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The Generational Change of Loyalty Programs
By Becky Burch
(Originally published in the FAll 2014 KGA/KACS "Check Us Out!" magazine.)
Loyalty is changing in the retail sector, particularly in grocery, convenience stores and pharmacies where high repeat business is the norm. While points, discounts, clubs and special promotions are still important, today, you must know who your customer is and what their buying preferences are. Then it is no longer is it just a loyalty program but a powerful tool to attract, retain and delight your customers, no matter their age or shopping habits.
The most common types of loyalty services in the retail market today are:
- Anonymous loyalty gives rewards to customers and the retailer has no way to communicate with the customer or understand what they are purchasing.
- Registered loyalty programs know who the customer is and may or may not know what is being purchased. These programs give the same benefit to all consumers i.e. points, discounts, clubs, sweepstakes, etc.
- Some loyalty programs have only one sole feature as a lure such as giving discounts at the pump in a the Convenience Store market.
Today a retailer needs a loyalty service that not only has an abundance of options but has the ability to know who is buying, what they are buying, where they are buying and when they are buying. When this type intelligence is combined with features such as mobile apps, the retailer has the powerful ability to reach out to the consumer in real time and market what that consumer based on a host of knowledge. Studies have shown that most consumers like to believe their retailer “gets them”.
A 2013 loyalty study revealed a firm link between customer satisfaction and the extent to which customers see loyalty communications as personally relevant. It seemed the higher the relevance, the more likely a customer is to be satisfied with a program.
While most retailers focus on the monetary value of their loyalty programs, many are missing a key element in engaging and retaining their member customers: delivering relevant and personalized program communications. Over the long term, customized content (targeted to customers based on their behaviors, preferences and stage in their relationship with the retailer) can be just as important as a program’s perceived net value.
This is particularly true in the all-important millennial segment. There are 80 million plus millennials and they now outnumber baby boomers. It is estimated they have $200 billion of direct purchasing power and $500 billion of indirect spending, largely due to the influence on the spending of their mostly baby boomer parents.M1 With Millennials’ peak buying power still decades away, retailers would do well to establish relationships with this consumer force. More than 60% of millennials will switch brands if they see more benefit in another program, Millennials participate in loyalty in higher numbers, are more willing to share personal information and are more digitally inclined.
In summary, we have moved beyond the question that examines “Should we have a loyalty service?” to “What is the most impactful service I can implement to create added profits for my chain while at the same time engaging my customers in meaningful and long lasting modes?”
Becky Burch is a founder of Electrum Corporation and functions as its Executive Vice President of Sales and Client Services. Electrum provides loyalty and payments services to a wide variety of clients.
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