Loyalty is a hot commodity this year.
The loyalty marketing programs that employ incentives and other forms of engagement to help businesses retain customers have become popular. In fact, 57 percent of U.S. brands are increasing their spending on such budgets, and 28 percent of U.S. customers name such campaigns as powerful influences in choosing brands.
The market is projected to grow exponentially from $1.68 billion in 2016 to $4.59 billion by 2021.
“Rising need for competitive differentiation among organizations to increase their market shares is the major driver,” reports researcher Markets and Markets.
“Frequent shifts in consumer demographics, increasing focus of loyalty programs on customer segmentations, significant rise in the use of mobile technologies and increase in the number of cardholders are other factors.”
Analysts say to expect these other trends in 2017:
- Unique solutions added to loyalty platforms: Improvements to software will allow for unique features for solving old problems and attracting new customers. An example: Cereal producer Kellogg’s recently developed a function allowing customers to simply send in cell phone receipt pics for promotions rather than having to enter burdensome codes.
- More machine learning: This will increasingly be incorporated to improve the value of user-generated content and speed product searches, which will make customer engagement more meaningful and better predict customer actions, forecasts Christian Hausammann of agency Snipp Interactive on Loyalty360.org. He attributes that growth to the quantity of data, the availability of computing power and the user friendliness of machine learning platforms from behemoths such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. In broad terms, Forrester predicts businesses that optimize artificial intelligence together with big data and the IoT “will steal $1.2 trillion annually from their less informed peers by 2020.”
- More rewards beyond discounts: Brand experiences, free products, special access and other customer privileges will allow brands to form stronger relationships.
- Better-customized B2B loyalty programs: B2B versions must allow businesses choices in participation participate based on their preference for institutional or individual rewards and other factors. Rewards should be offered both for purchases and for brand-friendly behaviors such as writing a product review, reading your blog, recommending another member, etc.
- More multichannel programs: As customers choose the devices and channels most convenient to them, marketers must step up with multiple offerings that can optimize all available data.
- Better integration of data from disparate sources: One study found management of such data to be the greatest challenge for 63 percent of digital marketers trying to adopt loyalty programs.
- More user friendliness: A 2015 survey found 31 percent of loyalty program members sign up primarily because little effort is required; a related study found 81 percent continue to participate because they’re easy to understand.
Ready to get a loyalty program started, but unsure of where to begin? Expertise is available.
“A best practice for brands is to not do all this heavy lifting on their own, but to seek help from relevant third parties, especially in the key areas of data integration and customer identity management,” advises a study by CrowdTwist on Bulldogreporter.com. “An integrated system of software solutions, engaging content, calls-to-action, and a variety of rewards coupled with an adequate budget will generate the largest ROI for consumer-facing companies in the long term.”