Thursday, May 29, 2008

Show Me The Plastic!

I've been intrigued by the passion in issuing plastics to customers, to mark their entry into Loyalty Programmes. I must confess that I've got over 23 loyalty plastics at last count and have discarded all of them!

Yup...all of them, and yet remain fairly loyal to some brands...allow me to elaborate...

My airline allows web check in and allows me to select my seat and even incorporate my frequent flier number, ensuring that I get my due points. My preferred retailer for apparel, requests my mobile number and allows me to earn points on all my transactions. The restaurant that I frequent, quite strongly believes that my presence suffices to avail of the discounts privy to their loyalty members, and need not flash my glorious card for all around to see and drool over.

Hence why are millions of dollars invested into the issuance of plastics, which several customers forget to carry, or even worse...have forgotten about them altogether!

The loyalty card obviously "reinforces the brand imagery, the proposition and the urge to avail of the benefits with every exposure in the wallet". In some cases, customer authentication is facilitated by the loyalty card, but not in the most foolproof manner, and in other cases, the change in colour of the plastic with every upgrade massages the customer ego (and so we believe)

If the loyalty plastic were truly such a miraculous tool, then we would perhaps have more customer research showing that customers get emotionally charged on their prized possessions, of which I've yet to come across.

Hence, are we issuing plastic more out of habit? Perhaps...Yes in several cases.

There is quite clearly an opportunity and need to revisit this fundamental tenet. I would bet on the mobile and the humble fingerprint as the gateways to access the world of benefits that you seek to offer your customers.

They're always with you, and you're not likely to "leave home without them"

Hence do strongly evaluate service offerings such as Pay by Touch which leverage the fingerprint and you might just see your activation and active rates drastically go up.

The cost savings could perhaps be channelised towards reinforcement of your core proposition.......

The 6 Best Reasons Not To Use Your Customer Information!.........

I've come across several organizations where they've forgotten why they actually have a loyalty programme?

They seem to go through the grind to achieve the processes as defined in the goal sheets without a tangible quantifiable outcome...

What's even more distressing is the total disrespect for the customer data opportunity that exists within their databases.

Now that I've come across this so often, thought it would be a good time to list out the top 6 reasons for not using your customer data.

a. I need a new database
b. We are setting up a new CRM package
c. We are rebranding our current programme
d. We do not have a budget for undertaking any direct marketing activities
e. We are redefining our value proposition
f. Our data is in a mess

One can write tomes on each of these subjects, but quite honestly it is sacrilege not to interpret and analyse your information in a systematic periodic manner.

Would be great hearing your views or any other points that you may like to add to the list!

As a sign off....every time you look at that data, you will find a new perspective on your customers...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Power Redefined

"Power is the ability to hold someone else's power in your hands and show it to them"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The World's Most Powerful Loyalty Programme?

Have been searching the web, chasing acquaintances and reading tons of reviews to determine the ingredients of a successful, sustainable and scalable loyalty programme. Loyalty as we all know is what makes every business tick and clock in the revenues. Be it banking, soap or even socks.

The quest for exemplary loyalty programmes typically results in recounting leading hotel and airline programmes that result in points, freebies, upgrades, massages and lots more. This of course is possible in industries where there is a direct customer contact coupled with transaction, and fairly higher operating margins (in good times at least). The sustainability factor of course is rather questionable, with several airlines having collapsed on account of air mile point liabilities in the recent past.

Retailers have been prone to issuing loyalty cards as if there were no tomorrow, be it the local neighborhood grocery or the big brother hypermarket on the outskirts of town. Points, discounts, special offers galore are showered on hapless customers, who rarely seem to be able to differentiate a United loyalty programme from that of Best Buy!

Marketers have been struggling to ensure that their loyalty programmes and cards remain top of mind and wallet respectively for decades. But as luck would have it, with activation levels of most programmes barely crossing the teens, the quandry remains - How in god's name do we make our customers remember the core value proposition and purchase at their stores on a frequent basis?

Hence the question of the hour " Where lies the holy grail of Loyalty" - Is there a loyalty programme out there, that has withstood the sands of time, behavioral nuances of generations and continues to grow each day?...Phew....

I posted a question on Linkedin recently soliciting feedback on Loyalty programmes that have impressed them the most, and received a response that quite clearly showed that I need to shake off my MBA hallucinations.

And that response - Religion!

Proven sustainability, adaptability and spanning all economic groups and lots more.....

So what is the secret ingredient about Religion, that drives and binds people the world over on a consistent and frequent basis?

A clear value proposition, sense of identity and social recognition that is reinforced with every generation.

"The best Loyalty Program in the world is organized religion. Highest number of enrolled members. Maximum membership longevity (hooked for life & at times from the time of birth). Moreover, it is the essence of what all successful Loyalty Programs should be. The members should not for once realize that they are the one’s who are paying for the ‘benefits’ & perpetuating program."

And all this with no loyalty cards or airmiles...hmmmm...