Interview With Mark Johnson, CEO of & CMO of Loyalty360, about the future of loyalty in the market.
Johnson talks us about what the customers want from the Brand, of the big opportunities of the loyalty market, of new Technologies that are affecting the engagement dynamics.
This Interview, will clarify ideas on the future of loyalty Market!
1 – How has evolved Loyalty industry in the last ten years?
Johnson: Loyalty has evolved a great deal in the last 10 years. Loyalty programs were traditionally based on RFM (recentcy, frequency, monetary spend). Now, loyalty programs are more focused on the ability to create unique emotional connections with the customer. Using data, using insights, being able to listen – that means in an active manor, to what the customers want, what they place value in, what they want from the brand. This creates reciprocity and a unique relationship. So loyalty programs now are focused on true behaviour attribution, and with getting a deeper understanding of the customer.
2 – In which sector brands are most available to invest in engagement and loyalty strategies?
Johnson: I think CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies, because traditionally they have been dis-intermediated from the customer. They have had to use a channel or series of channels to get that product. So they have had to pay slotting fees, or promotional fees. They have had to rely on organizations like IRI or Nielsen, and Catalina with the printing system and the loyalty systems, and the coupons and the AFSI’s – So they are trying to create ways – through mobile devices, through online, through communities – so they can have loyalty programs/loyalty processes to truly understand the unique needs of that customer, and focus on them. So they can re-intermediate with their customer and listen to them more effectively. So that is a sector that is doing a lot in loyalty and engagement strategies.
3 – What are for you the best helping technologies to loyalty world and how Mobile and Wearable technologies are affecting the engagement dynamics in mobility and in store too?
Johnson: Mobile and wearable devices have the potential to do very unique things. And you can look at beacons and proximity marketing, you can look at the ability to have the permission that allows brands to offer you discounts or offers or communications or reminders based on where you may be, and what you may have done . . . If you have done a series of things with your phone, if you’ve gone to the gym, maybe you’ll get a subsequent offer from the smoothie shack next door to remind you to come over, for example. So there is a great potential to that, but the most important thing is having the permissions, making sure that the cadence, the offers, the communications protocols are in line with what the customer wants, and to make sure you honour those at all times.
4 – Which kind of brands you think should invest in Coalition Loyalty programs, instead of in Stand-alone programs?
Johnson: Loyalty coalition programs in the US have been a challenge. As you know, we just launched Plenti, and we had Jazz before that, which was an attempt. I think the challenge with coalition loyalty programs in the US is that people are used to using their AMEX, or Citi card, or pulling out their Best Buy Rewards card . . . so to get them to change their behaviours is a big challenge. People’s behaviours are usually hard coded and they have to learn a new behaviour to supersede that . . . so if you can do that, it is very opportunistic.
I think local programs, local merchants and medium-sized merchants forming coalitions around a city, or a high school football team, for example, or some other local community function where there is a great deal of emotional connection – that’s where you see great loyalty programs. Because you are focusing on your city, your town, or whatever that may be. So I think there is a great opportunity there.
5 – As CEO of Loyalty 360 you have had the opportunity to study in depth different Loyalty providers and solutions too; in particular in the American Market. What are the features which Loyalty Providers would bet on, in the next 5 years?
Johnson: I think there is a number of different technologies. Everyone is talking about social, about mobile. But, as you go from conference to conference, the lexicon is more complex now. There is more jargon and more acronyms now than ever before. Brands are really struggling to listen to and understand their customers. I think that is a big thing. They want simplicity. There is a clarion call right now for simplicity in the market. They want to be able to engage with their customer, have a unique set of aligned customers. Small is the new big, so they are focusing on having 100 customers who are completely engaged versus 10 million that are not as engaged. I think data has a great opportunity, but it is very banal, it has been kind of beat to death. But if brands can take these different data points, they can identify their customers, and they can create that unique dialogue with their customers.
But, as I mentioned, as you go from one conference to where they talk about the “best in breed” new technology stack, and another conference is talking about being “Beyond CRM” it is very complex for brands right now. This is especially true internally where they are being measured on the efficacy and on the returns (ROI) on these programs that may not be known because brands are being prescriptively sold to by technology providers to make sure they get technology placed within the organization.
I think there is a great deal of potential opportunities, but anything brands can do to simplify the relationship. So from the empowerment of the consumer, to making sure that you are spot on with your mission statement . . . . you have to think about how you are looking at your brand. Can it be dis-intermediated? Can you do things than can create simplicity, and give you a better opportunity to listen and understand your customers? I think that is the best opportunity.
Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.