Loyalty programs are becoming more intricate set pieces for marketers from a retention and sales strategy perspective, according to Emily Rudin, Chief Customer Officer for CrowdTwist.
 
Loyalty360 talked to Rudin about her thoughts on trends and technologies to watch for among loyalty marketers in 2018.
 
Can you talk about the trends and technologies that will provide loyalty marketers the opportunity to make the most impact in 2018?
Rudin: First, loyalty programs are going to be even more important for companies from a customer data standpoint. More and more companies are leveraging the insight from loyalty programs to steer retention and sales strategies. Loyalty programs are also becoming more sophisticated, enabling brands to have a meaningful dialogue with customers. Customer experiences are becoming more personal, and the benefits of joining a loyalty program are evolving beyond discounts to provide additional value that helps establish an emotional connection between the customer and brand.

We’re also seeing this focus on customer experience driving a lot of the emerging technology trends. It’s expected that customers will be able to place orders and speak with brands via chatbots and voice activated technology this year. Brands need to operate at an omnichannel level to gain customer loyalty in 2018. This means investing in the online and offline in-store experience. Finally, brands that demonstrate a commitment to cause marketing and giving back to the community will be chosen over those who don’t by the majority population of consumers this year.
 
What is your advice for brands that want to know their customers better?
Rudin: Invest in a loyalty program that collects customer transaction and engagement data across every single touch point. Design a loyalty program that rewards for customers for completing surveys, filling out profile information, including age, sex, and zip code, writing a product review, consuming content, connecting social accounts and referring a friend. Find out what your customers are purchasing and from where by making it easy for them to be rewarded for their purchases, in-store, online, via codes on pack or receipt scan.
Our research indicates that consumers are happy to share identifiable information with a brand in exchange for perks, rewards and a personalized experience.
 
Can you talk about how loyalty programs can impact companies on a holistic level?
Rudin: It’s important to consider that brand value needs to be established across all units of a business, and it’s often something that’s overlooked by companies in their efforts to retain customers. Loyalty programs are often central to a customer retention strategy and to driving the business, as long as they are promoted well, easy to participate in, and add real value. Loyalty programs, marketing campaigns and promotions, acquisition and retention strategies have to be aligned to the values of the brand and communicate a unified message to customers.
 
There has been considerable discussion about trying to focus more on experiential loyalty. How would you characterize those efforts now among loyalty marketers?
Rudin: Experiential marketing will be huge trend for 2018. Customer experience is key right now and brands are seeking new ways to stay top of mind and ahead of the competition. The goal is that your customers leave an experiential marketing event feeling more valued and more emotionally invested in your brand. More and more brands are investing on the experiential marketing over product marketing. Millennials and young generations value experiences, sometimes even more than discounts, so it’s important for brands to offer meaningful, relevant activities and rewards to their mix.
 
How will customer journeys/personalization change in 2018?
Rudin: Consumers expect a higher level of sophistication now and brands need to demonstrate that they know their customers and know how to speak to them. Investing in a loyalty program enables brands to personalize customer journeys for loyalty members across all channels. The consumer behavior and psychographic data collected via participation in a loyalty program helps activate relevant promotions and experiences. 

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