Loyalty is more than a marketing program
Loyalty should be viewed as the journey to growing and retaining your customers through a mutually valuable relationship. Loyalty is not a points program and if organizations view loyalty as a tactic it will not survive. When done right, loyalty should impact the entire organization from products and services to brand marketing, technology systems, the culture and leadership of your organization. Look at any successful loyalty effort and you will see the organization’s top leadership team fully invested. Take Starbucks, for example, whose loyalty program has become more about the customer experience the leading coffee-chain provides rather than about the program itself.  Top executives often site the program on earnings calls a driver of growth for the company.
The foundation of any loyalty effort starts with having a great product, service and in most cases physical locations. You are wasting your time and money if your product, service and locations are sub-par to the competition. The foundation of loyalty should be built on consumer insights and customer level data. Your foundation will not be complete until you have a solid loyalty platform including your brand platform and technology platform to enable a listen, learn and act approach.
But that doesn’t mean loyalty has to be complex, keep it simple to the eyes of the consumer. Loyalty reward programs should be easy to understand in terms of the value to the consumer. Loyalty marketers need to be genuine, and offer relevant restaurant offers of the food items they know their customers like, and not what they wish they’d buy. Marketers must be transparent, with no hidden rules.
A mobile first mentality is needed to truly connect with customers. Mobile first not only refers to the mobile phone digital transformation, but for restaurants it also means letting customers order anywhere they want and anytime they want it. This includes easy ordering such as mobile pay, on the go ordering and delivery. Mobile first strategies are becoming a cost of doing business.
Go beyond the transaction to foster customer loyalty. Many of the most forward thinking restaurant loyalty efforts still don’t go beyond the purchase transaction. Purchase transactions and frequency of visits are all critical to drive ROI, but you need more to make long-lasting connections with customers. To create a long-term sustainable relationship and to deepen the customer experience you will need to move beyond the transaction. An improved customer view comes from direct consumer data including surveys, third party overlay data and online data. Transaction data will guide you in your early efforts, but a behavioral and emotional connection will come from gaining a 360 view. Going beyond the transaction will better connect your customers with your brand. For example, Domino’s rewards members of their Piece of the Pie program monthly with shares of stock to truly make consumers feel as if they ‘own a piece of the pie.’ This strategy goes beyond the transaction leaving members with the sense that they have part ownership in the brand. Now that’s marketing at its smartest.
Being in the moment and anticipating the next moment will separate the average loyalty effort from the best in class. Understanding your customer’s environment beyond your brand transaction such as an interest in a specific sports team, the local weather and your specific location are all part of being in the moment. Leveraging 360-degree data that includes competitive purchases, individual digital media data and your direct data sources will help you understand and act in real-time. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts Team Wins you Win promotion is a great example of capturing ‘in the moment’ emotions. If you are a member of the DD Perks® program and your local sports team takes a home a win, promotional offers are made, tying it into the team’s specific players. Further, to help predict what consumers will want in the next moment, machine learning plays a key role.
Consider these five factors as you build a successful loyalty program that creates a personal connection and drives growth

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