Loyalty, as they say, must be earned. For retailers and other merchants in a crowded and competitive marketplace, earning customer loyalty is a top priority.
To achieve lasting, in-depth customer loyalty, retailers must develop keen insights into their customers, understand their behaviors and preferences, and deliver valuable, relevant offers and communications to customers based on those insights.
To do that, they need connected customer data.
The Value of Connected Data
Consumers today have access to multiple points of contact with the retail brands they patronize. So many, in fact, that the opportunities for retailers to connect and engage with customers are unprecedented: email, SMS messages, loyalty mobile apps, social media, customer service centers, and of course ecommerce sites.
Each of these channels generates a significant amount of customer data. To get a true, full picture of customers, brands need to connect that data from all of those touchpoints, and centralize it in a single platform. Once connected and collected, that data represents a single customer view – an accurate portrait of all interactions a customer has or has had with the brand.
How Loyalty Programs Fit In
Loyalty programs, beyond their traditional function of retaining and rewarding high-value customers, are one of the most important and versatile touchpoints through which to gather customer data. Loyalty programs allow retailers to track members’ purchasing behaviors, asses the effectiveness of incentives and offers, and can serve as an identifying marker for customers as they move through their buyer journey. But loyalty programs are only effective as customer data collection mechanisms if they are “owned” by the retail brand itself; coalition schemes add an opaque layer between a customer’s behavior and the retailer.
Not only do in-house loyalty programs allow consumers to earn and redeem rewards across all banners and brands under a retailer’s umbrella, they also allow those retailers to get a more complete view of their customers’ activity.
Consumers, for their part, ultimately value the more simplified, unified approach to loyalty. And with loyalty data connected with other consumer data to provide a single customer view, retailers can better optimize their offers, engage in true personalization, and create positive customer experiences that create increased loyalty in a mutually-beneficial reinforcement loop.
Reaching the Omnichannel Customer
A single customer view, fueled by customer data from the loyalty program and other consumer touchpoints, helps retailers present rewards, offers and communications tailored to each shopper’s purchasing habits and preferences in the right channel at the right time. Targeted, relevant and personalized offers lead to more engagement, enhanced customer experiences and ultimately, more sales.
Connected data and a single customer view also makes it possible for retailers to provide ongoing value to existing and newly acquired customers through communication, by illuminating what those customers find meaningful, worthwhile, or motivating. Armed with that knowledge, retailers can tailor their messaging to resonate effectively, creating brand affinity and emotional loyalty that goes beyond transactional considerations (offer redemptions and discounting, for example). Connected customer data can also be used in new customer acquisition initiatives, informing lookalikes and ideal buyer personas that can build and target a custom audience on various social platforms.
Creating Value through Personalization
For most retailers, collecting and managing customer data is important not just for the sake of the single customer view, but also for meeting customers’ expectations for brand interactions. Personalization at the level consumers expect is impossible unless a brand can extract data from both loyalty programs and other customer touchpoints, organize that data in a centralized way, and then leverage it effectively. With the right technology, brands can move beyond simply meeting their loyalty members’ and customers’ expectations, and start anticipating and exceeding them.
Consumers want personalization; they want the retailers they give their business to to recognize where and how they want to receive communications and engage with the brand, they want offers and rewards that are customized to their preferences, and most of all they want retailers to understand their needs and desires. The only way to meet these expectations is by collecting and connecting all of the data that customers generate throughout their interactions with the retail brand, across all channels, and using the insights gleaned from that data to inform sound marketing strategies.
The retailers and merchants that will be most successful in the future will be those that recognize the value of the single customer view, and make the necessary investments to connect their customer data across all touchpoints.
For some retailers this may mean bringing their loyalty solutions in house so they have visibility into their members’ activity. For others, it will mean identifying a technology partner that can connect disparate systems to better facilitate the collection of customer data. But for all it means focusing on the customer, noting their behaviors and preferences and delivering the kind of personalized experiences that drive true loyalty.
Sean Keith is is the Director of New Business Development at Eagle Eye