Forming Holistic Relationships Can Strengthen Customer Engagement Via Rewards Based on Behavior

HARCO Incentives is a multi-generational incentive solutions company that has led the way in the expanding premium and incentive space. Its elite team of motivation, marketing, and logistics experts collaborates with in-house master merchandisers and negotiators.

Together, they deliver best-in-class incentive solutions for HARCO’s B2B partners with an eye on strategy, cost, brand equity, and exceptional service. Major brands trust HARCO to sell their merchandise to agencies, brokers, and corporate marketers at discount prices that do not undermine or damage the brand in the wider retail market.

One key consideration for HARCO is forming holistic partner relationships which strengthen customer engagement via behavior-based rewards. HARCO goes to market through partner resellers and one of those partners is Xceleration.

Loyalty360 caught up with Xceleration CEO Ben Levenbaum to learn more about this intriguing topic, along with customer engagement and trends in loyalty program design.

Can you talk about what you’re seeing today as far as clients focusing on rewarding customers for their behaviors in addition to their purchases?
Levenbaum: Currently, we’re seeing clients reward their customers for a range of behaviors including completing a profile, social media activity, education and training efforts, providing feedback, and reaching milestones within a customer journey. By forming a more holistic relationship with the customer that goes beyond the transaction, the customer’s or family’s needs can be anticipated and milestones celebrated, which helps strengthen engagement. With all this data, the customer can also be surprised and delighted with special promotions and rewards.

What are brands doing well in this area and where do the challenges lie?
Levenbaum: Many brands are staying focused and seeing success with transactional rewarding, meaning rewarding customers for their purchase activity. Challenges with this model can occur in keeping the “middle 60%” engaged. We find that many brands know how to get a consumer interested in a loyalty program with onboarding incentives or training; however, after that, interest can wane by those who aren’t yet true enthusiasts. We have found that it takes creativity, dedicated resources, and investments from IT and marketing to keep the program fresh with new features, content, and data so it can remain top of mind.

Customer engagement is such a key differentiator today for brands, especially as customers hold high and ever-changing expectations. How beneficial is it for brands to reward customers for their engagement behaviors with the brand?
Levenbaum: By rewarding customers, brands not only benefit from a more loyal customer base but they can obtain a wealth of insights which can help inform innovation, communication, and marketing paths. Today’s business environment is no longer one dimensional. Consumers today desire a relationship with the brands they trust or wish to learn about. Their desire for a relationship equates into opting into social media, watching brand videos on YouTube, signing up for newsletters, taking surveys, and requesting push notifications from a loyalty app. Consumers want to be recognized and rewarded for ideas and feedback.

What is the current trend in loyalty program design and do you see that changing at all?
Levenbaum: The best-in-class loyalty programs we see encompass a variety of elements to drive customer engagement, but at the forefront, is strategic discussion and alignment on program goals, success metrics and customer segments the program will target. Best-in-class programs typically have common features, including:
A tiered structure, based upon strategic thresholds, that provides an opportunity to target customer groups at different points in their journey.

Milestones that are rewarded during customer journeys, not just at the peak of their journeys.

Rewards personalized to the likes and aspirations of the participants.

A superb mobile experience that makes getting or submitting information a seamless experience while on-the-go.

Push notifications or alarms reminding consumers of pertinent information.

Gamification features to introduce elements of surprise and delight and keep customers coming back for more.

At the core, we don’t see these trends altering significantly. However, as technology and data analysis improve, we do anticipate an increase in personalization, geo-targeting, and the use of predictive analytics.

How can video factor into a brand’s customer engagement initiatives?
Levenbaum:  As we all know, video can engage a customer in ways PDFs, pamphlets, and brochures can’t. Videos can be found in a variety of formats and can serve multiple purposes to help drive customer conversion, interaction, and personality to the program or brand. With the increase in mobility and the improving reliability of streaming, videos are significantly more accessible than they were a few years ago and should be a strategic feature of any loyalty program. We have seen video play a critical role in driving engagement, especially for onboarding initiatives, training and education, and during brand review and feedback efforts.

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