It has been a while since I last penned a piece. Summer (for those of you who have kids) tends to be a time when the challenges of balance come to forefront. The challenge of balancing the logistic complexity of four kids, a family and a business is much akin to the challenges of modern marketing, and more specifically the challenges of brand loyalty, customer experience and engagement. Once you think you've figured out how to get your kids to all of their camps, clinics and other schedule-packed lives, the landscape changes and school starts back up. In a similar way, brands struggle to adjust with the rapid transformation of the loyalty and customer experience landscape.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will feature our weekly Brand Bullet Points that you can read on a weekly basis. It will be a summary of what we have heard from brands that week and it will be summarized in an exclusive member piece, “The CMO (Marketer) Challenge.” Here at Loyalty360, we are always looking at ways brands are tackling the modern challenges of customer loyalty and engagement. In “Brand Bullet Points,” we are sharing those insights with you. To stand above the cacophony of the “data driven, market centric customer journey,” we will give you insight into what we are seeing from a market perceptive as opposed to what service providers might be telling you. We will highlight the past week’s industry voices that are paving the way for loyalty innovation.

We continue to see the landscape changing; we see brands that have loyalty programs focused on the loyalty process. The need to understand your customers is “greater than ever” (I think we have all heard that some 10,000,000 times – almost as much as the “Ice Bucket” challenge videos we see on Facebook and Vine – “We get it the water is cold.”) Someone needs to show a kid that is really upset by the process (no wait – I did that).

We see loyalty extending to a great number of verticals and industries, smaller and smaller all of the time. We recently talked with Shari’s Corporation, who owns a chain of dining restaurants in the Western U.S. They spoke a great deal about the importance of loyalty, manifested in their “The 100 Club” program.  The idea is simple, yet innovative: each server knows the names and favorite dishes for a group of Shari’s 100 best customers, which helps to create a truly welcoming and unique dining experience. Yet, Shari’s noted that their biggest challenge will be utilizing digital channels and social media, and determining the best channel to connect with customers. Shari’s, like a number of the people we speak with, are trying to ‘stay relevant” and understand their customers. Yet, instead of making the program more complex, they view it as if they are denizens of the program – looking at internal experience and simplifying the banality of the data discussion.

Yet, we see this same challenge when we speak with market leaders in their respective space. When we spoke with car repair company MAACO, they told us how they fixed the issue of engaging customers who have been through a car accident. Instead of embracing the negativity of the situation, MAACO now puts a positive spin on the repair with its “#MAACOVER” campaign. Now, through social media engagement on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook, a positive dialogue is created with MAACO that leads to an enhanced customer experience. What is important to a small, 100 store restaurant is just as critical to 500 location chain franchise. The takeaway is universal regardless: they want to understand their customers better, and they want to simplify the process as well.

In a recent survey, upscale retailer Nordstrom was named among four top brands for having the best customer experience. Additionally, loyalty club members drove nearly half of Nordstrom’s second quarter sales. These numbers are staggering, and yet it is no wonder that the company retains so many loyal shoppers as their core customer base when they offer such an outstanding and personal in-store experience. When companies are committed, loyalty programs can drive substantial behavior, yet the commitment should not waver and the program should show performance in real results. We see small gyms in Australia changing their program in an effort to be more relevant.

We also continue to see brand such as Staples focus more on the customer and Foot Locker who drove significant sales increases across its stores, all through a commitment to the customer. Yet, metrics continue to be challenge and we will bring more light to that later this week.

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