This is an exciting time in the loyalty industry as marketers continue to leverage customer data and modify behavior in a way that elevates the brand’s status. But, often loyalty marketers have too much data without a clearly charted path toward effective distillment.
Loyalty360 talked to Hui Zhu, Director of Strategic Initiatives for LoyaltyEdge, about various themes, including customer data and the evolution of data science and analytics tools.
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?
Zhu: As data science and analytics tools are becoming more sophisticated, we see many brands starting to use these tools to help sort through their customer data. However, with the current shortage of data scientists in the labor market, brands will have to decide whether to invest in building their own data science teams in-house or to partner externally with experts for these resources. For smaller brands, the answer might often be to partner externally for their “heavy-lifting” data science needs, while they focus on their product and loyalty marketing efforts.
What is the biggest challenge that your clients face today in creating measurable experiences to drive customer loyalty?
Zhu: There are so many bright and shiny objects in customer loyalty today and our clients often have too much choice. We encourage our clients to invest in the loyalty experiences and capabilities that clearly link to their core products and services. For example, while gamification might be relevant to B2C brands that are trying to increase purchase frequency, it might be less relevant to B2B businesses with subscription-based business models.
Can you define what the phrase “customer journey” means to you?
Zhu: I define the customer journey as the sum of a customer’s interactions with a brand. This includes how the customer is using a brand’s core product/service, interacting with customer service, and how they’re engaging with a brand’s loyalty initiatives. Going back to using customer data to create actionable insights, I think there is an opportunity for marketers to partner with their data science counterparts to better understand the customer journey. By combining the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the customer journey, brands can hone in on the interactions that really matter and where they need to further invest.
What is the single most important thing that you have done (or do) over a period of engagement (say a year) that helps clients increase customer loyalty?
Zhu: This almost sounds too simplistic, but I always take the time to speak with clients about their overall business goals and check-in on any changes. Customer loyalty initiatives are only as good as their relevance to a client’s broader business objectives, and I never take anything for granted.  
What do you foresee for the future of customer loyalty?
Zhu: The fundamentals of customer loyalty have not changed. Customer loyalty lives and dies with building great products and services to suit customer needs. What is changing the future? The trends shaping the broader business landscape will also affect the future of customer loyalty—machine learning, distributed ledge currencies, connected devices, etc. Like our counterparts in any other industry, loyalty marketers will need to figure out how to harness these tools and trends to continue to evolve our businesses.  

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