Attendance was up more than 20 percent for the 2nd Annual Loyalty 360 Engagement & Experience Expo, despite the travel-wrecking effects of Hurricane Sandy, which prevented many from New York, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast from attending.

During the conference, attendees were able to hear from experts during more than 20 sessions and workshops on customer, brand and channel challenges and solutions as well as how to optimize the customer experience at all touch-points and increase the impact of engagement throughout the customer lifecycle.

During information-packed events such as these, several items come up that are worthy of note, but don’t work their way into some of the main articles about the conference.

Among some of those items:

Compliance, particularly for opt-outs is likely to be a growing concern for loyalty marketers as new Federal Communications rules go into effect next year. Jim Milton, CEO of SoundBite Communications, and Joe Leader, Vice President, Strategic Business Development, PossibleNOW, in separate sessions recommended that loyalty marketers review their opt-out policies in wake of not only current best practices, but also in light of the upcoming rules.

As of Jan. 14, 2013, prerecorded telemarketing messages must include an automated opt-out mechanism. As of Oct. 16, 2013, companies must have prior written express consent from consumers before calling them with prerecorded telemarketing “robocalls” or before using an autodialer to call their wireless numbers with telemarketing messages.

Under the new rules, telemarketing text messages will require prior written express consent, the same as prerecorded telemarketing messages. 

This is particularly cumbersome for the growing popularity of mobile communication in the light of relatively high customer churn. Reaching a new subscriber who had not opted-in can result in significant fines, Milton warned. So he cautioned marketers to scrub databases daily.

Mobile communications is also one of the most effective ways to conduct surveys, Milton said. Customers are much more likely to open the messages and respond to them then if sent via other channels.

But mobile communications should be viewed as only part of a company’s multi-channel customer communication strategy, several speakers agreed. Cohesive messaging across channels is essential to customer relationship management, speakers agreed.

Loyal customers expect to be treated differently during mobile or any other communications with a company, advised Kathy Hecht, vice president of marketing for Acxiom. Being able to meet or exceed these expectations is a powerful tool in building customer relationships.

Loyalty relationship building is relevant to Michael’s brand, so it is part and parcel of everything the company does, according to Andrew Sonnichen, the specialty retailer’s director of CRM. A critical aspect to building the relationship is “making sure the customer experience is what it should be.”

Big Data will play an increasingly larger part in loyalty marketing efforts. Though the sheer amount of data, which Forrester Research expects to double within the next three years, is certainly daunting, another issue that is emerging as companies can cull more information is how to balance the data gathering and usage with “being creepy.” That balance was the topic of one session, but mentioned in several others.

Several speakers recommended being careful in how customer information is collected – don’t collect what isn’t needed – and be considerate in the usage of the information. This includes the frequency of customer contacts, even if the subject of the communication seems relevant to the marketer.

Loyalty marketing is becoming more essential for pharmacies as they face a variety of market challenges, said Laura Coblentz, Pharmaca vice president of marketing and innovation.

Among the challenges pharmacies face are:

  • High overhead, particularly from a labor standpoint
  • No ability to control pricing for prescriptions. 
  • The loss of patent protections for name brand drugs and the resulting move by consumers to lower-price (and lower profitability for pharmacies) generics
  • Stiff competition not only from other pharmacies, but also from retailers like Kmart, Target and others with much larger varieties of retail goods seeking a slice of the prescription market as well

“We’re all going for the same piece of the pie, the maintenance prescriptions (e.g., insulin, high cholesterol and other drugs that need to be taken daily to maintain health). So to compete against much larger competitors like CVS and Walgreens as well as Target, et al, Pharmaca sees providing a differentiated customer experience as the key to retaining patrons."

The pharmacy’s tag line is: “Come in. Feel better.”

When a customer fills a prescription, it provides an opportunity for customer engagement, Coblentz said. These engagements help Pharmaca hold on to customers who have large variety of choices for prescriptions as well as the retail items that Pharmaca carries.

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