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This article is the second in a series in which Gina Fleck, HelloWorld’s Director of Loyalty, discusses key insights from her organization’s 2019 Loyalty Barometer Report. Be sure to read the first part here.
Among the takeaways from HelloWorld’s 2019 Loyalty Barometer Report was data suggesting that brands need to understand and act on the difference between big “L” and little “l” loyalty. Fleck told Loyalty360, “It’s become important to differentiate [between these two] because of the saturation of loyalty programs in the market. The way that we look at it is that little ‘l’ loyalty refers to the loyalty tactics that a brand is using, whether that’s a loyalty program or some other initiative. Whereas the big ‘L’ loyalty is really the outcome that the brand is looking to achieve. It’s that true consumer-brand connection and actual loyalty to the brand.”
She stated that this distinction isn’t a specific program framework. “We consider it to be more of a mindset and gut-check for brands,” she said. In order to achieve an emotional bond between consumer and brand, she advised that it’s crucial for organizations to avoid silos. “The loyalty experience is the brand experience,” she said. “Brands need to be looking across their entire organization to make sure that they’re all driving toward the big ‘L’ loyalty.”
And while they may not overtly understand the approach, consumers will experience these efforts in tangible ways. “While consumers might not necessarily have a pulse on this exact concept,” Fleck said, “they can definitely feel and react to the difference when a brand has truly differentiated loyalty initiatives that span the entire customer experience versus siloed initiatives that don’t work together toward a common goal.”
The 2019 Loyalty Barometer Report also suggested that surprise-and-delight features in loyalty initiatives are becoming more valuable to consumers. “Consumers feel that acknowledgement is very important,” Fleck said. “61 percent of our respondents said that the most important way a brand can interact with them is surprising them with offers or gifts just for being a customer, but simply saying ‘thank you for being a customer’ also ranked highly.” A simple expression of gratitude can mean a lot to a consumer.
Fleck made the case that “any technology the brand is considering implementing should also be considered through the lens of loyalty.” She said, “Consumers don’t look at a brand’s loyalty initiative as separate from the brand itself. One of the things that we saw was that consumers prefer to access loyalty-specific data via mobile apps as the number-one technology choice, but that’s directly related to convenience and utility.”
When asked if the Loyalty Barometer report had any importance for global brands, Fleck said, “We know that consumer expectations are vastly different, even across countries within the same region. Just look at differences across APAC, for example. However, the four main takeaways we cite in our report are applicable to everyone: offers and discounts are baseline expectations, reward utility is crucial, surprises drive emotional connection, the brand experience is the loyalty experience. Brands operating loyalty globally and looking to apply learnings to their strategies should start with these insights and then apply market-specific consumer research to understand how best to leverage them for their global base.”
Ultimately, the report in Fleck’s view calls for brands to take a continued, holistic approach to customer loyalty. “Loyalty must be viewed as an ongoing initiative,” she said. “It requires nurturing, optimization, and evolution over time because consumer expectations, as well as brand objectives, are continually evolving and changing. Within that framework, we look to find moments of value and create an emotional connection at each step along the journey.”
To learn more, download the full report.
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