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Small Steps Can Build Loyalty

February 5, 2018

As loyalty programs evolve, they’re working to reach customers in a more personalized, consumer-centric way.

A successful loyalty program comes in many forms. It can be a physical card, a mobile app or a credit card associated with a program. It can involve points, free items and special deals. But, what it absolutely needs is customer appeal.

“To be successful and meet the changing needs of the guest, loyalty programs have to be adaptable,” said Tyler Tanaka, director of digital and innovation at Pilot Flying J. “If something was working before but isn’t working now, it is important to walk away and try something new.”

Loyalty programs have long been a source of enticing and keeping customers. And while they began with just the basics of earning a set goal based on spending, they have expanded to include segmentation, customization and choice.

“Loyalty programs have their beginnings in the airline, hotel and banking industries,” said Bill Hanifin, practice leader, customer engagement and loyalty, at Impact21. “Early adopters in these industries had success with these ‘spend and get’ models. But to connect with today’s highly-informed and digitally-connected customer, loyalty programs need to be transparent, accessible and experiential.”

This means that as customers become more engaged, they desire greater flexibility and ease of achieving and redeeming rewards as well as the ability to easily understand the rewards and program terms.

“Thanks to ever-increasing consumer demands, loyalty programs have evolved to become more personal and more immediate than ever before,”said Sheila Murray, COLLOQUY editor-in-chief and assistant vice president of marketing, global solutions, LoyaltyOne.

“The influx of customer data and many sophisticated ways of analyzing it have allowed retailers to begin shifting from generic, one-size-fits-all rewards, sales and offers to the ability to provide customers with personalized discounts based on factors like their most commonly bought products. All of the data at retailers’ fingertips has also led to more timely communications and offers based on customer shopping patterns or important milestones like birthdays or anniversaries.”

It’s that customer-centric approach that breeds success, according to Tanaka.

“It is important to personalize offerings in order to better accommodate and reach our broad base of guests,” Tanaka said. “We are working to be more targeted with our offerings in order to deliver the one-to-one personalization that we are striving to offer our guests. For example, over the road drivers, regional drivers and RV customers all have very different needs, which change along their journey. Our myRewards offers and incentives need to reflect those differences and offer value to each of those guest types.”

In the two years that Macfood Mart, which operates four stores in Indiana, has offered a rewards program, it has learned that customers enjoy having options.

“We have seen great success with our clubs—particularly any club that involves caffeinated beverages,” said Melinda McDonald, media coordinator at Macfood Mart.

“People really like the versatility of our program. For every gallon you pump or for every dollar you spend in-store, you earn two points that you can spend just like cash. We don’t pick the prizes, the customers do.”

For Quicklee’s, a 15-store chain in upper New York, the desire to gauge where and when their customers shop led to a three-year brand development effort launched in 2017.

“We felt we were missing something that successful retailers were offering—a customer rewards program designed to build customer loyalty and retain a larger share of the market,” said Ken Perelli, Quicklee’s vice president.

The goal was to make a stop at Quicklee’s more rewarding by allowing customers to earn points on any purchase except lottery tickets. The points are available for use for pump or in-store purchases and also feature random bonus points for swiping the rewards card, birthday deals and monthly drawings for gift certificates.

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