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Think Summit 2022 Session Rundown: The Evolving Role of Retail Loyalty Programs

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Customer fluidity is at an all-time high, making shoppers’ demands incredibly robust. They have the knowledge they need to make informed purchasing decisions and expect convenience, immediacy, and quality. Now more than ever, it is critical for brands to stand out from the crowd. Loyalty programs provide a way to incentivize repeat purchases and reward customer loyalty. But only when done right. 

So how can marketers ensure a customer’s devotion to a brand stays true? By implementing a strong omni-channel and data-driven strategy — one that exists at the core of any customer’s lifetime value.

At Think Summit 2022, I, along with Movable Ink’s Senior Director of Retail Strategy, Julio Lopez, broke down the current state of retail loyalty programs. We provided clear-cut solutions that create impactful strategies to keep customers around for the long haul. 

To achieve increased customer retention and lifetime value, marketers must first identify the challenges standing in their way. Most importantly, they must understand how to transform those challenges into opportunities. 

It’s time to turn lemons into lemonade. Here are the three ways to exceed your customers’ expectations with a compelling loyalty strategy:

Flight to Digital: Loyalty Data Comes to Life

Challenge:

The pandemic forced rapid digital adoption on consumers around the world — almost 70% of retailers gained new e-commerce customers due to COVID-19. Key reasons included store closures and lack of product availability in customers’ preferred stores. Shopping behavior was driven by a need for in-demand products that could be purchased conveniently rather than brand affinity. And even as the world emerges from the pandemic, this loyalty problem will persist.

Opportunity: 

Integrated Loyalty Messaging— In a world of digital window shopping, retailers can use their loyalty program as a way to encourage their customers to stick around, as well as effectively put blinders up against the competition. This can be done by reminding customers of the program’s value by integrating loyalty messaging throughout the customer journey. 

For example, a retailer can use personalized loyalty visualization in the header of every email to illustrate how far the customer is from receiving a voucher, or if they already have one to redeem. To take it further, the loyalty module can be tied to a product the customer has abandoned in their cart. If they complete the purchase, they will be one step closer to receiving a voucher.

When being a repeat customer has clear returns, consumers are motivated to choose you as their preferred retailer. There’s value in the convenience and accessibility that is provided to the customer, especially when 60% of shoppers say that accessibility is a highly desired attribute of a retail loyalty program.

Loyalty Data Comes to Life—Loyalty summaries provide a glimpse into the benefits the customer has received from shopping with the brand. Marketers can create a visually compelling month-in-review style email highlighting all the ways they’ve received value from the loyalty program. 

This award-winning, highly-personalized account statement from Canadian Tire breaks down the benefits in a personalized pie chart. Canadian Tire uses this monthly statement as an opportunity to get recognition for all of the value they’ve provided and also encourage the customer to redeem new benefits they’ve yet to engage with, like ship-to-home reimbursements.  

Create a best-in-class retail loyalty program.

Personalization is at the core of a powerful loyalty program. Download Movable Ink's Ultimate Loyalty Personalization Playbook to get inspiration for your brand.

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New Customer Demands

Challenge: 

At the onset of COVID-19, retailers rushed to provide touchless delivery to meet customer needs through value added services such as curbside pickup and BOPIS. Customers continue to expect and demand these forms of shopping, even as in-store shopping becomes more normal again. 

Additionally, the peak of the pandemic bolstered a true effort to communicate with customers with clarity and honesty. This set a new tone for the relationship customers expect to have with brands, and switching back to pre-pandemic standards is not an option. 

Opportunity:

Diversified Ways to Earn and Burn— It’s important to remember that keeping customers engaged and loyal to your brand means more than just driving their next purchase. Loyalty, by definition, is a long-term strategy. As such, it requires fostering a real connection with your customers. One way to do this is by diversifying how members can earn and burn their points.

A shoe retailer rewards customers with points for filling out key elements of their profile, such as “Who Do You Normally Shop For?” or “What Is Your Shoe Size?”  When the customer shares this zero-party data, the retailer now has a better understanding of their preferences and can send more relevant and personalized messaging their way.

In this example, the profile completion tracker is unique to the individual. The retailer also lets customers burn their points in various ways, from entering sweepstakes to streaming specific music their customers can listen to as they work out. This loyalty program is at the center of a holistic approach around Fitness & Lifestyle that creates a long-term relationship. The marketing team is now head of the pack. As of 2021, only 31% of consumer loyalty programs allowed members to earn through non-transactional means.

Adding Value Through Exclusive Services—Over the last few years, retailers have been hard at work to ensure shopping alternatives such as curbside pickup and BOPIS run smoothly. It’s crucial that retailers continue to take advantage of all their hard work by driving awareness and redemption of these services. 

For example, a retailer showcases a customer’s loyalty status benefits but also highlights bonuses the customer has already taken advantage of. On top of this, a progress bar is displayed to gamify the experience and drive further benefit redemptions. 

Shifting Economic Landscape

Challenge:

The continued supply chain challenges combined with rising inflation have reduced consumer buying power. And any remaining disposable income now faces greater competition from the resurgence in tourism, restaurant visits, sports, and live events. Because of this, retailers must focus on communicating value to their customers beyond just sending discounts.

Opportunity:

Be Proactive About Inventory—Notify customers about relevant product inventory or fulfillment updates. For example, when an item is out of stock, proactively surface the expected back-in-stock date as well as product alternatives, such as a private label brand to address both price sensitivity and inventory concerns. 

For example, this retailer displays out-of-stock items along with a similar discounted item that is still in stock, providing the customer with more purchase options.

Loyalty-Based Promotions—High inflation means that consumers are more attuned to promotional activity and, in turn, more likely to change brands if they can find better pricing. It’s time to view the shifting economic landscape as an opportunity for your loyalty program. 

Take for instance, a retailer who displays exclusive promos to get the customer one purchase closer to VIP status. In this example, product recommendations are showcased along with the points a customer will earn if they purchase that item.

The world of retail is ever-evolving and will continue to shift with time. That’s why Movable Ink’s retail strategy team is committed to staying ahead of the curve to keep marketers in the know.

Interested to see how Movable Ink can maximize your loyalty program? Request a demo today.

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