Loyalty marketers everywhere would like to know what the future holds. As technology changes, seemingly, at the speed of light, loyalty marketers want to focus on what’s coming next.
Loyalty360 caught up with Christopher Barnard, President at Points.com, to talk about the future of customer loyalty and other related themes.
What is the future of customer loyalty?
Barnard: The future of customer loyalty is flexibility. Flexibility in where rewards are earned and how they are spent. Flexibility in trading and exchanging rewards between programs in different industries. And flexibility in accessing and interacting with loyalty rewards on any device, at any time. Loyalty currency is only as valuable as it is accessible so as the ubiquity of loyalty increases, so will the engagement of program members.
As loyalty programs move away from the traditional model, the dialogue around rewards will also evolve. Loyalty points and miles will be recognized as fluid currency, accepted at the point of sale and managed as you’d manage Canadian or American dollars. We’ll see loyalty programs distributing their currencies in industries outside of their own through mobile apps and wallets.
There is so much focus on customer data and around creating actionable insight now. How should brands be managing data in a way that is less complex, easier to understand, and more impactful?
Barnard: The best way to manage data is to focus on what is most important and what metrics really help you understand your consumers. That’s the things about data - it can pretty much tell you anything you want to see, depending on the questions you’re using it to answer. Avoid focusing on irrelevant data by defining the goals of the program and outlining which consumer behaviors you’ll want to drive through your loyalty offerings. This will save you time, money, and a lot of frustration. Also, be honest with yourself about your data capabilities. Are these skills you already have in house? If not, will you be properly resourced to build these up? Or should you be partnering with someone who can do this for you, and integrate into your activities. As well, be honest with yourself about the ability of your program to ingest and act upon these insights. This will save you from creating a data structure that’s too complex, that you won’t be able to extract anything actionable from.
Can you define what the phrase “customer journey” means to you? What does it mean to brands? And how do you see it changing?
Barnard: The customer journey is comprised of the touch points and experiences a customer has with your brand over time. This journey is no longer straight and narrow, or even predictable anymore. There are so many different paths a customer can take on their journey and it’s more important than ever that all those paths are optimized to deliver a great experience.
At Points, we believe that there’s inherent value in how customers perceive, experience, and interact with brands, so our goal is to improve that by helping our partners shape the customer journey through loyalty.
As more platforms and even channels develop, the customer journey is going to get increasingly more sophisticated. But there’s a great opportunity for brands to become more targeted delivering personalized offers, and doing so across a variety of channels.
Can you define omnichannel / multichannel? What does that mean to you? What does it mean to most brands?
Barnard: Being omnichannel requires you to provide a consistently great experience no matter what device you’re using. This movement toward omnichannel is really important because it opens the door for more ways to reach your target audience through ways that matter most to them. If your brand is truly omnichannel, you’re well positioned to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. The more omnichannel a brand is, the more accessible it is and the more valuable it becomes.
Brands need to meet consumers where they are, which is why it’s incredibly important for them to keep embracing new channels.
What is the single most important thing that you have done (or do) over a period of engagement (say a year) that helps clients increase customer loyalty?
Barnard: It’s our mission at Points to make loyalty programs more valuable and engaging, and we believe this is possible by providing more flexibility when it comes to the ability for consumers to earn and burn their loyalty rewards. We execute on this in a couple ways. We offer our loyalty partners a variety of ways in which they can make points more accessible and experiences more engaging for their members. And most importantly, we’re able to do this through our Loyalty Commerce Platform, which allows us to shoulder the bulk of the development work.
But by helping our partner programs make their loyalty programs more accessible and offer more redemption options, we see these programs boost both engagement and sales.
How does your technology address any of the previous questions? How could you see your platform evolving to address them / what does your road map look like?
Barnard: In short, Points is a technology company working in the loyalty industry. We create and innovate to bring platforms and customizable solutions to life for our global network of loyalty partners engaged in loyalty currency transactions. Our Loyalty Commerce Platform links loyalty programs, consumers and third party brands that open a wealth of opportunities for loyalty programs to attract new members, increase their engagement and drive ancillary revenue.
Our partners leverage the platform for a broad range of customizable products and go-to market solutions. For example, we offer the ability for members to buy points or miles that are deposited into their accounts, gift for other deposited via email codes, or transfer within your program to transfer currency out of a member's account into that of another member. Our Points Travel platform is the first private label travel ecommerce service designed specifically for the loyalty industry. It not only helps loyalty programs provide opportunities for members to earn rewards more quickly but also increases revenues from hotel sales. Loyalty partners can also tap into our Points Loyalty Wallet, which allows loyalty programs, merchants and other product partners to embed balance tracking and loyalty commerce transactions into their product offerings whether on the web or in an app. And, for businesses looking to award points and miles from loyalty giants, Points Business Solutions enables the ability for any merchants to incentivize and reward its customers with loyalty rewards from the world’s most popular brands.
We believe that in the future loyalty will become even more ingrained in every transaction we make, and will be used a tool to influence our purchasing behaviors.