Developing an engaging customer rewards program is on the minds of marketers for companies large and small. Chipotle and Barneys New York recently launched new loyalty programs, and even industry gold standard, Starbucks, is making changes to their program.
So how can brands follow the lead of companies like Chipotle, Barneys New York and Starbucks to develop more loyal customers?
You need the right resources in place, including people and machines. We’ll save our recommendations for how to hire a great loyalty marketer for another blog post and dive right in to what you should look for when evaluating loyalty software that will enable you to execute an effective program and achieve your customer engagement goals. Interested in creating an enticing tier structure that provides customers with different rewards as they move up each level? Looking to grow the number of known customers you can market to? Want to create personalized experiences across all customer touchpoints? With the right platform in place you’ll unlock a number of different avenues for creating more loyal and profitable customers. Let’s take a closer look at the six components marketers should look for when evaluating loyalty vendors.
What to look for: The right tools to create the backbone of your loyalty program
Generating buzz around a new loyalty program launch is easy, keeping program members actively engaged long after is the hard part. When evaluating vendors it’s important to understand how they can help you set up the foundational pieces for your program, and how they can help differentiate your program from the competition’s. For example, many companies create programs that reward customers after they earn a certain amount of points, or create different tier levels with certain benefits in each tier. These are great foundational ways to incentivize customers to spend more and purchase more frequently, but you need to take it a step further by digging into the types of levers you can pull to make your new program exciting and different from what your competitors are offering. The buzz from a new program launch only lasts for so long; make sure to think about the long-term goals of your loyalty program when evaluating vendors.
What to look for: Tactics to keep customers engaged in your program
Setting up the foundation of your loyalty strategy is an important first step, but of equal importance is how loyalty software can help execute the tactics to complement your program. Think of the construct of the program as an apartment. The essentials are great and important, but what really makes the apartment feel like your own is what you add to it, such as pictures, couches, TVs. Loyalty programs aren’t all that dissimilar, and the question needs to be asked what can you add to the program to make it more appealing and different from your competitors’? Vendors that are able to blend solid loyalty program structure with a number of strategies capable of driving specific customer behaviors should be placed at the top of your wish list. Their ability to create and deploy tactics such as surprise and delight perks, product recommendations, spend challenges and gamification, incentivizes and rewards customer behavior between the milestone moments of your loyalty program.
What to look for: Seamless access to customer data
Loyalty programs are a great way to unlock valuable insights about each customer. However, that’s completely useless to you if the loyalty software you’ve invested in is slow and cumbersome when it comes to providing access to customer data. We’ve heard from many marketers across a number of industries that their loyalty software creates another data silo, and doesn’t allow them to create personalized experiences. The vendors you’re looking at should have some member data management capabilities that allow you to quickly take action off the extensive customer data being collected. After all, what good is a fancy television if you can’t watch anything?
What to look for: Robust and intuitive reporting dashboards
Being able to understand the impact of program performance is essential for learning how to improve program design. Make sure to look for vendors that offer a set of intuitive reporting dashboards that can explain performance and trends across a number of modalities. Have your own reporting suite already? Your loyalty software should be able to seamlessly export data in a format that can be used within your existing tools. Additionally, make sure the loyalty software you’re evaluating provides reporting for what’s going on underneath the hood. It’s equally important to understand the success of the program as it is to understand any potential liabilities.
What to look for: Platform usability (shouldn’t require a rocket scientist)
The nicest car in the world doesn’t do you much good if it’s too complicated to drive, which is why marketers need to take into account usability when evaluating different vendors. Many vendors say their company is capable of doing many different things, but it’s important to note it’s not as easy as flipping a switch. Before investing in loyalty software you should feel comfortable being able to use the platform to support your key use cases.
What to look for: Loyalty vendors offering knowledge and support
You wouldn’t just hand somebody a bunch of paperwork on their first day at a new job and tell them to figure it out, so make sure your loyalty software vendor won’t do the same thing. Look for vendors that offer support to make your program a success. They should also have some type of resource or documentation center available where you can quickly pull up information on how to set something up within the platform. Knowing a vendor will care about you, and help your program grow long after you’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, should be just as important as the capabilities found within their platform.
Loyalty programs are an incredible tool for making an unknown customer known, expanding addressable audience size and enriching overall database quality. By evaluating different vendors you’re on the right path to creating more loyal and profitable customers. Using the six different components found above should help you find a vendor that can create an engaging program long after it’s launched.
Interested in how SessionM can help you with the above? Request a demo! We’re eager to show you how our customer data and engagement platform fuels some of the most popular loyalty programs in the world.