Most marketers understand that customer expectations have increased in the last few years. Before the advent of mobile technology, brands could content themselves with push marketing and mass communications. Now, though, customers have a vast warehouse of information available to them at every moment. If they’re going out to dinner, they no longer have to look out their car windows to compare options. They can see all the restaurants in a given area through applications on their phones and make their decisions that way.
 
In addition, if customers want to purchase an item—any item—they can do so wherever they are from a thousand different online retailers. They have access to the best price, the fastest shipping options, and the exact items they want through their phones. Because of this, customers have come to expect convenience and relevance from every brand, regardless of industry.
 
In this environment, brands have to differentiate, personalize, and innovate. Those that don’t become irrelevant almost immediately. Loyalty360 recently spoke with Jon Siegal, Vice President of Global Loyalty Sales at Cheetah Digital, a technology and marketing services provider, to address this very issue.
 
How has customer loyalty changed over the last few years?
 
Gone are the days of loyalty being simply tracking points and rewarding. Today’s leading loyalty programs maximize the use of first-party data to offer extreme personalization and immersive customer experiences as an effort to build the emotional connection between the customer and brand. This means real-time flexibility and responsiveness is now a requirement for the technology used to power loyalty initiatives.
 
What is the biggest challenge that your clients face in driving deeper customer loyalty?
 
Customers have higher expectations than they’ve ever had before when it comes to brand relationships, especially when it comes to personalization, convenience, and engaging brand experiences. Today, consumers expect to be known by their favorite brands and they expect to be treated that way in all the places they interact with that brand.  This requires the ability for a brand’s technology to recognize and engage with customers using all the data they have about them. Many brands come to Cheetah Digital because we can help build this 360-degree view of the customer and offer actionable intelligence about it.
 
If you could recommend one thing to a client to help them with this challenge, what would it be?
 
Strong data management lies at the heart of winning loyalty programs. Being able to act quickly based on that data is imperative. We recommend brands take the time to fully understand their data management capabilities and make it a priority to invest in the technology and expertise that will help them address their shortcomings so they can keep pace with customer expectations.
 
How important is personalization?
 
At Cheetah Digital, we say brands must personalize or perish because relevance is such an important part of the loyalty equation. Personalization is not a loyalty program “nice to have.” It’s a “must have.” When a brand communicates with its customer in personalized ways and reflects customers’ unique interests, preferences, and purchasing history, it builds trust, strengthens a consumer’s attachment to the brand, and ultimately influences purchasing decisions. Bottom line, if a brand doesn’t personalize its messaging, its loyalty program is out of date and out of touch.
 
What does authenticity and trust mean to you?
 
At Cheetah Digital, we believe that authenticity and trust are paramount to building emotional connections between brands and customers. When a brand is truly authentic and genuine in its regard for its customers, those customers feel understood and respected, which in turn helps foster trust. A strong foundation of trust is a requirement of emotional loyalty for a brand. A consumer simply does not feel loyal to a brand he or she doesn’t trust. And, there is a reciprocity to trust because consumers share data with brands they trust and brands can use this data to create more relevant and authentic experiences for the consumer.
 
How do you project authenticity and trust to your customers?
 
Cheetah Digital helps brands project authenticity and build trust with their customers by giving them a solid grasp of their customer data and helping them manage and leverage this data for immersive customer experiences at every touch point. We help brands speak to their customers as individuals, learn their unique preferences, and effectively leverage the communication channels that will resonate best with them in the ways the customers prefer.
 
Should all brands strive to have the brand recognition of Apple or Amazon? Why or why not?
 
At Cheetah, what we admire about a brand like Apple is not their brand recognition, but rather the deep emotional connection or emotional loyalty they’ve established with their customers. The benefits of emotional loyalty go far beyond simple brand recognition. It helps create lasting customer relationships that positively influence behaviors and purchase decisions. Establishing strong emotional loyalty like Apple is something that every brand should strive for.
 
Conclusion
 
In a disruptive environment where customers expect everything, brands had better know how to personalize, at least according to VP Jon Siegal. Given his expertise, though, we think his advice is worth following. Personalizing, projecting authenticity, and establishing trust should go a long way towards helping brands succeed.
 

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