2016 has proven that acquisition is no longer the name of the game.  With the cost of digital ads on the rise, retention marketing has taken the front seat with most marketers have committed to focusing on customer loyalty in 2017.

This shift is fully endorsed by customers, as 28% say that loyalty programs are a priority.  Clearly, retention marketing and loyalty is a requirement for 2017 and understanding how to leverage it is critical to your business’ success.

loyalty in 2017 priority

In order to better prepare you for the new year, I’ve come up with three things you absolutely need to do with loyalty in 2017. With these goals in mind, you’ll not only be able to grow your business but also improve your customer experience, making for a profitable year!

Build Trust

loyalty in 2017 problem customers don't trust

If 2016 taught us anything it’s that customers demand honest and clear communication.  The Air Miles expiration disaster demonstrated how even the most well-known brands can damage their reputation with unclear program conditions and a lack of communication.  These oversights created an aura of distrust and fostered rumours of shoddy business practices that put the program’s entire breadth of brand loyalty at risk.

loyalty in 2017 poor communication

So why did customers react so strongly?  At its core, the Air Miles issue was about trust.  Customers want to build relationships with brands that respect their loyalty and are honest about their intentions.

loyalty in 2017 solution transparency

They always say that seeing is believing, and the same goes for loyalty in 2017.  With this in mind, the key to building trust is visibility!

loyalty in 2017 glow recipe

When customers know your program exists, they begin to consider how it can benefit them in the long run.  Call to action buttons, clear links in your navigation bar, email marketing, and loyalty modals (like the beautiful ones run by Smile.io) are all highly effective ways of getting your program in front of people.  As you can see from Glow Recipe’s site, there are many ways that these elements can be successfully combined!

You can also help these along by designing an informative explainer page that highlights how your program works and what customers have to gain by joining.  81% of people join a program because it’s easy to understand, so you need to give customers a clear idea of who you are as a brand and what your program has to offer.

loyalty in 2017 public desire

Public Desire has done an excellent job of this, using videos, images, and easy-to-read chunks of text to communicate everything there is to know about their program.  The page also introduces shoppers to the look and feel of their brand, as the playful animations and soft colour palette make them stand out from their competitors.

Perhaps the most notable element, however, is the fact that every question listed in their FAQ section is addressed on the main loyalty page.  All relevant terms and conditions are clearly outlined upfront, eliminating the need for customers to go digging for this information.

All of these considerations help paint Public Desire as an honest, genuine brand, appealing to the 94% who say transparency is important.  This honesty is what ultimately builds trust and customers will see your loyalty program as a way to get to know your brand better.  In the end this shared desire to get to know each other will increase program participation, boosting your average customer lifetime value as you promote transparency with loyalty in 2017.

Relate to Your Customers

loyalty in 2017 problem rewards don't meet needs

While Baby Boomers were once the spending powerhouse, Millennials and Generation Z are quickly overtaking them.  This is hugely significant, because with 80 million and 1.3 billion members respectively, they have significant spending power.

loyalty in 2017 philanthropy

With this great spending power, however, comes great responsibility.  In general, Millennials and Gen Z-ers are very concerned with philanthropy.  This means they are actively seeking brands that share these values, and are very hesitant to pledge their loyalty to anyone who doesn’t meet these conditions.  It’s no longer enough to be cheap, and customers are becoming frustrated with brands that aren’t demonstrating ethical business practices.

loyalty in 2017 solution diversify rewards

As it stands, 20% of shoppers don’t redeem any of their loyalty points which could indicate that rewards aren’t relevant to their needs.  Since loyalty programs are intended to be beneficial for both the brand and the customer, diversification is a requirement for loyalty in 2017.

loyalty in 2017 don't redeem

This diversification shouldn’t be arbitrary, though.  Instead, you need to cater to your best shopper’s needs.  As we saw earlier, these shoppers are likely Millennials and Gen Z-ers, making charitable rewards a beneficial addition to your loyalty program.  By rewarding customers for supporting various causes, you align your brand with their values and continue to build a relationship based on trust.  You could also allow customers to turn their rewards into donations to specific causes, like Shoppers does with their Optimum program.

loyalty in 2017 donate shoppers optimum

This rewards experience becomes a huge selling point for your brand.  Through your explainer page and email communications, customers will grow to know what sets you apart and begin to create positive brand associations between you and each cause you openly support.  In these ways, your loyalty strategy will continue to advocate a sense of transparency and generosity that can’t be found anywhere else, tying customer shopping habits to value that makes a difference.

Create Personal Experiences

loyalty in 2017 problem experiences aren't tailored

The Internet has made it extremely easy to get in touch with customers.  Through email, pop-up ads, and social media, customers are constantly being bombarded with marketing messages.  This wouldn’t be a problem if each of these messages was relevant, but of the more than 4,000 brand exposures customers see every day only a fraction relate to their interests.

loyalty in 2017 irrelevant content

Personalization has always been a big concern for shoppers because it helps them feel like they have a real relationship with brands.  Thankfully, you can easily offer this type of relationship to shoppers with the help of loyalty in 2017!

loyalty in 2017 solution personalization

Everybody wants to feel special, and loyalty programs help do that.  Whether your program uses customer tiers, exclusive rewards, or birthday points, you can easily use customer loyalty as the base for a variety of personalized customer experiences.

loyalty in 2017 beard king

The first and most obvious is email marketing.  Studies have shown that personalized emails deliver 6 times higher transaction rates than generic ones, yet only 30% of brands are actively using them.  Addressing your customers by name, like Beard King has done here, is a simple but effective way of acknowledging each shopper individually.  This will help your brand stand out in an inbox filled to the brim with generic marketing emails.

You can take this even further on your website.  Customizing each customer’s experience with your loyalty modal and account page makes your program a highly personalized component of your web experience that is tailored to every one individually.  With loyalty apps like Smile.io (to pick one at random), this personalization is already built into the fabric of your program, meaning all you have to do is capitalize on it!

loyalty in 2017 anthology modal

These considerations combine with your newly diversified rewards to build a brand experience that feels relational.  A brand that feels relevant feels worthwhile, and customers will respond by referring your brand to others and making repeat purchases.  All in all, personalization is the gateway to exceptional customer experiences that can only bring long-term customer satisfaction.

Embracing Loyalty in 2017

Whether you’re starting a new program or expanding an existing one, 2017 can be a year of significant growth and retention!  All it takes is following these three steps:

loyalty in 2017 summary

1. Make your program highly visible and transparent to establish your program as an honest experience customers can trust.

2. Diversify the types of rewards you offer to better match your customer’s personal values and lifestyle needs.

3. Personalize your loyalty experience to present a rewards solution that is relevant and worthwhile to any customer.

With these considerations in mind, you’re ready to succeed (and grow!) with loyalty in 2017.  So enjoy a cup of cheer and prepare to ring in a more profitable, retention-driven new year!