Loyalty360 has seen that many brands are substantially restructuring their loyalty programs or launching new ones altogether. These trends suggest that something serious has changed. To get a grasp of this change, we spoke with Christine Bardwell, Global Product Manager of Strategy at Oracle. The tech company has released a new whitepaper that examines major trends in the loyalty space. The report also makes evidence-based predictions for the future of the industry.
 
One change that has taken place is the creation of new company executive positions, such as “Chief Customer Officer.” The titles of these positions vary, but they are senior-level positions designed to keep track of and act on customer interactions across channels. Bardwell believes that the creation of these positions is warranted.
 
She said, “Loyal customers are the profitable ones. With that in mind, everything that a chief digital or chief customer officer is doing, the ultimate goal is to make a customer profitable. They want a customer to be loyal, and they want their business to be profitable. Therefore, everything they do should be focused on customer retention.” Even customer acquisition, in Bardwell’s view, is part of a more general effort to achieve retention, because retention is what ultimately increases profits.
 
Bardwell also noted that Oracle has been working with clients to break down silos that separate loyalty from other operations. She emphasized that this was because the end-goal of a business is always to increase profits, and that loyal customers are the ones who make businesses profitable. “It’s a challenge,” Bardwell said, “but having the right person to advocate for a focus on loyalty and retention is important.”
 
We asked Bardwell what separates effective experiential rewards from the ineffective. She replied, “I don’t think it’s necessarily a specific reward that works, but the brands that have been the most successful [with experiential rewards] are those leveraging their assets.”
 
She continued, “For example, if you’re a department store, you should use what’s available within your store to offer experiences. It could be coming in to have a make-up tutorial at the make-up counter. Or if you’re a flower brand, you could offer consumers an experience with flower arranging. It has to be relevant to the brand; it has to build on the brand.”
 
Presently, there is no perfect formula for offering the best experiential rewards, but Bardwell correctly observed that good rewards are those that are in keeping with the brand. She further noted that bigger brands are offering consumers more extravagant experiences, like front row concert tickets. The grandeur, she said, keeps customers loyal by leveraging FOMO (fear of missing out), which is powerful in the Instagram era.
 
When asked about the rise of subscription services, Bardwell stated that such services, like experiences, must be based in a brand’s assets. She said further that “the wonderful thing about subscriptions is that they bring the customer back. It makes that brand top-of-mind whenever the customer is doing their shopping.” Bardwell also noted that brands with traditional loyalty programs that then add a subscription service should ensure that the loyalty program and new service are integrated. “A customer should still feel rewarded for coming back.”
 
Bardwell made several excellent points. Perhaps her most valuable insight is that companies must derive their experiences, services, and other loyalty offerings from the brand itself. Consumers came to your brand. Therefore, the goods and services of your brand are what will see them returning.
 

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