The days of punch card-based loyalty and rewards programs are long behind us.
Today’s consumers have much higher loyalty program expectations, which have only grown with the evolution of technology and pandemic-era shopping. As a matter of fact, 70% of consumers say their affiliation to a rewards and loyalty program is one of the most critical reasons for them to continue engaging with a mobile application after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
The bottom line: You must pair your loyalty and rewards program with a superior digital experience to satisfy today’s shoppers — or risk losing them to competitors that do.
[See also: Evolution of How Consumers Shop]
To effectively build loyalty in a digital environment, rewards should be personalized to your customers. There are three essential building blocks you should consider for your loyalty and rewards program to resonate with today’s shoppers.
1. A Unique App Environment
Many retailers use third-party apps (e.g., food/grocery delivery services, e-commerce platforms, etc.) for their online purchase options. But these apps have several drawbacks. Most third-party apps take a significant percentage of the profits you generate and give you little to no control over the customer experience. Most of these platforms also withhold first-party data on loyalty program members, leaving you no way to personalize rewards or offers around the customers’ app activity.
To avoid the unfavorable trade-offs of third-party apps, own the customer experience and create your own app by hiring a digital consultant or in-house app developer. The level of control provided with this approach enables you to build the app around what your customers truly want — and continuously optimize their experiences by analyzing the first-party data you now have access to via your app users.
2. Rewards Tailored To Individual Customers
With access to your app’s user data, you can personalize loyalty program rewards around a customer’s app activity and purchases. You can also integrate artificial intelligence (AI) technology into your app to help create these personalized rewards.
For instance, if a customer consistently purchases cold brew coffee from your convenience store, AI can help customize a buy one, get one free reward for the cold brew coffee. Creating these types of customer interactions on a large scale can build deeper brand affinity and boost app interactions through your loyalty and rewards program.
3. Inclusive Multichannel Access
Unify your loyalty and rewards program experience across multiple platforms. Some customers may not have a smartphone to access your mobile app, while others may only shop through your website. Because of these differences, it’s vital to have a streamlined and inclusive customer experience across channels. Ensure your mobile app can seamlessly switch over to your website to access rewards or make a purchase.
Also, build a consistent user experience across each channel — users who primarily use your mobile app should have no issue finding common functions, like where to purchase an item, if they visit your website.
Retailers have a great opportunity to connect with today’s consumers through a modernized loyalty and rewards program. By building your own app, personalizing customer rewards and leveraging inclusive access channels, you can transform your loyalty program beyond the age of punch cards and coupons.
Britt Mills is senior director of customer experience at Mobiquity.