In our industry, it’s no surprise we continuously get questions and requests from restaurants and grocers about loyalty programs, and whether our platform and solutions deliver them.
You see, the new digital aspects of customer engagement, like any other technological revolution throughout history, have vastly redefined what the term “loyalty program” actually means. As we all know, for decades (dare I say centuries) the concept of rewarding people for repeatedly purchasing goods is nothing new. And for ages, it has worked quite well.
However, the way customers are beginning to internalize the aging concept of points-per-spend programs is changing, often resulting in them feeling less valued than the programs originally intended. This is due to the mechanism of only being rewarded for additional spending in a single accumulative instance.
As such, restauranteurs and grocers are now forced to answer the question, “Do my customers want a great loyalty program?” And the answer is no. Rather, they yearn to be recognized as individuals—and a part of a mutual, long-lasting, meaningful and highly personalized relationship. This is loyalty at its core, far removed from a program.
So how does this new definition of loyalty work?
First, we must do away with the concept of dollars and points, replacing it instead with customer data knowledge. This is where relationships begin—where brand begins to emerge, and so-called rewards are highly personalized.
Here is an example for restaurants—and as you read this, think of yourself as the customer and what your reaction would be if you experienced this type of loyalty program…
On day one of being a new customer—let’s say you filled out a reservation form on the website—you receive a heartfelt thank you message from the manager letting you know that, as a new customer, you will receive a special offer. For the sake of this example, let’s make it 10% off your meal.
On day one, without spending a dime, you’re already feeling appreciated. But there’s more. Perhaps in that same email, you get a link to the restaurant app. When you download and log into the app, it asks you about food preferences, dietary restrictions, favorite beverages, and more. Because of this, as you walk into the restaurant for the first time ever, your server can immediately suggest items from the menu that you might enjoy, upsell on drinks or appetizers, or more—endless possibilities.
Better yet, as visit after visit occurs, you now receive offers featuring your favorite items, hidden menu items only for you, invitations to special events, preferred seating options—again, the possibilities are endless. How do you, the customer, now feel? You haven’t collected a single “loyalty point” from the restaurant, but you would continue to engage simply because you feel appreciated—wouldn’t you?
Let’s not forget grocery stores. Again, this is a prime environment to convince customer that they are wanted, appreciated, and loved. Like the restaurant scenario, customers can be encouraged through any advertising channel to download the store’s mobile app. On day one, they too are prompted to list likes, dislikes and dietary restrictions—all while a grocery list builder prompts them to divulge what they typically shop for.
And again, on day one, they are immediately offered specials just for them. It could be a discount. Better yet, it could be a fantastic recipe for them to try based on their data inputs. Going forward, they receive personalized weekly check-ins letting them know about sales on the things they like, plus additional food recommendations—again, I dare say the possibilities for personalized content are endless.
In each of the scenarios mentioned above, notice that at no time points-per-spend was mentioned to the customer. Yet in every case, the customer was made to feel special and prompted to buy more, all because they felt like they were personally appreciated.
Of course, this is nothing new—personal connections is what human beings have craved since the dawn of time. In 2021, businesses can now use technology and data to create these connections to forge long-lasting relationships based on trust, familiarity and—of course—loyalty.
Chief Customer Officer
Andrew Armstrong is the Chief Customer Officer at omNovos – working globally with customers to design world-class customer engagement programs. He’s a prolific writer and speaker on topics including customer loyalty, personalization, and retail marketing technologies. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter - his open approach to all topics usually leads to a fun discussion and a few laughs.