I was in Boston last week. Coincidently, Martha had dropped a mail and wanted to talk. So I decided to take the opportunity and meet her. Martha earlier worked with one of our customers and had recently moved to another company as VP – Customer Innovation and Experience. She was delighted that we could meet in person and suggested an early morning breakfast meet. At a café near my hotel.
“So how’s everything, Ankur?” Martha greeted enthusiastically.
“Good, and busy as usual.”
“Hope you don’t mind me stealing your time here, but I really need your advice on something.”
“Sure.” We ordered our breakfast and began talking.
Martha was in the midst of designing an upgrade to her company’s brand loyalty program. Being in clothing and accessories business, their customers were always looking for the best deals. In brick-and-mortar shops as well as online. While these shoppers happily enrolled in the loyalty program, there was not much traction and the company wanted to revamp the loyalty program.
“Martha, the modern customers are not averse to changing their minds at the last minute to pick a great deal.”
“Very true. They are a connected generation and don’t rely only on information pushed by us. They can pull online reviews and trends at will. That is where we are struggling, not able to get their pulse in real-time.”
She explained that they had trouble getting the next best action for individual customers which meant losing the market share was hurting the top-line growth.
“I think we don’t really have a good hold on customer data. I mean relationships across people, products, locations, devices, and other entities are not fully leveraged to get a complete customer profile. We are not able to segment customers by loyalty, price-elasticity, impulsivity, or need, as we cannot continuously align and correlate interaction and transaction data with customer profile. We also have trouble identifying and deploying relevant new data, either internally or from external sources. That’s where you can help us.”
“Let’s see how we can solve that. Do you come to this café often?”
“I like it for breakfast. They have a good breakfast menu, their service is quick, and it’s not too crowded at this hour.”
“So you like the whole experience.”
“Yes. Oh, you want us to leverage customer experience for loyalty?”
“Exactly! In the modern connected age, customer expectations have changed. Millennials in particular, place a premium on experience and at times are ready to forego financial rewards of loyalty. Especially for CPG, retail, or hospitality business. To stay relevant to the changing expectations, your loyalty program must include customer experience.”
“You are right. But we need to know how. We are not able to get data that can help us differentiate with experience and we end up being the same as competition. Naturally we keep going for generic promotions or similar marketing campaigns. No wonder our ad spend does not give the expected sales lift, and we falter on brand loyalty.”
“Loyalty is not what it used to be. Its meaning and management has changed. Customers want to be recognized and rewarded individually. And they want to see your loyalty through such programs. Recognizing that every customer is driven by different needs, the program must respond suitably and provide a personalized experience. Delivering omni-channel, consistent, and delightful customer experience is critical in retail, and it can be leveraged further for successful loyalty programs.”
Once Martha agreed, I emphasized that the next-gen customers need a next-gen loyalty program that delivers a hyper-personalized experience with rewards that are not just financial, but also experiential.
“Building everything around customer experience is the key, Martha. It already has proven to boost annual revenue. Make it work for loyalty, too. Repeat purchase may be your key objective for loyalty, but don’t just measure everything in terms of purchase. Financial transactions is one facet, make sure that customer experience complements it. Let both work together, and they will give you much more than their sum.
Take your case. Clothes and cosmetics may be a year-round buy, but winter boots are a seasonal buy. Right? Say a customer comes every winter to buy these boots, how would you keep him engaged for the rest of the year?”
“Hmmm. I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“You need to think on those lines for the next-gen loyalty program. That’s where the engagement incentives offer more opportunities to earn rewards. Deliver the omni-channel customer experience seamlessly across the customer journey, even when customers don’t buy or browse. Engage customers in reward-based experience. Include rewards for sharing in social media, participation in discussion forums, customer advocacy, and customer referrals.”
“This is so good! Let’s have another helping and keep discussing.”
“Consider this café. How should it reward you for tweeting its new menu? Or sharing their photos on Facebook?”
“That should add to my reward points!”
“Yes, and the rewards should include unique experiences not just a discount coupon or a free cookie. What if they surprise you with a Martha-special breakfast? Or invite you do a personalized brunch with friends?”
“I’d love such experiential rewards. Much more than a discount.”
“That’s what I’m driving at. Open the gates for the next-gen loyalty to include these aspects and see how the program remains relevant to modern customers. Your customers will be continuously engaged and invested in the brand. Now before you ask, such hyper-personalized experience is only possible when you have a real-time full 360 degree customer view and actionable insights.”
Martha needed no introduction to how an enterprise data hub can unlock the value of data relationships across people, products, locations, and devices. She had seen in her previous company a uniform customer view across all teams delivering role and goal-based recommendations. Soon we were discussing getting deeper customer insight at every touchpoint and dynamic segmentation, which are essential to drive loyalty in the increasingly complex digital business landscape.
“I’ll give you a real example. Reltio has successfully powered a personalized loyalty program for a top global fast-food restaurant chain. With the objectives of driving differentiation and sustaining a competitive advantage, we worked on the program across their forty thousand plus outlets in over a hundred countries.”
“Yes, it is. We created a continuously updated trusted customer data foundation that feeds the real-time information to all customer engagement channels. See what it means? Consistency across touchpoints. The program accesses the system in real-time for every order to understand customer preferences and personalizes the experience with relevant offers. The program has resulted in increased wallet share, higher customer satisfaction, and higher customer lifetime value. That’s the strength of loyalty through hyper-personalized customer experience.”
“A great achievement, I must say!”
“So let’s see what the enterprise data hub should do for customer engagement and experience. To begin with, it must bring together your key customer experience applications to create a comprehensive 360 degree view of customers. This part is critical, as all the personalization decisions will be based on this view.”
“We live in the age of data explosion, and the scalability of the enterprise data hub is a significant factor.”
“Yes. It should be able to support all our current and future touchpoints, and any new datasets we decide to onboard.”
“Of any size and any type. This flexibility makes your solution future-ready. Now this hub must have the inbuilt capability to automatically uncover customer insights, relationships, and the context of the business they are doing with you.”
“I remember how in my earlier company we were thrilled with the machine learning benefits like these, when we implemented Reltio platform.” Martha was now getting into the right mode of decoding the steps towards her goal.
“The next step is leveraging the insights for engagement and customer experience.” I sipped more coffee and continued. “Your enterprise data hub must be able to provide your customer engagement applications relevant customer data in real-time. Then the store assistants, or customer support staff, or any customer-facing personnel or process will be equipped to make the best decisions. Note that you need to operate all this at internet-scale for offering a seamless customer experience. No customer likes delays. They want you to respond immediately.”
“I get the picture!” Martha laughed. “If Jane Doe has tweeted our latest range of scarves, we should amaze her by offering a good deal on scarves, right? Or if John Doe has accompanied Jane to the store, we should be able to present a combo set of men-and-women perfume. Wow! This is so thrilling!”
“You got it so right! You got them engaged totally. And if they are also thrilled with this experience, you know they’ll be invested in the brand right away. That kind of hyper-personalized experience-based loyalty we are talking about.”
“And before we close, a final piece of advice. Make sure you comply with your data privacy and regulatory requirements, and above all capture and comply with how your customers want to engage with you.”
“Thank you so much, Ankur. Wow! I know which customer experience enterprise data hub will help us build our next-gen loyalty program. So let’s do a meeting to make a formal proposal for Reltio.”
Martha had her plan chalked out – a successful next-gen loyalty program that complements the brand and consistently engages customers by delivering best-in-class hyper-personalized customer experience.
Do you have yours?
Do you have new depths of insight and understanding of your customers by automatically mining the value of relationships between customers and the people, places, and things they interact with every day?
Do you ensure that your customer insights are made available across the company, enabling one-call problem resolution and loyalty recognition, delivering individualized service and creating brand loyalty?
Can you act on the new customer information faster than competition by providing system-level capabilities to automate the process of value discovery when new data sources are added?
Time to open the gates for next-gen loyalty.