In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift in consumer behavior, especially where it concerns brand loyalty. Points and discounts are no longer enough to keep customers motivated. Brands must reimagine their loyalty programs to meet customers where they are: in the stores, on the web, in the app and most recently, in the metaverse.

Mark Johnson, Loyalty360 CEO, spoke with Natasha Janic, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Loyalty Management, for Salesforce, about the company’s recent customer loyalty guide, The Reimagined Loyalty Playbook, as well as how brands can drive more personalized experiences, engagement and, most importantly, customer loyalty.




Founded in 1999, Salesforce began as a SaaS (software as a service) company and was the first cloud-based CRM, SalesCloud. The company expanded the offering from sales into service, marketing and e-commerce clouds, and most recently launched Slack messaging app.

Sales are contingent on customers, and with that fundamental in mind, Salesforce created within its abundant offerings, a customer loyalty product: Customer 360. Customer 360 goes beyond retail, travel and hospitality, and works to provide customer loyalty solutions to all industries.

Janic and her team have recently witnessed a variety of diverse, cross-industry use cases of customer loyalty. Utilizing the tools within Customer 360, Salesforce offers solutions to industries from traditional retail, travel and hospitality, to consumer goods, manufacturing, financial services, comms and media. “Everyone is talking loyalty,” says Janic.

The Reimagined Loyalty Playbook
The company recently released a guide on loyalty programs today, The Reimagined Loyalty Playbook. In the wake of the Covid pandemic and the rise of web-based technology, brands have witnessed a dramatic shift in consumer behavior.

During continued research as the company launched Customer 360, Salesforce relied on feedback from its clients that shed light on changes in customer behavior, especially as it related to brand loyalty.

“Many of our customers are looking for best practices to navigate this new era of loyalty,” says Janic.

The guide is meant to serve as a starting point for companies looking to launch a new program or those looking to reimagine their current program. Readers will learn:

  • How to prepare to launch a loyalty program
  • The basics to designing a loyalty program
  • Considerations to keep in mind when building a loyalty program
    • What the customer wants
    • What makes sense for your business
  • How to keep customers engaged throughout the journey
  • How to measure success
The guide is divided into four chapters to help businesses navigate a new or revamped customer loyalty strategy. The guide works as a play-by-play for launching and maintaining a loyalty program.

Does Customer Loyalty Still Exist?
“Today’s consumer is more digitally savvy than ever before,” states Janic. They expect personalized experiences at every touchpoint.

Salesforce’s most recent State of the Connected Customer Report found that 71% of consumers have tried a new brand in the last year alone. With customers more willing to switch brands, it begs the question: does customer loyalty still exist?

The answer is yes. But it is about more than points and rewards. In exchange for sharing data that consumers know is extremely valuable, they expect personalized, consistent experiences across every interaction. Loyalty becomes more than just what the program is offering, but how it impacts the entire customer experience.

With that said, customer loyalty starts with knowing the customer and using the data to work for the brand’s benefit. By bringing the data into a central location, brands can use the information not only for the loyalty program, but across the entire organization. From there, that data can be used to configure the program to make decisions on what perks, benefits and offers to extend to its customers, keeping in mind the experiences customers value most.

“Every brand’s customer base is different,” stresses Janic, “even within the same industry or sub-vertical.”

For example, discounts may be the main motivator for one customer for doing business with a brand. A loyalty program should use that information to offer promotional discounts to that customer. However, other customers may value experiences, exclusivity or community. A discount would not be a proper motivator for that segment, and could potentially cost the company money if it sent a discount code for an item the customer was already going to purchase. Personalizing communications to these different segments will provide the greatest value to both the customer and brand.

It is key when designing a customer loyalty program to have the flexibility to aggregate the data into a central location to view the analytics in real-time and react accordingly.

Loyalty Gets Emotional
The best loyalty programs today engage customers on an emotional level.

Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report found that today, 63% of consumers feel an emotional connection to brands with which they do business the most, up from 52% in 2020. Having that emotional connection with a brand is key, but it can manifest in different ways, depending on a brand’s customer base and values.

For example, brands such as Nike and Sephora focus on building community. Their customers like to feel connected with the brand and connected with one another. Nordstrom, on the other hand, focuses on exclusivity. Its customer base feels a greater connection to the brand when singled out and treated individually.

Brands need to find what is important to their specific customer base. One way to provide a personalized experience is by using customer data to give clients the same one-on-one experience in-store as online. When a sales associate at the counter has the data in front of them, they can provide the “white glove” experience that its customer values most.

For other brands, customers may put most emphasis on values. For example, an energy company may want to illustrate its commitment to the environment. By rewarding its customers for engaging in sustainability efforts or by giving back to the community, it mirrors the company values and expands the idea of what a loyalty program can be.

Dipping a Toe in the Metaverse
Technological advances in the metaverse mean the sky is the limit when it comes to virtual experiences, but brands are still in the early stages of metaverse and Web3. Virtual experiential rewards can differentiate a brand, and NFTs and crypto are becoming more popular as rewards or perks for loyalty programs. Some companies have even begun to allow customers to own fractional stock in return for points.

The next phase for Web3 will likely allow for more exploration, specifically providing more cost-effective virtual experiences. While this is very enticing for brands to jump aboard, Salesforce advises brands to consider the relevance to its customer. Some may value an NFT, while others may prefer an experience.

It is easy to be distracted by what is new in the industry. Working with real-time and predictive analytics gives a brand the tools to determine whether or not a virtual experience is working for its benefit, and allows the brand to pivot quickly accordingly.

But that doesn’t mean brands should remain stagnant. The technology is boundless, and when implemented well, can positively supplement an existing loyalty program. Says Janic, “Exploration is beneficial to brands moving forward.”
 
 

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