customer expectationsIt’s little wonder that during this unofficial era of The Empowered Customer that expectations are rising, and marketers need to meet or exceed them.

Alison Chick, Vice President, Loyalty & Customer Intelligence, Indigo Books & Music, and Lukana Justin, Sr. Director Loyalty & Personalization, Office Depot engaged attendees on Wednesday at the 8th annual Loyalty Expo presented by Loyalty360 – The Loyalty Marketers’ Association, during their session titled, “Engaging Today’s Digitally-Enabled and Empowered Customer.

“The bar for innovations and customer expectations is rising,” Chick told attendees. “Customers expect brands to know them. We spend a lot of time with our executive team working on our loyalty program. We have a lot of internal ideation sessions. We aim to make sure it is top-of-mind with our CEO.”

Justin agreed with Chick.

“Customer expectations are extremely high,” Justin explained. “We communicate and engage in many different ways. The bar has been set high for customer expectations. We’re constantly talking to our customers, understanding motivations, and how they view us.”

For Office Depot, the “set it and forget it” mentality is never, ever an issue.

“We test and learn,” Justin said. “I am constantly having to validate our investment in our loyalty program. Our corporate support is spread across all departments of the company. Having that leadership support is invaluable.”

Constantly evaluating a loyalty program, Justin said, allows brands to ask questions like: How much do you dedicate to price? How do you use soft benefits that create emotional connections with the brand?

Chick said the next loyalty level becomes differentiation of service. To do that involves a heavy reliance and leveraging of data.

“For us, it has a lot to do with the data and humanizing that data,” Chick explained. “That is the next step in finding the gap between art and science. Defining different levels of personalization warrants a significant amount of IT investment because it needs to be automated. It’s a bit of a journey. Get alignment on what success actually looks like.”

Loyalty is truly the foundation to personalization, Justin said.

Personalization is “absolutely not easy. Personalization takes segmenting and targeting to a whole other level. You need a 360-degree view of the customer and be able to react to that in real time. Personalization takes into account that basket at that point in time. Personalization is a way we hope to change how we market. It’s a journey.”

Execution becomes the big challenge with personalization. Justin offered some advice.

“I would say start small because it can seem overwhelming,” she said. “We started with email and the web. Who are you working with (as a technology partner) and are you fully utilizing them? Spend a lot of time with IT. We’re doing little tasks to prove it’s worth it. IT is your best friend.”

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