Not to start this blog off by aging myself—let’s face it, I’m not fooling anyone anyway—but I remember the days when a retailer’s loyalty program was easy. It was a simple concept: I got a card, swiped when paying for goods, and after a while I’d amass enough points to buy something extra.
But now, in the age of the new digital economy, loyalty has taken on a completely different meaning. And for many retailers, the struggle to remain relevant is becoming exceedingly difficult. Gone are the days of simple convenience-based loyalty. Now, retailers must fight for a customer’s loyalty—whether through apps or gamification strategies, etc.
You see, now the silver bullet for loyalty is focused on experience: online, in-app, and in-store. It’s that trifecta that must be perfectly tied together so that aging programs like points cards or traditional marketing is almost gone in the eyes of the next generation of shoppers.
But what is experience and why is it so important as compared to older loyalty programs? The old-school approach to loyalty was very much a convenience-based exercise. People using points cards, special member coupons, etc., would use them when in the store—but rarely planned. Simply put, if they were there, they’d use them—otherwise it was out of sight, out of mind.
However, with digital transformation in full swing, retailers of all kinds must drastically rethink their approach and radically evolve their engagement strategies to keep pace with evolving expectations.
The single most dangerous thing for a retailer now is social acceptance and the use of modern practices. A simple theory: it means that if other competitors are using modern engagement solutions, loyalty to the retailer is strained and drawn away to those that deliver a better and more personalized experience.
But that’s not where it ends. Now, retailers are also being held in comparison to those companies that fall outside of their own vertical market. For example, if a grocery store can’t deliver the same experience as say a coffee shop, then that grocery store may very well lose loyalty to the other brand just by simple comparison. So, to put it bluntly, competition is now every retailer regardless of type—a scary thought for retailers that are simply struggling to keep doing what they’ve always done.
So, what’s to be done? The good news: implementing modern engagement practices to enable new and exciting loyalty programs is actually quite easy. Aside from the platform that drives it—for instance our PACE platform—a few tweaks to process, and you’re up and running.
However, the bad news is the more personal scenario: Are you willing to change and embrace the new world? And, to be clear, I’m not asking that as a loaded question. More so, I honestly mean that there is an inherent requirement to truly come to terms with the changing landscape of customer engagement.
For every 10 companies that we engage for modernization, there is always the one that firmly plants its head in the sand, refusing to acknowledge that anything is actually changing. They refuse to make changes, and refuse to embrace new technology. And though it’s really none of my business (pardon the pun) I honestly feel bad for those retailers. Especially because it’s such an easy journey to implement modern customer engagement.
The lesson here is simple: Embrace change—because your customers already have. They are just waiting for you to meet their newfound expectations so that they can continue with the brand that they have always known and loved, or decide to move on … your choice.