavior to behaviors and the connections brands make online.
 
What's going to change in 2019 is now really enhancing loyalty programs to become customized and verticalized. So, loyalty programs built for CPG manufacturers versus loyalty programs built for electronics manufacturers are all uniquely different in their customer experience. Customizing for those verticals is becoming increasingly important and customizing it specifically to the product is pivotal to success in the industry.
 
With the year ending, what makes Q1 so important to your 2019 loyalty strategy?
 
There’s an economic principle that the results you see in Q4 comes from the work done in Q1. A lot of work and time goes into planning, strategizing, and implementing a customer loyalty program. It takes design, ongoing marketing, and a complete operational overhaul to your business. There are so many factors to consider, which is why I highly recommend beginning right away so that your growth plan isn’t derailed further down the road.
 
What does your loyalty strategy process look like?
 
Creating an effective loyalty strategy takes time and planning. First, we dive deep into your current marketing plan in effort to an identify your micro and macro goals for the future. By taking the time to analyze customer surveys and historical sales data, we’re able to understand and discover all your business processes. Once we do that, we’re able to begin designing and
implementing a customized solution just for your business with unique rewards and user experience. From then on, our customer success team will work with you on creative campaigns, implementation, and program management. Our team is here to work with you throughout the process from concept to completion.
 
How can loyalty programs impact your social media presence in 2019?
 
A great loyalty program will help you build not just a social media following, but a community of advocates. Our followers are the most loyal users of our products, which means incentivizing them for their behavior is so very important. We have found that by incentivizing customers for submitting user generated content, we see a 70 percent increase in content submitted through our platform. All of that content is made up of the user photos, product ratings, and reviews retail brands need to make an impact.
 
Visual commerce is another major component to your social media strategy, specifically when it comes to user generated content. By creating a unique hashtag, you’re able to enable amazing loyalty product galleries on your website or even on TV screens in your store. Consumers love to be involved in the product experience on social media and visual commerce gives them the community and platform to do that.
 
What are some emerging technologies in the industry that we should pay attention to in 2019?
 
The tech behind loyalty is progressing every day. What we thought to be emerging technology is constantly being challenged by new integrations, software, and functionality. However, there are three emerging trends that I think all ecommerce and retail brands should pay close attention to in the coming year:
 
How are you adopting more advanced technology like artificial intelligence?
 
The deep learning that we’re able to do by analyzing existing sales data is astounding. We use personalization and artificial intelligence to create hyper-segmented marketing campaigns. By doing this, we find a much greater ROI, and we’re able to predict future customer incentives based solely on their buying behavior.
 
How do you use receipt data aggregation?
 
Receipt data aggregation breaks down the barrier between business and customer. Customers can earn rewards by uploading their receipt, no matter where they purchased the product. Not only does it build a better connection with the customer, it also allows manufacturers, brands, and retailers to gain valuable information about their consumers’ purchasing behavior.
 
What do you think of blockchain technology?
 
Blockchain is becoming more and more popular in ecommerce, some say because of fewer transaction costs and enhanced security. It’s a trend we expect big things from and it’s an exciting time to see it emerge.

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