Loyalty marketing has become incredibly important to all business sectors and in the business community we all see loyalty as a way of increasing engagement, customer retention and ultimately sales. Reward programs, freebies, direct marketing and promotions have all come to dominate the loyalty landscape and few companies feel they can go without some sort of loyalty offering. With the increasing growth in social spheres companies are now increasingly operating parts of their loyalty schemes online in an effort to increase customer engagement in the largest social spheres the world has – namely Twitter and Facebook. However, recent research is beginning to suggest that many consumers are now beginning to experience what has been dubbed “loyalty fatigue.”
According to a recent study conducted by a research firm in the US on hotel loyalty programs consumers are becoming despondent with loyalty programs as a result of – too many emails (44%), too many terms and conditions (38%) and rewards without value (37%). While this survey may have only applied to the hotel industry it gives us a plethora of lessons that we should be taking away and applying to our own loyalty marketing efforts. In an increasingly cramped loyalty market it can be hard to maintain customer loyalty and we need to be actively engaging with these problems and taking steps to overcome them.
Before we take a look at our own loyalty marketing programs we need to take in a broader view of the overarching loyalty landscape. One of the core overarching problems is that the loyalty market is now colossal. As over 80% of companies now have loyalty schemes the market has become cramped. At the same time we are now nearly all using Facebook, Twitter and email in our customer loyalty programs and our marketing efforts. In addition consumers are increasingly participating in more reward schemes and being tempted towards a variety of different reward platforms. While this is all fairly textbook few of us are really incorporating this into our strategic thinking.
If there are thousands of reward schemes on the market then our own platform needs to be incredible – not just a few average rewards, a few money off vouchers and “perceived value” items. We really need to be pushing out the boat – making rewards achievable and have real and perceived value. We also need to increasingly create personalised incentives and make increased efforts to make our individual customers feel valued. If customers are showing dissatisfaction with the levels of rewards we are offering then we need to increase our input to this area; providing real rewards for the majority of our customers and not just a select few. If we add to many terms and conditions to our rewards we equally run the risk of alienating large swathes of our customer base.
At the same time if there are millions of marketing and loyalty promotional emails being sent out each month we need to be much more careful about how and when we communicate with our customers. Even if we only send out one email a week to our members we need to consider that they may receive a dozen or more from other companies. We therefore need to compete for our customer’s attention; but we also need to keep them happy. A company that sends just one email a month may in fact fare better than another who inundates their customers inbox with half-baked news stories and low quality promotions. At the same time our social presences may need re-thinking to avoid information overload in our followers and fans. While some of our social network may be interested in daily or hourly updates the majority won’t be so we may be better off only sharing important information with our social groups.
Overall it seems we need to re-examine the loyalty landscape and we need to make efforts to improve the perceived and real value our customers are receiving. However, this doesn’t have to entail simply adding more rewards and downplaying your contact. As Stuart Evans from ICLP Loyalty recently said “Consumers must be encouraged to look for the ‘unpublished’ soft benefits of a loyalty programme.” So while we continue to streamline our loyalty schemes and avoid “loyalty fatigue” we also need to be demonstrating our real value beyond a simple loyalty platform.