Don't Judge my Loyalty from the Number of Loyalty Cards I Carry in my Wallet

Over the last year, we have been working as marketing team on the most exciting project to launch yet: our loyalty scheme. We were inspired by one of our most precious items in our archive, the famous ledger, that since 1913 the tailors Hawes and Curtis were keeping the contact information, sizes and purchasing habits for all of their customers. Some very famous names (like Duke of Windsor, Lord Mountbatten, Cary Grant and Fred Astaire) are inside. Now our strategy is to make every customer feel as precious as every famous customer we have served and in order to achieve that, we decided to launch our loyalty program.

Customer retention has been one of the major topics in retail since many years. Today, the way customers shop has changed: they can choose between the physical and the online world; the price sensitive ones can search for best prices; the ones seeking convenience can select from delivery and in-store collect options; customers have redefined the appreciation of quality from something that lasts longer to something that has more attention to detail and craftsmanship. The fact that customers want to feel valued for showing their preference to shop from your brand has stayed the same. Unfortunately, there are quite a few loyalty programs out there that instead of rewarding customer loyalty, they penalize the customer when the card is forgotten at home.

My first 'facepalm' was at the checkout of a supermarket in London when I realized I left my card back at home and hence I was left out from the daily deals, paying full price. Later that night, I was thinking about how this loyalty system actually penalized me for not carrying the card at all times instead of actually making me feel like a valued customer (I shop daily from this supermarket). That doesn't affect my feelings of not wanting to go back and shop there, but it does somehow make me more indifferent in choosing this over any other supermarket chain.

In Marketing Week Live, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about loyalty programs, engagement and new ways of interacting with customers. Interestingly, the audience deemed email marketing as a 'traditional' and 'outdated' communications and re-engagement platform. From our discussion it was apparent that no matter how the loyalty program is structured to function (with or without points, cards or discounts and rewards), it needs to start with the customer at heart and an omni-channel marketing focus. Customers are agnostic towards what channel they would choose to buy their items, but every shopping interaction with the customer and transaction is important in mapping out the customer journey. The data doesn't lie and the only way to truly evaluate the customer base is with proper segmentation and having complete information. Email is one way to re-engage with customers and the options of digital re-marketing, social media re-targeting and of course the traditional direct marketing play gain stronger roles in the mix.

Putting the customer first also means that the overall scope of a loyalty program is to enhance the shopping experience, facilitate the uncomfortable moment of paying for the goods and make the customer feeling valued. By showing appreciation and personalizing the experience, customers are more prone to spend more, come back and become advocates of the brand by sharing their experience with friends and family (or writing about it, as I am now!).

There is one thing for sure: loyalty is not correlated to the size of the wallet and the amount of loyalty cards that fit in it. A customer's loyalty is measured in repeated purchases, advocacy and lifetime value, and is the reward that companies receive from the customers when the brands show them they are feeling valued, inspired and connected.