Commentary

Omnichannel Loyalty Outlook For 2013

With brand allegiance up for grabs and mobile technology being the lynchpin of it all, loyalty programs in 2013 will be critical in attracting and retaining customers. And as the convergence of marketing channels continues, expect omnichannel loyalty to rise to a new level of prominence of the minds of marketers.

Big Data became better understood last year as the ability to categorize and act on collected customer metrics reached new levels of proficiency. Yet even with growing awareness, Big Data remains a major area of opportunity -- especially as businesses of all sizes and industries use the insights to drive business decisions and optimize communication, helping to break down siloed corporate divisions now that marketers can use the insights to predict and drive future purchases and incremental behavior.

And the more the insights gained from Big Data are used, the better those predictions and the ability to impact customer lifetime value will become.

As we look ahead to what the rest of 2013 will bring, I offer four predictions:

  • Converge to be relevant – Research finds channel coordination and communication to be the No. 1 challenge in 59% of loyalty programs. However, as customer expectations continue to grow, the need for further convergence will become critical as the year progresses. As Big Data becomes more manageable, marketers are finding new ways to utilize those channels effectively to connect with customers in timely and relevant ways, which happens to be a central tenet in the push toward omnichannel loyalty.
  • Digital insights – The terabytes of data that are being collected mean nothing unless that data can be analyzed and acted upon. Today, managers can accurately track a host of metrics including SMS opt-ins, click rates, digital coupon redemptions, and average price points to form a more accurate customer picture. Such a wealth of information -- which ideally should be collected anonymously -- helps brands across all verticals form a more accurate consumer picture. Nearly 88% of marketers “strongly agree” that Big Data use was critical to their 2012 ad spending. The question for 2013 is: what ways of applying collected data are you thinking of to improve the loyalty experience?
  • Personalization becomes key – Customers want their buying experience to be personal, genuine and on their channel/s of choice. Although this seems like Personalization 1.0, marketers are still missing opportunities to tailor the customer experience. Beyond the personalized SMS and emails, look to personalize customer-facing touchpoints through emerging tools like augmented reality (AR) -- an increasingly popular technology that pulls digital information from Web-based sources and social networks. AR superimposes that data on real-time images of physical world objects so customers can browse what’s on the shelves and get price comparisons from competitors simply by pointing their smartphones at the buildings.
  • Mobile loyalty – Considering how technologies and marketing channels are merging, the degree to which data generated from these channels drives positive feedback is critical. And much of that data generation rests with mobile technology. Adoption numbers alone should tell marketers that mobile is where they need to be in 2013. More than one in four members prefer to access a given loyalty program via mobile, and according to research by Banyan Branch and VIPdesk, nearly half (47%) of program providers have or are planning to develop a mobile app -- all in an effort to capture the predicted $18 billion that mobile commerce will net by 2014.

Embrace and act on these four major trends shaping the loyalty industry -- mobile, personalization, digital data and convergence -- to make your loyalty program omnipotent and omnipresent in 2013!

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