Loyalty Diary: Why Rewards Emails Must Be Real-Time

Ken Goldstein was angry. He had logged onto one of his hotel loyalty accounts to find that hundreds of thousands of points had been wiped out. The chain had a policy that it “deletes all your points if you don’t stay at one of their properties for a year."

That was bad enough, but what seemed to most bother Goldstein was this: “Did they send me a courtesy email reminding me I needed to stay there toward the end of the twelve-month lapse?" he wrote in an article on The Good Men Project. "They did not.”

That’s unforgivable, given the ability to send machine-driven triggers to update a customer’s status, and the willingness of loyalty club members to share their email addresses.  

“According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, 58% of loyalty program members subscribe to a brand’s email list, compared with just 28% of consumers overall,” wrote Emily Collins, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in a recent article on Colloquy.

There can be huge economic consequences for failing to get this just right. Joseph DeNarti, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co, recently estimated that “Delta’s loyalty program is worth around $33 billion, or $46 a share, nearly as much as the current market capitalization of the airline itself,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

That means a loyalty program has to hum like a smoothly oiled machine, and it starts with real-time email communications, said Rob Brosnan, VP of strategy for Movable Ink, in an interview. ”We live in a world of real-time,” he said. “Email doesn’t do that when it’s a week old — it breaks the brand promise.”

And this is especially true when you’re upgrading the customer’s status: You can’t cost the person money with tardy or unclear messages. And it will cost you money, too, if it leads to a call to your customer-service center.  

Ideally, a points upgrade can be tied to a promotion.  

In retail, that might mean saying: “You’re 5,000 points away from the next tier up. Here are products for you that you might be interested in.”

To facilitate this kind of real-time engagement, Movable Ink has “created a technology that enables businesses to craft emails whose content changes at the moment-of-open,” recently wrote.

Updates and potentially bad information are only part of the email-loyalty synergy. When done well, email can tell the person’s life story, from that flight to Santo Domingo two years ago to Venice last year. Those can be great fun, Brosnan said.

This starts with “visualizing the content for you,” he continued. For example, an airline can use imaginary scenarios to “share how many miles you took last year.” Or, a coffee chain might take a similar tack: The emails should be compelling, even jokey. “I’m such a coffee addict,” Brosnan laughed. “It’s the story of my life.”

Brosnan added that visual communications are “not such a cost center anymore. They’re easy to build.” But they have to have the data and systems to do it.

Of course, you have to have the data. A coffee bar should know that Brosnan never orders hot coffee.

“They know what my affinities are that’s the real opportunity for advanced loyalty marketers out there,” Brosnan concluded.

Concluding, here are some pointers from a recent Movable Ink eBook: 

  • Tell a story with the relationship history.
  • Provide accurate and up-to-the-minute points data.
  • Make it easy to see the big picture with data visualization.
  • Keep it simple with easy point redemption.




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