The big challenge for brands this holiday shopping season will be understanding what customers are looking for this year and how loyalty will play a role in influencing where they spend their dollars.

Clarus Commerce’s Carlos Dunlap-Beard says there are strong signs that this year’s holiday season will be much improved for brands, and the Vice President for Loyalty Strategy will explain the results of a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers in late September in a webinar with Loyalty360 on November 8 at 1:00 ET.
We recently spoke with Dunlap-Beard in a preview of the webinar.
 
Q: Clarus Commerce surveyed over 1,000 consumers about the upcoming holiday shopping season; tell us what the biggest takeaway you found from the results?
Dunlap-Beard: Loyalty programs play a huge role in where consumers shop and how much they spend. We found that 81% of consumers shop with brands during the holiday season because they are members of their loyalty programs. And 77% of loyalty program members will spend more with those retailers during this holiday season.
 
Q: We know that brands struggled with meeting consumers’ expectations during last year’s holiday shopping season. How can brands better adjust their loyalty programs to meet those higher expectations this year?
Dunlap-Beard: Time, value, and convenience are what matters most to consumers, especially after the last 20 months. Brands like Best Buy and Walmart have introduced early access to in-demand products to their loyalty members. While not every brand can do this, there are still ways to make the experience awesome. We found that most consumers are shopping early this year, with 82% starting in November or earlier. And 76% are shopping mostly online this year. Whether they’re shopping on the web or mobile, make sure you’re providing a great user experience with the option to pick-up in store. And for those people heading to stores, make sure they’re stocked, clean, and ready to go. However, with current supply chain issues, it may not be easy to get access to inventory. If brands can find ways to save their members money on top of all that, that’s even better.
 
Q: From the survey data, what benefits do consumers value the most in the loyalty programs they most engage with?
Dunlap-Beard: While experiences, convenience, and exclusivity are highly important elements of customer engagement, consumers still love discounts. The data shows this is true for the holiday shopping season as well. Expedited shipping and better return policies are greatly valued around the holiday. They want to make sure their items arrive in time for the holidays but also want to make sure that brands have a reasonable policy around returns – which can take away some of the fear of ordering products without seeing them first.
 
Q: What is one thing you feel that brands need to do, not only this holiday season but going forward?
Dunlap-Beard: Brands need to start thinking more out-of-the-box when it comes to customer loyalty and engagement. It’s not enough just to have a loyalty program. It’s important to have an end-to-end engagement strategy in place to not only acquire members but also to engage, retain, optimize them while monetizing the program. This includes a traditional points program, premium tiers, and all forms of promotions, rebates, social kickbacks, and engagement strategies to give your members multiple ways of demonstrating brand affinity, as the brand delivers tons of value to them.
 
Q: How do you see loyalty playing into all this now and in the future?
Dunlap-Beard: With the death of cookies on the horizon, it will be more critical now than ever to collect first and zero-party data on customers through loyalty programs. And with all this data, brands will need a system to engage and connect directly. Loyalty programs will be one of the most important tools for brands to communicate with their best customers.
 
Q: What is the No. 1 piece of advice Clarus Commerce is giving its clients for its loyalty programs this holiday season?
Dunlap-Beard: Don’t think of the holiday season as just the holiday season. This is a great time to get consumers engaged. We found that 80% of consumers are more likely to sign up for a retailer’s loyalty program during the holiday season if it means they will earn additional discounts throughout the year. This is the time to wow them so much that they keep engaging long after the holidays are over.
 

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