The 2019 Customer Expo starts this coming Monday! The conference will feature thought leaders presenting and discussing a myriad of topics relevant to loyalty marketers and customer experience professionals. The second day of the conference will feature a session of special interest: “Building a Customer Loyalty Eco-System from the Ground Up,” featuring King Hill, Senior Vice President and Digital Strategist for Marcus Thomas; Ian Verschuren, Chief Technology Officer for Marcus Thomas; and Eric Webb, Vice President of Sales, North America, for Kentico.
 
Creating a loyalty ecosystem continues to be a challenge to brands, particularly those that, due to a changing customer landscape, have had to become loyalty-focused for the first time. However, over the past year, Loyalty360 has discussed this topic with many industry leaders. This has enabled us to gain some insight into the problem.
 
Adam Pierno, Associate Vice President of Marketing Strategy for Arizona State University (who will be presenting at the conference in other sessions), told Loyalty360 that for his organization, such ecosystems are necessary for driving engagement. “The reason I reached out about participating in your event was because I thought we had a unique position on loyalty,” he said. “For a consumer-facing brand or a B2B brand, loyalty is often equated to getting someone to buy more. We don’t need people to buy more things, but we do want to keep them engaged, so there’s a huge set of alumni who fall into a category where they view their relationship with the university as transactional.”
 
Jana Beiswenger, Vice President of Strategy for Le Tote, echoed Pierno. Her brand also seeks differentiation through engagement with consumers, making a loyalty ecosystem valuable to her brand. She told Loyalty360:
 
“We do want to compete on quality, but can we compete on other dimensions, such as offering more value in service for the customer and offering her multiple ways to consume and shop? For example, if the customer wants to buy and also rent, that means giving her both of those options. And maybe she wants to buy used items versus brand new items, because she’s tried that item before and now wants to keep it at a discounted rate. It’s about creating sticky experiences that are not solely based on price, but are based on having the right product for the right people in the right places at the right time, and then leveraging our data to ensure that she has a higher hit rate on the stuff that she’s buying, trying, or renting.”
 
Jodie Conrad, Chief Marketing Officer for Fazoli’s, offered another perspective. She noted that such ecosystems can present a rich opportunity to better understand consumers through data. She said, “We spent the first year and a half working on acquisition and trying to engage consumers with the technology, so that we had a good database of people and could look at behavior over time. Then in the second quarter of this year, with the promotion that kicked off, we started being smarter about how we use the tool.”
 
She continued, “We had a tool that allowed us to collect a lot of data and to use it with precision, yet we were still using it like a blunt tool. We first implemented segmentation, looking at recency and frequency in the second quarter of this year and tailoring the level of offers based on that, with the objective of trying to drive engagement with our loyal guests and drive visits, but not discounting more than we had to.”
 
And the results are in. “What we saw at our first attempt at that was that it was a great success. We were able to drive frequency of visits during that time period while still building our database, acquiring new guests, and lowering the amount of discounting considerably from what we had been doing. We’re maximizing profitability.”
 
The loyalty landscape has grown. Many of today’s brands will have to consider how to use loyalty to drive engagement and personalized communications. As such, we look forward the thought leadership in Hill, Verschuren, and Webb’s session.

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