Most marketers have long seen the importance of customer loyalty. But the challenge in initiating a loyalty program often stems elsewhere in the wider organization. In other words, convincing the marketing team of the value of a loyalty program generally isn’t the issue. It’s getting the embrace and support of the wider organization that presents the greatest challenge.
Being dismissive of loyalty programs isn’t a sign of your shrewdness or prudence; nor is ignoring their importance on the grounds of “healthy skepticism.” It means that you’ve yet to see — or have simply ignored — the wealth of consumer and commerce data proving that loyalty programs provide real, tangible value to a brand.
If you’re someone who falls in the category of “wider organization” and are still clinging to surface-level misgivings about customer loyalty programs, you might be part of the bottleneck that is preventing your company from true omnichannel engagement with your customers.
Getting Organizational Buy-In
First, let’s clear up some of the common challenges that yourself or other members throughout the organization may have regarding loyalty programs. The majority of these challenges are rooted in three primary concerns: cost, complexity, and measurability.
Challenge #1: “Loyalty Programs Lose Money”
You’ve probably heard these before. Or maybe you’ve said such statements:
- “Loyalty programs are too expensive to implement.”
- “They’ll kill our margins.”
- “They’re nothing more than loss leader initiatives, and that’s not our company’s game.”
This could be true… in the case of a mismanaged or poorly designed loyalty program. But for many companies offering loyalty programs, these statements don’t hold water. The truth is, the majority of brands who initiate these programs will actually see a return on their investment — up to 75%, according to loyalty360.com.
As with any business initiative, it all comes down to design and implementation. Your return on investment from loyalty programs will be dictated by how well they are constructed and executed, and if they are done in accordance with what’s best for your company and industry.
Loyalty offerings that provide steep discounts may be more appealing to customers, but they run the risk of hurting your margins. Conversely, loyalty programs that don’t concede much in the way of reward points or price incentives won’t whet the appetites of your customers enough for them to join the program and share their information (data) with you.
Striking an informed, intelligent balance between offerings that are most appealing to the customer and the benefits or offerings that are least destructive to profit margins is the right approach. This is one of many reasons why it’s important for your business operators and finance people to have a seat at the loyalty program table — they need to be part of the conversation.
How do customer loyalty programs help your brand stand out in an oversaturated market?
Challenge #2: “Loyalty Programs Are Too Complicated.”
“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.” – Richard Branson
Loyalty programs aren’t inherently complicated or cumbersome. Of course, they can be, if you design them that way, or if you’re reliant on third-parties and multiple data silos, thereby forced to create some convoluted, tenuous way to unify them all. But some of the most effective loyalty programs are designed quite simply, aligned to one or several key business goals.
What kind of business goals? Revenue, customer retention, or customer engagement are common examples. But it really depends on the needs of your company, and it shouldn’t always fall on marketing to decide what those objectives are. Loyalty programs often solve business needs that are broader than the needs of marketing alone.
Having other leadership involved in the planning of a loyalty program helps create better alignment to meaningful business outcomes, particularly business outcomes that can be measured. Which leads to the next objection:
Challenge #3: “Loyalty Program Efficacy is Difficult to Measure.”
You might assume that loyalty programs are primarily a UX endeavor, making it difficult to measure the direct impact they can have on the business’s bottom line. But a well-designed loyalty program impacts the organization in multiple ways — ways that you can measure and benchmark against.
If your marketing department hasn’t already transitioned to measuring its performance with more strategic KPIs, opposed to operational KPIs, start there. This will ensure marketing efforts are matched to overall business objectives. Marketing-centric metrics that actually align to revenue, customer growth, and customer lifetime value must come into play.
If your company doesn’t have the resources to track and measure your marketing efforts in this way, you may have to look to outside agencies for help. Or, consider resources like this free benchmarking tool to get you started internally.
Challenge the Outdated Misconceptions
Ultimately, common objections to loyalty programs related to cost, complexity, and measurability simply won’t hold up unchallenged. This isn’t to suggest that they don’t require any effort or cost — anything worth doing to achieve better business outcomes usually does. But the good news is: they aren’t as expensive as you might fear, nor as cumbersome, nor as difficult to track and measure.
More good news: tools and solutions exist to help you get started. You’ll want to seek out the ones that can aid you in easily integrating all your data so you can deliver complete omnichannel experiences for your customers. You’ll also want solutions with the quickest time to value.
The Emarsys Loyalty module is built into the Emarsys platform, designed with proven, industry-specific use cases, which allows clients to fully integrate their loyalty programs into all aspects of their marketing efforts, across every channel. This means clients will see the results of a loyalty program quickly, reducing time to value.
Buy into loyalty. Don’t cling to outdated hearsay or knee-jerk reactions regarding customer loyalty programs. Dig into the data and research on these programs and see for yourself the tremendous benefits they can offer your brand. Objecting to a loyalty program in spite of its potential value will ultimately mark you as the bottleneck in your organization’s ability to drive growth and revenue.
Handpicked Related Content:
- 5 Examples of Data-Driven Customer Loyalty Programs
- Building an Emotional Connection with Customers to Create Brand Loyalty
- Using Martech to Drive Conversions, Revenue, & Loyalty [Podcast]
Need help getting organizational buy-in for a customer loyalty program? Read the Customer Loyalty Whitepaper.