Building an Integrated Loyalty Program that Works Online and Offline

It’s no secret that gaining a new customer is always harder than getting an existing customer to buy again. In marketing parlance, this is referred to as instilling customer loyalty and driving repeat purchases from existing customers. Customer loyalty increases customer retention, maximizes engagement and drives up customer spend. In this blog post, let’s explore how an integrated loyalty program across online and offline channels can work wonders for marketers and drive up sales. 

Loyalty is a Trust-Based Bond with Customers:

Loyalty is not just about a repeat purchase, but a strong trust-based bond that a brand creates with its customers. 

The 3 important characteristics of a loyal customer are:

1. Customer recalls your brand not only at time of purchase but for all and any interaction with your product category – meaning you have a strong brand recall with your loyal customer 
2. Loyal customer is patient with you. Will support you even when an occasional thing goes wrong
3. Does not take bait from competitors and will not switch sides easily. In fact, may influence tentative customers to incline to your brand  

In true sense, a loyal customer is your real brand ambassador.

Loyal customers can be passive, exhibiting characteristics 1 and 2, as well as active, also demonstrating characteristic 3. A brand’s objective should be of not only getting more loyal customers, but also to enable them to be active and vocal loyal customers. 

How to Build an Integrated Approach towards Loyalty:

Customer loyalty should not be a phenomenon of isolated and rare occurrences. It should not limit to only when the customer makes a purchase, but should be present during each and every customer interaction – be it online or offline. Loyalty should be approached in an integrated manner and customers should be rewarded seamlessly for their all interactions with the brand.  

Customer behavior is a mix of online and offline experiences today. This demands an integrated approach for loyalty program. Examples of such an approach are:  

• Customer may buy a product offline and share a selfie with that product on online channels.
Customer loyalty here gets manifested in form of these socially-shared visual referrals, for which customers should be rewarded with loyalty points 
• Delighted by in-store experience, customers may demonstrate their loyalty by referring your brands to their friends on social media. These socially shared customer referrals bring in new customers with very high conversion propensity. Customers should be rewarded with loyalty points for these referrals

•  For businesses having both e-commerce sites and physical stores, referrals by online customers can influence in-store sales. Retailers can also generate in-store footfall via online email campaigns. These online interactions that trigger offline sales are good candidates to reward  loyalty points and strengthen customer’s trust-based bond with brand

How to Incorporate Social Actions into Your Loyalty Approach:

Loyal customers will naturally talk about and recommend your brand to friends and family. The online counterpart of this offline word-of-mouth promotion mechanism is social media sharing. To channelize this intuitive customer behavior, marketers need to do following:  

1. Facilitate customers to share your brand frequently:
Enable easy referral opportunities not just at time of transaction but at every customer interaction. Convert the delight of your loyal customers into powerful and influential referrals. E.g. friend referrals, photo testimonials, addition to mailing list, etc.
2. Reward customers for their support with additional loyalty benefits:
Reward customers for each of these actions. It reiterates their belief in your brand, increases engagement and strengthens the trust-based relationship they have with your brand.

Rewarding your customers with loyalty points for social actions can be highly profitable. Brands can convert their customers into loyalists who are active and vocal ambassadors – spreading the goodness of your brand far and wide.

This blog was presented by Vibhushan Waghmare, Director of Marketing at ShopSocially.

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