Three Ways to Supercharge Customer Engagement in 2020 

If you were able to stop by the SessionM station in Mastercard’s booth at NRF, you may have noticed that our theme was ‘Supercharging Customer Engagement’, something a lot of brands are focusing on in 2020. 

For an industry that has been getting criticized, put down, and called “dead” over the past decade, the retail world is still standing, and fighting to stay alive. At NRF, BJ’s CEO Christopher Baldwin said “As an industry, we’ve invested billions and billions of dollars over the past decade. This massive investment has started to transform our industry, and it has changed the way consumers shop and how they live.” Now that retailers fully understand what needs to be done to stay relevant in the eyes of the consumer, 2020 is about executing that knowledge – or “supercharging” customer engagement, one could say. In this blog, we will go through three themes we saw at NRF that highlight how retailers can supercharge their customer experience to make sure they’re starting the new decade off on the right foot. 

1.Don’t forget about the importance of human connection  

While the digital age we live in today has changed our lives for the positive in so many ways, most notably the boundless connection to brands, people, and opportunities at our fingertips, it has also created a disconnect in human interaction. Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks focused on this topic at NRF, highlighting the importance of taking a “human-first digital strategy”, and using technology in a positive way, to add to the customer experience. It is important for brands to recognize that digital engagement is something to invest in, yet it will only get you so far in the customer journey. It is equally important to focus on the value of human connection; treating your customer as a customer, not a digital transaction. The key to this is taking that online experience, mobile experience, and in-store experience, and interlinking them all. It all goes back to the fact that your customers want to be understood and known by the brands they love. All you have to do is listen and let the data tell you what you need to do next. Take Starbucks’ Deep Brew Initiative, which is all about learning and adapting to customer preferences over time, to deliver a more relevant and seamless customer experience. In this case, technology is helping enhance the customer experience, and the barista experience – allowing them to better connect with one another– human to human–something that shouldn’t be lost in the retail experience.   

2. Look beyond traditional rewards 

You’ve heard us talk about this before. (I mean, it is our bread & butter.) For that reason we were happy to hear this was a hot topic at NRF. Loyal customers don’t want, or even need, another discount code; rather, they prefer experiential benefits. To keep pace with changing consumer trends, brands have to look beyond the traditional, transaction based rewards. At SessionM, we have been calling this Loyalty.X, or “Below the Line Loyalty”, which is about delivering completely personalized experiences to individual customers, that drives loyalty as a behavior or reaction to those engagements. Therefore, instead of points and tiers, think about 1-1 offers, surprise and delight, or even private tiers to keep your customers coming back. There are a few brands that have started to adopt this approach, and many more say it’s on their roadmap. In Mastercard’s Report, Beyond Rewards: Raising the Bar on Customer Loyalty, led by Harvard Business Review, 48% of organizations said they are focused on making their loyalty program a more digital experience, and 59% of organizations said that building a stronger emotional brand connection is a key driver in their loyalty initiatives. This is only the beginning. In order to supercharge your customer engagement strategy, it’s important to think beyond your current loyalty approach. 

3. Ease of Use + Personalization, within loyalty 

Last, but not least, ease of use and personalization. These two could stand alone, but we are going to look at them within your loyalty experience. Ease of use is a big one for consumers due to  the endless other options they have. An issue navigating your site or app? On to the next one. According to Forrester’s Report on the Psychology of Points, adults already belong to an average of 3.7 loyalty programs. If your experience is complicated or confusing, you’re not helping yourself, or your customers. Marketing Dive called out Target and Reebok as two brands at NRF that focus on a simple, easy to use loyalty program, with a basis on data. First, the program has to be easy to use. From there it allows you to deliver the personalized experience that keeps the customer around. Reebok’s VP of Marketing Matthew Blonder touched on this: “The power of a loyalty program is virtually nil unless you’ve used the data that it makes available to better target and personalize for your consumer…Data was a key component of the program design as well as what ended up being the execution.” Start by offering a low barrier of entry, so you can then blow them away with a data-driven personalized experience. 

There are a lot of other ways you can supercharge the customer experience, however I hope you enjoyed our three main takeaways from retail’s big show. Whether it’s putting more focus into human connection, looking beyond traditional loyalty tactics, or revamping your loyalty program to be easier to use, and more personalized, I’d say you’re off to a good start! If you’re curious on how we help retailers supercharge the customer experience, click the request a demo button below!