CRMC 2024: 5 Key Insights to Build Loyalty Programs in the Age of Acceleration
5 July 2024
Scott Harrison

CRMC 2024 in Chicago wrapped up, leaving attendees with valuable insights from leading retail brands and solution providers.

For Loyalty & Reward Co, the experience highlighted the opportunities and challenges that both brands and technical providers are facing in the loyalty industry. Based on all the presentations, discussions and post-event catch ups, the event underscored a critical message for marketers: in today’s rapidly evolving landscape, building customer loyalty requires a strategic and forward-thinking approach.

In this blog we explore 5 key takeaways from CRMC 2024, focusing on how brands can develop loyalty programs that not only keep pace with the ‘age of acceleration’ but also foster lasting trust with customers.

1. Planning for loyalty in a fast-paced world

As Samantha Radocchia, keynote speaker and renowned futurist, emphasised at CRMC, embracing the age of acceleration is paramount.

Marketers must be willing to experiment with new technologies and adapt their strategies to meet the ever-changing needs of customers. However, this does not mean rushing into program development without a plan. Takeaways from CRMC stressed the importance of:

  • Strategic clarity: Before diving into the technical solution, prioritise a data-driven strategy. Understand the core problems the business is trying to solve with loyalty. If applicable, conduct an audit of your existing program to identify gaps and understand the data behind behavior
  • Aligned goals: Clearly define your business and member objectives for the loyalty program. Are you aiming to boost acquisition, reduce acquisition costs, drive incrementality and customer lifetime value, develop brand advocates, reinforce engagement throughout the product lifecycle? What audiences are you targeting? Can the business currently understand its own data to make the right decision?
  • Prioritised execution: Avoid getting bogged down in technology selection before you have a clear roadmap. Focus on the critical features and functionalities that will deliver the most value during the initial launch, i.e., what will help you achieve the first step to solving your core objective(s)

Harley-Davidson shared their journey of modernising its legacy loyalty program to better serve its digital-savvy customers. The brand recognised the need to adapt and innovate as the landscape shifted to cater to a new era of clientele. For this, a complete transformation was required. The key takeaway from Harley-Davidson’s experience is the importance of brand self-awareness. Recognising when the core problems your program solves are no longer relevant is crucial. This allows for a proactive shift to address new challenges and attract new audiences. Plus, always start simple and refine.

2. Building trust: the foundation of lasting loyalty

CRMC discussions highlighted the importance of building trust with the customer base.

Loyalty is a two-way street, and customers are more likely to be loyal to brands they trust. Here’s how to cultivate trust:

  • Transparency is key: Be transparent about how you collect and use customer data. Clearly communicate program terms and conditions and avoid hidden rules or unexpected changes
  • Deliver on promises: Always strive to deliver on the rewards and benefits promised by your loyalty program
  • Listen and respond: Actively solicit customer feedback and demonstrate that you care about their input

Ulta Beauty shared insights into their efforts to rename the loyalty program with an elevated approach to (re)set the foundation for program integration and evolution. The company went through an extensive program brand redefinition process to unify program positioning and communications and expand the offering. The ultimate goal was to enhance the program to deepen connections with current members and attract new loyalists through an elevated approach. For any loyalty practitioner, clear communication of any program change is critical. When a brand decides to change or take away something (e.g., a specific reward), the program needs to replace it with something of equal or greater value.

3. Taming the data beast: personalisation with clarity

While personalisation is a frequently touted trend in loyalty programs, many brands genuinely struggle to utilise data effectively due to silos and lack of clear strategy.

One of the reoccurring themes within discussions at CRMC was cautioning against data overload. Here are some steps to take:

  • Clean data is king: Before personalising your program, ensure your data is accurate and organised. Break down data silos across departments to gain a holistic view of your customers
  • Cross-functional collaboration: Data utilisation is a shared responsibility. Involve marketing, IT, and other relevant departments to ensure seamless data integration and communication
  • Start simple, iterate often: Begin with basic personalisation tactics like using customer names in communication and offering targeted promotions based on purchase history. As you gain experience and data insights, you can refine your approach

Wilson Sporting Goods shared the launch of their customer segmentation initiative that blends AI with human expertise. They went back to the basics to properly understand their customers and build a single data source that will help them for all future customer engagement and loyalty efforts. It seems simple, but most brands continue to struggle with the basics.

4. Building a loyalty army: engaging all levels

Successful loyalty programs require buy-in from everyone in your organisation. When all departments are working together towards a common goal, brands can create a more holistic and effective loyalty program that delivers value to both customers and the business. Here’s how to ensure everyone is on board:

  • Executive champions: Secure leadership support to ensure resources and commitment for the program’s long-term success
  • Frontline advocates: Empower the frontline. They are the face of a brand and play a critical role in member engagement. Educate them on the program and equip them to effectively communicate its benefits to customers. When possible, allow them to engage with the program too
  • Ensure cross-functional collaboration: Loyalty is not a one-department responsibility. Brands stressed the importance of cross-functional collaboration between marketing, sales, customer service, and other teams

Victoria’s Secret shared insights into the importance of having all levels of the business involved in the process of launching the loyalty program, as well as using in-depth consumer research to lay the foundation for member enrolment and engagement. Cross-functional collaboration across the business in crafting the strategy, developing the program, setting up the reporting requirements and ensuring frontline staff engagement has been critical to a successful pilot and finalised launch.

5. Phased approach to launch: agility is key

Many face-to-face discussions with brands and technology vendors emphasised the benefits of a phased or micro-launch strategy. Here’s how to ensure a brand can get to market and start learning:

  • Consider targeted initiatives: Avoid getting bogged down in lengthy development cycles. Consider a phased approach where you launch a smaller, targeted initiative first. This allows you to validate core program elements, gather valuable customer feedback, and iterate quickly before scaling to a full-blown program.
  • Develop a roadmap: Focus on prioritising critical features and launching with an MVP (minimum viable product). This allows you to gather feedback and iterate quickly, adapting your program to better meet member needs.

PepsiCo shared their experience in using a 3As strategy (acquisition, application, and acceleration) to engage consumers and collect data. For a company of such scale, with so many brands, across many differentiated regions, a more iterative approach was required. For various products, they offer interactive digital experiences, surveys, quizzes and product finders to connect the divide between their product retailers and the end-consumer by encouraging consumers to share their preferences. This has allowed PepsiCo brands to gather more first and zero party data at scale. This more iterative, targeted approach emphasises the benefits for brands with complex structures.

Wrap up for CRMC 2024

By embracing the age of acceleration, prioritising strategic planning, fostering trust, and leveraging data effectively, brands can develop loyalty programs that not only survive but thrive in today’s competitive environment. By fostering a strong company culture around customer-centricity and continuously innovating, you can build lasting relationships with your customers and drive sustainable business growth.

Looking for more loyalty insights to guide your decision making?

Contact us today to learn how our loyalty consultants help you develop a data-driven program that builds trust, personalises the experience, and drives customer engagement and loyalty.

<a href="" target="_self">Scott Harrison</a>

Scott Harrison

Based in New York, Scott Harrison is a Principal Consultant at Loyalty & Reward Co, the leading loyalty consulting firm. Loyalty & Reward Co design, implement, and operate loyalty programs for global brands. Scott is a customer experience and digital marketing specialist with extensive experience in loyalty, CX, member engagement and lifecycle marketing. He has worked with world leading brands including Australian Venue Co, McDonald’s, Schneider Electric, UEFA and Visa. Scott co-created the book Loyalty Programs: The Complete Guide, the most comprehensive book on loyalty program theory and practice available. He also regularly writes and presents on loyalty, gamification and the application of Web3 on engagement.

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