Before brands earn true customer loyalty, they must understand their customers. This is also one of the first steps toward building personalized customer experiences consumers now want and expect.

Loyalty360 seeks to understand how leading companies are integrating the cutting-edge tools, technology, and platforms to power strategic services that lead to true customer loyalty and brand advocacy. Many brands acquire technology and data necessary to meet those demands and retain loyal customers. Aligning customer loyalty with brand identity then becomes a pivotal piece of the puzzle for loyalty marketers.

On Tuesday Loyalty360 hosted a webinar titled, “CMO Challenge Report: Aligning Customer Loyalty With Brand Identity.” The report was sponsored by Baesman.

Loyalty360 CEO and CMO Mark Johnson discussed various brand responses to the following question:
We continue to hear about brands that are looking to create alignment between their customer loyalty efforts and the brand promise. Should all brands try to become the next “Apple” or “Amazon?” Or is it more realistic and beneficial for brands to understand their unique brand identity, and then define objectives, process, and programs that align with that unique identity?

The responses align according to five key principles, including:

• Knowing the Customer and Your Brand, Then Staying True to Both:

Kedar Deshpande, director of marketing, Zappos: “We believe brands need to stay true to their unique identity to best understand and speak to their customers. Not everyone can be the next Apple or Amazon, nor should they try to be. We developed the loyalty program with Zappos’ loyal customers with our core values in mind. Tailoring our program to those things has enabled us to provide value to the customers who have helped us build our brand.

Deshpande added: “Above all else, Zappos takes care of its customers. We’ve expanded our value propositions based on customer feedback. We had a customer who needed to return shoes after their dog chewed their shoe. We now have digital offerings that allow the customer to choose the option “if you were not satisfied or if there is some particular problem, we will take care of you.” With an emphasis on empathy, we’re extending [the concept of] taking care of the customer no matter what the circumstance. This is exactly what we’re aiming to propagate with the loyalty program.”

Johnson said that Zappos has a mission statement, which is extremely important and one that the whole organization rallies around and is aligned with toward a goal of customer loyalty.

“That mission statement involves the processes that drive putting customers first, which is the core of the brand,” Johnson said. “You don’t have to boil the ocean. We believe that a brand can make iterative gains that are more impactful.”

Another highlighted principle within the report is:

• Good Customer Experience Comes through Good Systems

Craig Hankins, vice president, Digital Products, UnitedHealthcare: “I would say we do think about our brand promise. Through our advertising in the past two years, we’ve been working to raise awareness of United HealthCare. It’s nice that we’ve won some awards and received a lot of great feedback for those campaigns. My partners around the digital portion of our experience are delivering technologies like the HelpForMe mobile app, which has been a successful award-winning app in our industry. Even outside our industry, folks in the mobile space are saying this is something we wouldn’t have expected from a health insurer. They felt it was very fresh, different and intuitive, and it was a level of consumer experience that they weren’t accustomed to seeing from our industry. That’s something we will continue to do as we evolve these capabilities and fulfill the expectation the member has.”

Johnson said UnitedHealthcare looked at ways to enhance its mobile app.

“They’re trying to create simplicity and make that information more readily available for customers in their time of need,” he noted.

• Corporate Alignment

Thomas Rohrer, marketing manager, 1-800-Contacts: “Our company president has a philosophy that everything starts with the customer and works backward towards us. We try to put ourselves in the position of the customer and make things easier, make things more efficient, make things better for the customer. We work from that end back toward everybody in the company. We’re not in a rush to be the next Apple or the next Amazon. We’re in a race to be the best 1-800-Contacts that we can be, whatever direction that takes us.”

Johnson noted: “They (1-800-Contacts) are trying to walk in their customers’ shoes. They’re not in a rush to be the next Apple or Amazon. They want to be the best company they can be based on their mission statement and corporate objectives.”

Given the idea around alignment, Johnson said if brands can make small iterative enhancements, “we believe that’s better for them to create and develop that unique engagement with their customers.”

All webinar attendees received a copy of the CMO Challenge report after the event.

The CMO Challenge Webinar Series has received an overwhelmingly positive response and can be streamed on-demand on the newly renovated

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