To create true loyalty, brands must shift from a rewards mindset to a holistic customer experience mindset. Creating emotional experiences is just one key component of authentic engagement.
Customer loyalty today extends well beyond just a program or points. It’s a customer experience strategy that connects consumers with brands. Yet, too many brands have created a singular approach to driving loyalty through rewards that are offered as a separate program.
In actuality, loyalty is about the holistic experience and interactions that consumers have with brands over a lifetime, not just when they transact. Think about it – 33% of rewards go unredeemed, according to the 2015 COLLOQUY Census, a comprehensive overview of the loyalty landscape. The finance department may like the breakage, but that also means there’s a lapse in consumer engagement.
While providing consumers with monetary rewards such as points or cash back may be a critical piece of a loyalty program, it should only be a component of the overall strategy. Companies must differentiate their loyalty strategies by moving beyond discounts, rebates, and points and create a reason for customers to remember the brand experiences. Emotional experiences, for example, play a larger role than economic value when it comes to driving customer loyalty and programs focused on connecting emotionally with members can help brands achieve increases in sales.
Creating authentic customer loyalty through emotional experiences requires brands to put customers at the center of everything and consistently connect with them across multiple touchpoints. To do this effectively, they must understand what their target customer desires, how they want to interact with the brand and how they want to be rewarded.
Start with your brand promise and think about how well you deliver it at each touchpoint to gain trust. Customers will increase engagement with your brand if they feel good about their interactions with you. Once they have a sense of trust and comfort, the relationships will deepen and they’ll find it harder to go elsewhere.
Here’s a personal experience: I recently called Hilton to cancel a reservation, and my call was answered, “Hilton Honors; hello, Mike. We’re looking forward to seeing you tonight.” I was shocked they knew who was calling, but even more so that they were expecting me that evening. I had called to cancel two rooms at the last minute, which was not in line with their standard cancellation policy. The Hilton associate told me, “Since you’re a valued Hilton Honors member, we’ll gladly cancel your rooms at no charge, and we look forward to your next visit.” From this interaction, my loyalty to the Hilton brand was enhanced.
Many times, actions like the experience I described above have the power to deepen customer loyalty at no additional cost to the brand. Providing non-monetary rewards or perks as part of your loyalty strategy can go a long way in creating emotional connections with your customers.
Marketers must create a culture both internally and externally that focuses on enhancing the customer experience. How can this be achieved?
Personalization. As mentioned in the Hilton example, consumers are affected positively by a good experience that addresses them in personalized ways.
Appreciation and recognition. Thank your most loyal customers through a simple thank-you note or by elevating them to a higher tier. This recognition and simple acknowledgement goes a long way.
Enhancing customer interactions. Customers expect different experiences as members of your loyalty program, so it is important that everyone in the organization understands the value these members bring. Enhancing the customer experience at all interactions will deepen loyalty.
Access. Provide members-only access to information, advice, events, classes, services and even pricing. Create customer exclusivity while helping them feel informed about their purchase decisions, which increases overall brand satisfaction.
Long-term loyalty should be the objective of your engagement strategy; drawing the customer into a synergistic, whole-brand experience. With today’s marketing and technology options, brands are finding it easier to enable emotional experiences as part of their loyalty strategies.