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The Middle East’s consumers have evolved. They expect more in return for their business than ever before. In fact, recent research from Collinson Latitude shows that over two-thirds of shoppers look at reward programs when making purchasing decisions. The way they want their rewards is different too. In fact, half of consumers now prefer to redeem rewards online, and a quarter want more personalized programs.
Collinson Latitude says this is all indicative of macro business trends, where customers expect a multi-channel experience and targeted approach from brands. They also believe that these trends have impacted the skills required for managing loyalty programs. In the past, it was a standard one-size-fits-all approach and loyalty marketers needed to manage the masses in particular ways. Just look at traditional frequent flyer airline programs. All travellers would receive the same- points based on miles taken. Now, with more and more brands understanding the importance of a customized and digital approach, it falls to the loyalty professionals to create and execute new strategies, in new ways, using new technologies– thus requiring a skillset upgrade.
Embrace the digital era
We are no strangers to the digital revolution and its transformative impact. Customers have accelerated the pace of change, rapidly adopting new technologies and interaction channels. With instant access to information –anywhere, anytime– the customer journey has evolved.The explosion of personal and connected devices such as smartphones and tablets open a wealth of opportunities; not least the ability to journey beyond one-size-fits-all models to highly tailored programs. It’s a chance to recognize your customers and reward them in ways that will attract and delight them.You need to embrace the opportunity of digital, in order to reach customers at numerous touch points. And, offer a service that allows rewards programs from any location, at any time, on any device.
Understand your audiences
Being able to mine and dissect customer data effectively is now a prerequisite. Transforming this insight into a practical strategy is equally as critical. This means using information to build an accurate picture of customer preferences and behaviors, and tailoring the customer experience to fit. Customers also expect a service experience that is above and beyond the rewards on offer. Using data to gauge customer communication preferences and navigating these channels effectively can strengthen brand-customer relations and inspire long-term loyalty. For some, this means engaging in instant (and cross-platform) interactions; for others, it means keeping your distance. You need to be able to recognize these nuances and tailor your program accordingly.
Offer more flexibility, relevance and choice
Customers have come to expect value, flexibility and choice when it comes to rewards. Using data to understand their preferences eliminates much of the guesswork and allows you to offer reward and incentives options that are relevant and will likely encourage conversion. Much like traditional retailers, you should know how to tailor your ‘stock’ in line with customer demand. Today’s customers also expect redemption opportunities that are suited to their lifestyle. With more than one in two shoppers preferring to cash in online, and a further one in four preferring to cash in-store, offering a single channel package will not suffice. Using customer data to pinpoint their preferred touch-points and fitting the redemption process around these will encourage conversion, beneficial to customer and companies alike. You need to provide consumers with variety and a choice of redemption options– not tell them what, when and how they should spend their points.
Closing the gap
Brands no longer conceive reward program success using just the membership metric. With consumers –who are often a member of multiple schemes- getting them on board is not the main battle, keeping them engaged and advocating is the real challenge and ultimately the most durable ROI. While adapting to the changing customer landscape might seem intuitive, implementing solutions is not so straightforward. Loyalty marketers who are capable of taking a scientific approach to loyalty, who understand their customers’ preferences and who optimize their reward and redemption packages accordingly are more likely to see success when it comes to customer retention. If addressed, loyalty marketers will be able to close the gap and ensure they’re not missing out.