Connecting the Data Dots

With the proliferation of mobile channels comes an increased desire to recognize the customer at every touch point. QR code scanner, mobile or desktop site visitor, app downloader, email/SMS subscriber, fan, follower, pinner, reviewer, or store visitor – the customer is interacting with our brands, and we want to know about it.

Methods to date have been covert and disjointed. Each channel or tactic has its own metrics and claims some credit for purchase even though we know they are interdependent. Opportunities to create synergy abound but are untapped.

Customers quickly turn away from mobile experiences with too much friction – non-optimized sites, weak payoffs, disjointed customer service, too many fields to enter, etc.

The key is to give the customer a reason to allow us to connect the dots, and a robust loyalty program does just that. If I have a compelling reason to self-identify with every interaction, and can do so easily, I’m in. Phones allow customers to store their information and do away with those aggravating stacks of cards. The more information we can store – securely – the more frictionless the customer experience. How much more likely would a customer be to purchase on a mobile device if most of the checkout information were pre-filled?

While ease of mobile checkout is important, so is promoting purchase in-store and combating showrooming. A loyalty program gives the customer a reason to self-identify, without the need for geo-fencing. With all dots connected, the merchant can deliver a personalized incentive to stay and shop. Rather than offer the same discount/points/service to all, the incentive can be tailored to the customer’s interests and value. Delivered via mobile, the personal message avoids alienating non-members, who are instead invited to join.

The concept of value exchange – I’ll provide personal information in exchange for something I value – is critical. We want all customer information “in the cloud” for instant, easy access, so we need to provide a reason to put it there in the first place. Loyalty points supply the reason. Enter and tell us the basics: 10 points. Follow us, fan us, pin us: five points. Review your purchase: eight points. Check in or sign in: three points. Download our app: 20 points. Text to get today’s special: four points. Store your payment information and shipping address: 25 points.

As Barry Kirk points out in “Earn, Burn and Yearn: A New Paradigm for Loyalty Marketing,” loyalty programs have focused too much on the burn, or redemption of points. Focusing on earning, through the examples above, and yearning, the desire to belong to a group with common interests, yields “an authentic customer engagement program that’s based on relevance and relationships.”

On that note, a program with a customer-centric name and identity is best. The customer should feel like an enthusiast, not a number. A “Super Saver,” a “Foodie,” an “Intrepid Traveler,” not an “Our Program Rewards Member.”

Another important aspect of loyalty programs is that they put the customer in control. Customers know what data they have provided, so personalized offers and information are expected and welcome.

Delivering on this expectation, however, is a significant hurdle. As much as we want to acquire big data, its effective application is surprisingly scarce. As my company found in “Retail Touchpoints Exposed!” an analysis of the top 100 U.S. retailers, 79 percent didn’t personalize email content following an online purchase and 95 percent didn’t after an in-store purchase. Only 22 percent sent abandoned cart messages, despite their proven dramatic return on investment (ROI).

It’s incredibly easy to say, “Ahh, the joys of being a consultant,” but legacy data systems and functional silos must be overcome. Quick wins and one-off tactics are not creating the data nirvana and mobile channel we all envision. We need big thinking, tight collaboration, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. We need game changers. (Read Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” for inspiration.) Let’s keep our eye on the prize: relevant, permission-based, channel-agnostic marketing, delivered to loyal customers.

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.