Moving Pictures the Future of Customer Loyalty in Canada

In 2012, a monumental event occurred in Canada, one that saw Canadians finally embrace the destiny they had always been told would come, but which never seemed to arrive: Rush was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To this American employee of a Canadian-based company, this momentous event held multiple meanings. There were fond feelings for my colleagues and friends up north, of course. And like most Generation X males in North America, I’m a huge Rush fan myself — and my inner rock fan did cartwheels at the news. Inspired by Kevin and Michael’s perspective, you may forgive me for inserting a nod to the best trio of all time in the title of this edition of insights.

But “Moving Pictures” is more than just an inside joke for Rush fans. It’s also a useful metaphor for the evolving landscape of loyalty marketing in Canada. Until this decade, Canadian loyalty marketers knew where to go to capture a portrait of their best customers: to reward program data. Whether derived from a standalone singlebrand program, or from a multi-merchant coalition program, loyalty data has long served as the most valuable and reliable source of consumer insight available. Loyalty data is valuable because it’s fitted for a purpose: the combination of purchase, offer response, and redemption data provides powerful insight into the value and strength of your customer relationships.

But now we live in a data-driven world: A world of volume, variety, and velocity, in which large sets of unstructured data from social media, mobile devices, and a myriad of other sources threaten to crush us under the weight of their own import. Our challenge now is to understand which other of these data sources can complement loyalty data and add additional insight into consumer behaviour. But with so many data sources, platforms, and channels now at our disposal, where do we begin?

Fortunately, veteran loyalty marketers Kevin O’Brien and Michael O’Sullivan are on the case. In this edition of Insights, O’Brien and O’Sullivan focus on four central trends that will influence the evolution of loyalty marketing in Canada:

  • The Canadian debt crunch will compel consumers to tighten their belts, which will force loyalty marketers to extract additional value and relevance from their reward programs;
  • Canadian marketers will increasingly be forced to bridge the digital divide that separates consumer expectations of a seamless multichannel experience with marketers’ abilities to deliver on these expectations
  • The land rush to own a piece of the mobile commerce space will force merchants, banks, payment networks, telecoms, and device manufacturers to choose between two potential futures: One in which competing systems increase complexity and turn off consumers, or one in which these systems are used to build real relationships
  • And they also recommend a focus on “data uniqueness” — rather than rush to throw all your resources behind the shifting sands of Big Data, we should instead focus on data from those interactions most predictive of customer relationship strength. We don’t need to analyze all data — just the right data.

So while portraits of customer behaviour used to be static, they’re now moving targets which scroll into the past like social media news feeds. Loyalty marketing offers the best set of tools available for capturing these moving pictures. And whether or not you’re a Rush fan like me, you can still take heart from the band’s induction into rock’s most august body. It reminds us that hard work, perseverance, and dedication to craft can see any one of us realize our dreams. If your dream is to build strong, profitable relationships with your best customers, then this edition of Insights may provide a few useful rallying points.

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