The loyalty industry has always, understandably so, revolved around the customer. When you evaluate the state of customer loyalty at the end of last year compared to the beginning, you can see that 2020 didn't stall or majorly alter the emerging loyalty trends at the time; if anything, the events of the past year actually expedited their arrival into mainstream shopping landscape.
As environments and shopping habits change, loyalty programs can always find the blueprints for their future tied to what customers want and expect. So what do customers expect from their loyalty programs in 2021? Here are a few trends to help organizations expand and improve on their customer loyalty initiatives moving into the new year.
Ever heard the phrase “content is king”? Well these days convenience is king. Modern customers are accustomed to getting done things quickly, from finding products to making payments and resolving problems. The same is true for loyalty programs; customers want to be able to easily earn rewards points; view the rewards being added to their accounts in real-time; and redeem them the moment they have the desire or meet a qualification. Customers also want to be able to instantly apply rewards during a transaction or other types of events.
This also applies to issue resolution. If customers have questions they want to be able to easily find the answer without having to hunt for it or wait on hold for hours. Access to chatbots, FAQs, and help documentation online or through their loyalty member account, along with dedicated customer service portals will help program members quickly get answers to their questions resulting in happy and satisfied customers.
Enhance The Customer Experience
Omnichannel marketing has become integral to businesses over the years and now it’s reached loyalty programs. Loyalty technology and software is at the point where omnichannel strategies can be applied to customer loyalty initiatives. Because customers witness it in every industry from banking to retail, customers now expect their loyalty programs to provide the same type of relevant and engaging experiences.
Implementing a seamless customer experience into a loyalty program involves a number of factors. One of which is expanding how customers earn points to include a variety of everyday behaviors such as creating user-generated content (UGC), digital interactions with the brand, posting reviews, participating in surveys or referrals, and more. Another is adding sought-after perks or benefits that are desired by your specific customer base. These can include items like exclusive access to events or new product releases, premium discounts with partners or vendors, higher-value rewards, specialized services, or more. And when customers are shopping for specific products online, seeing those same products or suggestions in their rewards catalog reminds them of another benefit to being a loyalty member.
More Gamification And Fun
Participation and engagement is the lifeblood of customer loyalty programs. Methods for driving participation is a core aspect for ensuring loyalty programs stay at the forefront of customer mindsets. One of the most effective methods for increasing customer engagement is incorporating gamification into the loyalty program, mostly because customers enjoy it: in one study, 1/3 of all participants said that there should be games with loyalty programs. Gamification in loyalty programs adds a layer of interactivity and fun into what customers can do on the platform. These can range from simpler ideas like puzzles or quizzes, and expand into branded and customized experiences such as challenges, quests, and contests. Leaderboards and progress trackers are great methods for encouraging customers and motivating them to keep participating.
Providing Support & Giving Back To The Community
One major impact of 2020 was the rise of community support. Last year more than ever organizations were scrutinized for evidence to show they actually care about their customers: not just for the money customers spend, but for their safety and well-being. The rise of corporate social responsibility over the past 15 years has also led to the increase of putting cause and advocacy into shopping habits. Customers want to support brands they feel share the same values as they do, and they will go the extra mile to ensure their time and money is making a difference in some way. In 2021 this will continue, as more companies launch programs and create opportunities to help communities and individuals still recovering from the pandemic. Customers with loyalty programs will expect to see their loyalty programs offer some kind of charity initiatives or methods for giving back. Donating points or rewards, or purchases that offer a donated product to those in need are all types of charitable giving loyalty programs can include. The more brands can tie their support initiatives to the brand itself -- such as the TOMS brand donating a pair of shoes for every pair bought, or a grocery brand donating to local food banks -- the more it will resonate among customers.
One Final Thought
When it comes to customer loyalty and retention, the trends that shape the industry nearly always tie back to what customer consider to be most important. This was true in years past when getting the best (or lowest) price was the main priority. Nowadays customers have a number of other items of competing importance: value, convenience, experience, safety, etc. When gathering ideas for how to ramp up your loyalty program in 2021, take the time to consider who your customers are and what matters the most to them.
If you're looking for ways to improve your customer loyalty programs in 2021, we can help! Reach out to us today.