When you consider the current state of customer engagement and loyalty and where it’s headed, it appears that retaining customers is only going to become more difficult. Why? For one thing, instant access to more information means that consumers have more choices than ever.
 
R.I.P, loyalty?
 
Loyalty is going to have to be far less transaction-driven, less about offers. It has to come from experience and engagement. That's why talking about customer engagement rather than customer loyalty is more appropriate, because loyalty in many ways is dead.
 
At least one study bears this out. A study by USC on the psychology of successfully marketing to Millennials showed that for 62% of respondents said that brand engagement is more likely to make them a loyal customer.
 
Successful loyalty programs will also be tied to more personalized products, services, and experiences. Companies will need to understand, intimately, what customers want and how to deliver that in an on-demand economy in a convenient and easy way. Consider successful startups that provide on-demand delivery such as Dollar Shave Club, Harry's shaving, or Birch Box. Likewise, consider retailers that let you work with a personal designer / shopper.
 
It’s about the experience
 
How can you take your customer engagement beyond points and other rewards to the next level? Here are our top three recommendations.
 
1.     Make sure your products, services, and loyalty interactions fit into your customers’ lifestyle. Consider a hotel app for Smartphones that lets guests confirm their reservation, get a notification the moment their room is ready for occupancy, and use their phone as a key to get into the room. These guests never have to stand in a busy check-in line at the hotel’s front desk. They find it more convenient to do business with the hotel. And guests who value – and experience – this level of convenience probably are more likely to return.
 
2.     Make convenience your driving mantra. Sometimes you can bolster loyalty simply by sharing information that gives your customers a great experience. Case in point: a recent email I received from my favorite loyalty program, American Airlines. 

I was traveling with a layover in Chicago. The day before I left, I received an email from American letting me know that they were renovating one of the Admiral's Club locations in O’Hare. They suggested that if I had enough time during my layover I could visit the Admiral's Club on the other end of the concourse.
 
That's one-to-one proactive communication beyond the purchase. It makes for a great customer experience. It had nothing to do with miles, points, or upgrades; rather, it had everything to do with my experience while on the ground in Chicago. Someone at American thought about what my experience might have been like had I headed to the nearest Admiral’s Club only to find it closed for construction. And they did something, proactively.
 
Going forward, companies that win in the area of loyalty will be the ones that go the extra distance by using their loyalty program to create value for the customer in the context of their relationship with that customer—not just driving purchase and revenue.
 
One more convenience example: Walgreens has an app that allows customers to refill prescriptions, monitor their orders, pay using their phone, and earn and redeem awards. If your business makes it convenient for customers to manage their lives, you’ll stay top of mind. And if you’re top of mind, you’ll develop and retain customer loyalty.
 
3.     Look for the win-win. A quick service restaurant with 600 locations launched an app that lets customers place orders from a limited menu that includes only large group meal boxes. These types of orders are perfect for customers heading to a tailgating party or a soccer game, so they meet a lifestyle need. At the same time, limiting selections to large order items increases revenue per visit, which benefits the business. It’s OK to find a balance between convenience for customers and your own business needs and goals.
 
You may have noticed a common thread among the examples: most of them use an app. And what better venue for personalizing your brand’s engagement and loyalty experience than through an app on your customers’ (personal) device? Consider these data points:
 
·       40% of millennials want to track/redeem rewards on an app, according to Software Advice.
 
·       87% of restaurants plan to implement a comprehensive mobile experience for customers in 2018.
 
·       76% of restaurants plan to implement mobile payments via a guest's own device in 2018. The last two data points come from Hospitality Technology’s 2017 Customer Engagement Technology Study.
 
What will you try next to elevate customer engagement?
 
Whether you develop an app or engage your customers using other methods, your consistent delivery of awesome products and/or services, along with surprise and delight, will underpin your success. So, too, will your ability to sustain an ongoing conversation with prospects and customers across multiple touchpoints. Best wishes to you in your customer engagement journey.

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