ORLANDO -- The challenge right now is to define loyalty, according to Mark Johnson, CEO and Chief Marketing Officer for Loyalty 360, during his Thursday general session, “Building Long-Term Customer Relationships: Understanding and Delivering a Consistent Experience.”

Speaking at the 6th annual Loyalty Expo, Johnson asked attendees to define loyalty. James Christenson, EVP Business Development and Sales, RewardStream, responded: “It’s not buying customers, it’s rewarding them.”

For many people, Johnson said loyalty is something they know when they see it.

“Loyalty is a dog,” he said. “They have that reciprocity with you.”

Brands still struggle to listen to their customers, Johnson said.

“Loyalty is about behavior,” he said. “The challenge is to understand customers and understand the rapidly changing landscape.”

Johnson referred to “The Loyalty Divide,” a white paper written by Loyalty 360 and Acxiom. Successful marketers connect all of their customer data with customer experiences, providing authentic, relevant engagement that is consistent to the brand. This practice helps bridge the loyalty gap and fosters customer comfort, familiarity, safety, and trust.

But when marketers fail to connect their customer data to their marketing efforts, a loyalty divide occurs that creates inconsistent engagement, lost opportunities, diminishing results, and brand erosion. 

Holistic Customer Lifetime Value lags as a measure. According to “The Loyalty Divide,” calculating the cost of servicing customers is a metric too often ignored when selecting audiences. As a result, assessing which customers are likely to remain loyal is more difficult. If marketers can’t segment their most loyal customers, they won’t fully connect with them.

Consider how brands and customers hold opposing loyalty views about the other. According to a Bain & Co. study, 90% of brands feel engaged with their customers while only 9% of customers feel the same.

Johnson said brands need to understand expectation matching and invest in a customer’s lifetime value.

Johnson told attendees to ask themselves these questions: Why am I loyal? What brands are you loyal to and why? “Data knowledge is power. The challenge of loyalty is growing. Most brands aren’t getting it. Loyalty should always be focused on behavior.

Johnson listed the 4 C’s of Customer Loyalty:

Content (product or service).

Community (social, online, in-store).

Collaboration (mutual engagements with the consumer).

Commerce (driven by utility loyalty).

Johnson mentioned some of the companies he’s most loyal to – Delta Airlines, Carrabba’s Restaurant, and the Denver Broncos. “Everyone has different engagement levels with a brand. It comes down to relevancy and personalization. The challenge is truly understanding your customers.”

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