How Smart is your Loyalty Program?

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Customer Loyalty
Customer Experience
Along with "next guest, please" the phrase consumers most likely hear at a store is, "are you part of our loyalty program?" But while most companies have a loyalty program, many still struggle to pull actionable insights from the mountain of loyalty data they've collected.

Along with "next guest, please" the phrase consumers most likely hear at a store is, "are you part of our loyalty program?" But while most companies have a loyalty program, many still struggle to pull actionable insights from the mountain of loyalty data they've collected.The average adult in the U.S. belongs to at least six loyalty programs, making it difficult for companies to stand out in such a crowded space. Customizing member engagement with personalized offers and rewards is a logical way to differentiate a program. But doing so is easier said than done.

From a survey of 60 loyalty marketers, 40 percent of the respondents indicated that personalizing offers, content, and experiences based on behavior is a top challenge, reports Forrester Research analyst Emily Collins. "One of the biggest benefits of loyalty programs is the ability to collect all kinds of identified customer data. But, it appears that few marketers are able to act on that data," Collins notes in the report. "[And] with consumers' expectations ever on the rise, this is a critical hurdle for companies to clear."

So how can companies derive more value from their data? Part of the challenge in leveraging data insights is having access to the right data and making sure it's accurate, says Matthew Rhodus, industry solutions executive for retail at NetSuite, a business management software provider.

As Rhodus explains in regard to creating an omnichannel experience, "retailers have been buying the best-of-breed solution for this and that in an effort to cobble together a unified experience, but when the data lives in multiple places, you're bound to have duplications and other errors," he says.

The same could be said for companies that have fragmented loyalty programs. Many loyalty programs, for instance, require members to register through a separate website from the company's main site. This forces members to remember a separate login that diverts them from the core brand experience. It also leaves marketers with disparate customer databases, which limits real-time targeting and personalization efforts.

Looking ahead, 63 percent of the respondents indicated that they're planning to increase spending on loyalty technology. For marketers who are doing so, Collins advises them to "make sure that investment includes integration with existing systems -- like analytics, campaign management, and point of sale -- to ensure that you coordinate and share insights and customer responses."

Simply put, marketers have to get the basics down before they can move on to more advanced customer experiences.

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