Technology moves at such a swift pace that, at times, it seems impossible for loyalty marketers to keep up with and leverage effectively to create brand loyalty.

Loyalty360 caught up with Christian Hausammann, VP Loyalty, Snipp, for his thoughts on this crucial topic.

Technology is such a key differentiator, when used correctly, for brands when solving brand loyalty challenges. How can brands best leverage technology in this rapidly changing area to enhance brand loyalty?

Hausammann: A big point here is that technology enables real-time interaction on all touch points, including personalization for the individual consumer (whenever possible) –this is likely to be a key aspiration for retailers and a fundamental requirement to deliver sustainable brand loyalty. The biggest brands out there right now are focusing on creating a present-tense experience for their customers, connecting customers seamlessly to social media and a plethora of brand-owned channels and platforms, all to create a hyper-informed consumer that is connected to the brand in real-time.

The way we approach technology at Snipp is to walk alongside consumer demands as they evolve, ensuring they are always activated on the devices and platforms they are most comfortable with. Consumers today are mobile-first, so we give them every opportunity to use devices like smartphones to participate in loyalty programs in ways they have not been able to in the past. They also are constantly connected, so we aim to use technology to keep them engaged with loyalty programs pre and post purchase, such as with blogs, ratings, gamification elements, FitBit integrations, and social connectivity.
 
What is your advice for brands when it comes time to select a technology provider to enhance brand loyalty, since there are so many options available to them?

Hausammann: There are definitely more than a few aspects to be taken into account when it comes to choosing the right technology provider.
 
Technical capabilities: In the loyalty sphere right now, there is ample opportunity to get “creative” with API integrations, and how to validate purchase to eliminate need for retail POS integration(s). So the integration capabilities of a provider are key. Having features like integration with CRM platforms, wearable tech integrations, and social media Integrations are also hot topics. Most importantly, the provider should keep the UX top of mind, so from the consumer’s perspective, these technical components stay in the background, and the front end is all about engagement and ease-of-use.
 
Relevant Industry Experience: It can’t be understated how important it is to ensure your tech provider is knowledgeable of your specific industry. For instance, if you are a CPG company, the provider should have the appropriate expertise in deploying and managing CPG loyalty programs, knowledge of the customer base and strong aptitude on latest trends and updates in how loyalty programs should operate within each channel of CPG operations. Much of loyalty today is so reliant on understanding the intricacies of the industry; this is readily apparent in the alcohol industry, where regulations on marketing are tight.
 
Reporting and Analytics: The provider must provide a robust Business Insights tool for loyalty programs. In today’s environment where budgets are stretched and efficiency is key, a system needs to be in place for measuring the effectiveness of programs long-term; this can only occur when the proper reporting infrastructure is in place. Analytics is essential to understand customer’s buying experience and encourages constant loyalty program improvement. This will help to cultivate long term loyalty and profitability, and the business will be able to create lasting positive experiences for its customers.
 
Long-term Partnership: Finally, the provider must have the ability to provide ongoing consulting about the performance of the loyalty program if your business is looking to establish a more strategic relationship with the provider. It must be assured that the provider is flexible enough to continually grow and revamp the program in line with its client needs. Scalability is crucial. The best loyalty programs are created with long-term goals in mind, and the provider must be able to meet the challenge of having a solution that will remain relevant. 
 
How is technology best being used now to enhance brand loyalty and can you offer an example or two?

Hausammann: CPG brands like Kellogg are at a unique point where they are just starting to adopt technology into their loyalty programs. If we look at the early state of the Kellogg Family Rewards loyalty program, consumers had to log into the account and enter the unique codes found inside packages of the Kellogg products sold in the shops so as to obtain reward points. After couple of years, they took a decision to eliminate the printed codes, replacing them with a receipt processing solution where now customers need to take only photos of receipts and submit them on KFR website or simply via text. Due to this activity, they could do away with printed codes, thus reducing their costs. As a bonus to creating a positive user experience, the technology can be leveraged for taking on customer data at massive scale, transforming, interpreting, and analyzing the data to deliver accurate insights from massive amounts of receipts being transcribed.

Brands like Barbara’s are using the themes of their loyalty programs to tie into their brand messaging and boost equity through positive associations. For example, we are working with Barbara’s to engaging a new program to drive sales and build loyalty, highlighting the company’s support for endangered animals as well as educate /entertain families while learning about endangered animals. It’s powered by our receipt processing technology and our loyalty platform, which engages shoppers and drives sales, but also encourages non-purchases behaviors; watching videos, playing games, and downloading certain items can all help the consumer gain loyalty points. This means no demographic is excluded, and children are definitely a core target of the program. The rewards themselves are also oriented to kids, as points can be redeemed for creative rewards such as “adopting” endangered animals from the National Wildlife Foundation, plush animals, and animal-themed activity books.
 
What role should a brand’s entire corporate team play when it comes to technology impacting brand loyalty?

Hausammann: The exact structure would depend on each brand individually, as every corporate team has different modes of operating. But in general, a holistic approach to loyalty from insights, to creative, to eventual ROI measurement is necessary to ensure the technology component is right on track. For example, our program with Heineken, the Heineken Holiday Gift xChange, was led from initial work with Heineken and its insights team, diving into research to narrow down on the perfect execution and identifying the key demographics, through to its agencies that developed the creative component and look and feel for the program branding. Heineken and key stakeholders used the insights and data to inform future programs. The technology was the backbone that held everything together.

How important is listening to customers for brands that are trying to enhance their customer loyalty?

Hausammann: It’s all about understanding current customer trends and being able to respond to them as quickly as possible. Brands like Kodak and BlackBerry, once dubbed to be innovators and trendsetters of their times, today are struggling to even survive in the cutthroat and competitive markets.

As we know, in this world of growing consumer demands, changing demographics and the cultural shift in the markets, brands must enthusiastically engage their customers. After all, loyalty programs are meant to establish brand-customer relationships and not only increase sales. We all live in experience-driven, socially connected world. Brands that don’t listen to their customers also risk facing consumer backlash; we’ve all seen how brand relationship issues can spread like wildfire across social media and lead to potential PR disasters. Brands that don’t listen to their consumers risk falling behind in this ever-connected, hyper-digital landscape.

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