Bond Brand Loyalty excelled in the 2019 Forrester Loyalty Wave. This was the fifth Wave that Bond submitted to, so the company is well positioned to explain what the Forrester Wave means for loyalty vendors, how that’s changed, and how the Wave reflects a changing loyalty landscape. To learn about these topics, Loyalty360 recently spoke with Sean Claessen, Chief Strategy Officer, Bond Brand Loyalty.
Claessen noted that the process has changed over the years—for the better, in his view.  He said, “If I think of the Wave five Waves ago, and its complexity and its rigor, and its sophistication, versus the one that just came through, I think they have been evolving it in order to put things on a better and better playing field.”
Asked what this recognition meant for Bond, Claessen said, “The hard work is work that goes on all year. I’m glad that showed in the Wave. It has you show up leading on a front foot in more and more areas, so we take a lot of pride in that.”
He continued, “The ranking—what it means to me—we don’t do this for us, we do this for clients and advancing what we can bring to the table for them. The Wave is one of the ways we take a good look in the mirror, seeing where we’re doing well and where we have opportunities to sharpen our game. If it happens to come with some accolades, I’m not going to say that doesn’t make me feel good. It does.”
Our discussion then shifted to the idea of how the industry is changing, which Bond is in a good position to predict, since it’s been working in the space for quite a while. Claessen said, “A lot of companies are coming to us with a desire for all the things a loyalty program outputs—greater retention, consolidation of spend, NPS equivalents, all of the typical objectives of loyalty—but a reluctance to jump whole hog into a formal program.”
What this means, according to Claessen, is that there isn’t a formal loyalty program that fits every brand. He believes that brands have begun to realize they don’t have to have a traditional loyalty program. “People want the outcomes of loyalty,” he said. “They want it to be programmatic and systematic in nature, but they also want it to have a bit more human interface, and they want it to be part and parcel of the customer experience.”
Claessen said that Bond has adjusted to this emerging trend. “What we’ve done is pave the way with essential frameworks and technology that will allow people a lot of those outcomes while sidestepping traditional liability and having to manage all of that. Still get retention, still get good recommendation and NPS equivalents, still get spend consolidation and frequency and basket building, but without points per se, where you have to take the good with the bad and juggle the liability around it.”
He admitted that traditional, transaction programs still might be the right choice for some brands. However, he said, “There’s also a lot of brands that are questioning whether a points component to their loyalty ecosystem or their loyalty strategy is absolutely necessary. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of focusing on that sentiment right out of the gate, having the ingenuity to be able to concoct loyalty strategies and ecosystems that don’t have to depend on some of the things that have been harder for marketers and CFOs to swallow.”

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