True loyalty found best on Valentine’s Day - for us marketing folk

Last week was CMA's Loyalty Conference–a half-day to talk shop, talk relationships and talk BFFs. And by that we mean, Brand Friends Forever. What better week than Valentine’s for that, right?

We heard from Canada Post, Maritz, Universal Music Group, Air Miles, Aimia, Coca-Cola, The Shopping Channel, Samba Days, SCENE, Ford Motor Company, Hudson Bay Company and Suncor Energy. And while they spoke of different things, the theme was resounding: loyalty influences behaviour and done properly, the rewards can be huge from both the customer and the company perspectives.

So what did we take away?

Success can all fall apart with one bad service experience. Kerry Munro–Group President with the Digital Delivery Network at Canada Post–is a huge proponent of great customer experience as a way to secure loyalty. And while Canada Post boasts the most downloaded App in Canada last year, we’re happy to listen to all they have to say. The reality is, we’re marketing in a world where finance rules; people are being asked to do more with less money. So understanding how to mesh all the platforms together to create that perfect experience is key to staying relevant.

Loyalty programs can change behaviour. And simultaneously engaging customers on-the-ground and online is the trick. According to Scott Robinson–the Senior Director of Loyalty Consulting and Solutions with Maritz–these programs actually sway people to buy one brand over another. Consider all those pesky emails you get from the different programs to which you subscribe? Well, Scott went on to say that the data suggests 89 per cent of people actually like these emails. But data also suggests communications must be relevant or personal. Remember the Beyond the Rack story from my last post? Those guys customize correspondences like few others and they're cashing in as a result. The question is: how can things be at once personal and respectful of the average customer’s privacy concerns?

Getting personal doesn’t necessarily require a personalized email. According to Olivier Robert-Murphy–the Global Head of New Business for Universal Music Group–getting personal is all about knowing your customer to truly industrialize intimacy. Karl Bonar–the Senior Interactive and Marketing Manager with Coke–seconded Olivier’s emotion with his case for relationships. According to Coke, there are three phases of loyalty: bondage, bribery and relationship. At this point, the iCoke loyalty program is in the bribery stage–offering free things to customers in exchange for their loyalty. But the goal is to move customers into the relationship phase, like iTunes has, where people depend on the service offered and know they won’t find a better service elsewhere.

So how can you devise a successful loyalty program? Take a page from Aaron Dauphinee–the Knowledge and Development Director with Aimia– who lists the four tenets of loyalty: Quality, Service, Experience and Value. And listen to our friend Marc Goodman who oversees the PetroPoints Program. He credits their success to three simple principles: show the love, build a simple program, and improve attainability.

That’s easy enough. Off you go!

Anna Duckworth

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Tags: Branding, Customer Insights, Loyalty, Retail, Customer Service