Epsilon, a global leader in creating connections between people and brands, recently received the prestigious 2017 Partner of the Year award by Citi.
The award recognizes Epsilon’s high levels of performance and service providing loyalty platform and marketing technology for the global Citi Thank You Rewards program. Epsilon received the highest honor at last month’s Citi Supplier Awards event in New York City.
The Partner of the Year Award recognizes the Supplier Partner who best demonstrates the core values Citi seeks in a Supplier Partner and is strong in all elements of supporting Citi through collaboration, value creation, and ability to maximize efficiencies and mitigate risk.
For more than 40 years, Epsilon has helped some of the biggest brands create loyalty programs that have transformed the industry, including Citibank. In addition to its industry-leading technology, it’s the company’s people who really contribute to making client partnerships so successful.
Loyalty360 talked to Tad Fordyce, senior vice president of loyalty for Epsilon, about this esteemed honor.
Can you talk about how Epsilon’s loyalty platform and marketing technology can enhance a company’s efforts around customer loyalty, customer experience, and customer engagement?
Fordyce: Epsilon is focused on helping our clients engage with consumers, across channels and with personalized messages, offers and value propositions. Our Agility LoyaltyTM solution supports this evolutionary view of loyalty marketing, looking beyond simple points transactions to create differentiated, highly personalized customer experiences. Today’s consumers are increasingly loyal to brands who connect on an emotional level, which means brands need to really understand each consumer, what they value and how and when they want to engage. Of course, receiving points and discounts are important, but to really achieve brand loyalty, consumers need to feel connected at a deeper level. Helping our brand clients gain insights into their consumers is increasingly important, and providing the ability to engage the consumer with the right message, at the right time, online or offline creates meaningful relationships.
Agility LoyaltyTM is a fully configurable software as a service platform that enables clients to reward customer behavior in the moment with relevant offers and engagement across channels and devices. This provides clients with the ability to leverage a deeper understanding of their customers to create more personalized connections at scale. And, as a result, more easily reach new and existing customers with engaging messages that drive immediate action.
How have Epsilon’s offerings changed in recent years due to the ever-changing nature of consumers?
Fordyce: Changes in customer preferences and shifts in consumer technology are reshaping how brands connect with consumers. Loyalty marketers require mobile-first, easy-to-implement marketing solutions that enable them to reach their customers and connect with them in an always-aware, authentic manner. We’ve modified our platform to incorporate the software-as-a-service model mentioned above, and deploy in the cloud to aid in cost, speed to market and scalability. We also realize that different verticals, like quick-service-restaurant, retail, and travel, all have unique needs when it comes to delivering compelling customer experiences. We’re evolving our Agility Loyalty solution to include industry-specific solutions that complement our Enterprise Agility Loyalty solution which is typically customized for clients, thereby providing another alternative for loyalty marketers.
We have bundled a number of other Epsilon assets into Agility Loyalty, providing more functionality to the solution. Clients can now use Agility Harmony to deliver program and promotional messages to members via email, SMS or in-app push. And, our TSP data offering is embedded as well, enabling brand marketers the opportunity to get deeper insights into their customers. Further, through Conversant, Epsilon’s digital media arm, clients can use their online advertising budgets to reach loyalty customers specifically. Advertising to a brand’s best customers to drive incremental spend is a great approach and those that are doing it are seeing a strong return on ad spend.
What can brands do to better create value for their customers?
Fordyce: Brands need to understand the importance of connecting emotionally with their customers. Our experience is that really awesome loyalty programs engage customers beyond just giving them points. It’s about appealing to a consumer’s sense of attachment through gratitude, exclusivity, personalization, specialization, competition, and similar outcomes from a previous connection. And, it’s about meeting and exceeding consumer needs at key moments. Epsilon’s Momentum technology, a component of Agility Loyalty, helps brands reach customers at these ‘aha moments.’ Momentum also powers functionality such as gamification and auctions, which are used to engage customers in the program in fun and creative ways.
What’s more, the best loyalty programs also solicit feedback from their customers and act on it. They listen to what their customers are saying to CSR agents, online and in-store, and soliciting feedback in surveys. They are investing in technologies that help engage with customers, such as social-listening, client-telling applications, and chat-bots. All of these technologies help brand associates collect customer feedback, respond in real time and personalize the brand experience. Loyalty programs are uniquely positioned to embrace these technologies because the customer has opted into the relationship with the program.
How would you characterize the current state of loyalty and what trends are you seeing?
Fordyce: Loyalty today can be more difficult to attain. Focusing on your best customers is always a good business strategy, and loyalty programs provide the engagement model for brands to accomplish that. Loyalty is achieved by acknowledging the customer’s patronage, understanding their needs, and delivering incremental value. Just like any relationship, loyalty is earned only when both parties believe the other is vested in the other’s best interests.
Loyalty is increasingly about experience, and those who offer consumers the ability to interact with their brand using all their senses (including touch, smell, and taste) can create richer experiences than what is available online (touching only sight and perhaps sound).
Loyalty is most effective when it gives members the recognition that they expect–knowing who they are along with their expectations. The Internet of Things will dramatically increase the ways and places loyalty marketers can connect with consumers and help brands move their programs beyond rewarding members for behavioral activities and engaging them on an emotional level.