Commentary

Loyalty Without Points

I love Chipotle. Blessed with a Chipotle a few flights of stairs away from my desk, I’m lucky enough to frequent the establishment so much that often my typical order is started when I walk in the door. I tell people I love Chipotle. I consult with friends on how to craft the perfect burrito. I have favorite Chipotle associates (rolling the perfect burrito is a rare talent). 

I am ambivalent about dry cleaning. I don’t perceive a huge disparity in quality from provider to provider. I don’t have a personal relationship with the many associates I interact with over time when I drop off my clothes. I make a decision on where to go based on logical factors like location, convenience and tangible incentives (coupons, punch cards, etc.).

For every brand a consumer is truly passionate about, that same person is probably equally dispassionate about 20, 30 or more brands that have fleeting, transactional, impersonal roles in that consumer’s life. In my world, for every Chipotle, there are 20 brands that range from dry cleaning to paper towels that I feel no real affinity for.

A brand’s perception of loyalty must take into account both ends of that spectrum, both the passionate fans and the transactional consumers. Too often, branded loyalty programs focus on incentives like points, membership tiers and discounts that might motivate transactional consumers but are likely wasted on passionate fans. 

I don’t need points or a loyalty card or some special incentive to visit Chipotle. I love the brand, love the experience and love the food. I’m a passionate fan. But what I do appreciate is the free drink I’m given every so often by the cashier who knows me by name. Or the warm greeting I get from the store manager who recognizes me from my many (many) visits. I value recognition, personal engagement and the relationship I have with the brand.

A new breed of branded loyalty program includes elements that cater directly to a passionate fan base, not just transactional consumers. Rather than stop at offering points for social engagement, as one example growing in popularity, use that social engagement as a chance to put a passionate fan on a pedestal, maybe retweeting that fan to thousands of brand followers. 

The currency of loyalty must change to meet the mindset of the consumer. In the Twitter example above, the currency of our transactional consumer is points; the currency of our passionate fan is recognition. If a transactional consumer values tangible incentives and can be motivated by implied urgency, passionate fans value intangible perks and are motivated by simply stoking the fires of their existing passion for the brand.

Brands that mold their vision of loyalty to include tactics and incentives that cater to both ends of the loyalty spectrum not only ensure everyone’s needs are met, but perhaps more importantly create a path from transactional consumer to passionate fan. Consumers are given a chance to benefit from the right incentive at the right time throughout their journey of deepening engagement with a brand, exactly the journey we as marketers hope to create and motivate consumers to engage with over time.

What is your Chipotle equivalent? Or your dry cleaning equivalent? What motivates you and keeps you coming back to the brands you transact with? Consider your brand’s array of loyalty-inducing tactics and ensure balance exists between the tangible and intangible, dry cleaning and burritos.

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4 comments about "Loyalty Without Points".
  1. Gray Hammond from Quire , July 7, 2014 at 10:18 a.m.
    You mean REAL loyalty (as opposed to bribery). I'm almost tired of explaining the difference to clients.
  2. Richard Lane from Bond Brand Loyalty , July 7, 2014 at 10:57 a.m.
    Agree Agree Agree…points, discounts and rebates are just one component (still important) ….so many other factors like customer experience and softer benefits like status, recognition, events and input on new products etc make up a great program. Also key is how the program is aligned to the brand…retail programs suffer from being the lowest ranking category for brand alignment…one of the many key findings from the 2014 Loyalty Report we just released at Bond Brand Loyalty.
  3. Carla McMorris from Cardlytics , July 7, 2014 at 11:35 a.m.
    So true. The trick is knowing who's who and finding the platforms to cater the messaging to the right groups. Many retailers are surprised to see that the number of truly loyal customers (they frequent and spend more with them than any other brand in the category) is a much smaller share of their total purchasing audience.
  4. James Andrew from Ndot , July 8, 2014 at 2:15 a.m.
    I believe trustworthiness and quality can be the good alternative to loyalty reward program. When the retailer provides good product/ service, the sales will be doubled gradually as well as hold existing customers.