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Taking Loyalty to the Curb: What Coke, Red Lion and Others Would Spring Clean Out of Loyalty

By COLLOQUY Staff on April 27, 2015

Some equate spring with sweeps of tulips and birdsong, but to others it is an opportunity to just sweep away fusty old items. Here’s our list of loyalty practices that marketers and other experts would like to bury for good.

T.S. Eliot coined April as the cruelest month; it also could be the cleanest if we took a dustbin to some outdated loyalty practices.

We asked several loyalty program operators, marketers and service providers what they’d spring clean out of loyalty marketing if they had the chance. Following are edited replies from the likes of Coca-Cola, Epsilon, Chiripfy and others.

The Coca-Cola Co., MyCoke Rewards

I would like to eradicate the term ‘email blast’ from loyalty marketer’s vocabulary. Email content should be personally relevant to each loyalty program member and carefully coordinated with personalized content across other touch points (web, app, SMS, etc.) that reflect each member’s current interests/involvement in the program. Don’t email your entire opted-in population just because you’re having a promotion – make it consumer-centric by only contacting members for whom the promotion holds some interest. That’s the opposite of ‘blast.’

– Mike Weaver, director of data strategy and precision marketing

Thanx, digital rewards services

Stop treating everyone the same. In our modern data-driven world, it's time we say goodbye to one-size-fits-all loyalty programs. VIPs are special to your business – by some reports, the top 25% of customers make up nearly 75% of revenue – they should receive different rewards and recognition for their dedication. Similarly, not every customer who hasn't visited in the last 30 days is the same. For some people, that's just their regular cadence... so stop sending them a discount that has no (effect) on their behavior.

– Zach Goldstein, founder and CEO

Red Lion, Hello Rewards  

Here’s (some of) what we scrubbed from our program:  

1. Loyalty programs need to get rid of points. Millennials want a simple program that is easy to understand and [is] personalized. That’s what loyalty is to them. We call it guest recognition.

2. Get rid of elite tiers. Elite tiers are meant to recognize your most loyal travelers. But why not treat every member like an elite member? Personalize their experiences, fuel their passions, surprise and delight them. Make each member feel like they are your most important.

3. Let’s get rid of misguided and mass produced loyalty communications that aren’t segmented to a population that will respond to them.

– Brigette Pence, director of relationship marketing for Hello Rewards

Epsilon, direct marketing services

Almost every time I receive a monthly or especially quarterly loyalty statement, I only glance at it or usually ignore it completely. I rely on updates from the point of sale, e-receipts, text messages or in-app messaging to notify me that my purchase, flight or stay has been recorded and acknowledged. Keep it simple and put the account summaries, history, and offers in the places I’m already interacting with the program, and nix the quarterly statement.

– Bob Moorehead, vice president and general manager, Epsilon

Chirpify, mobile loyalty platform

The one loyalty-marketing practice I’d like to do away with is relying on singular communication channels. While email or direct mail are good communications channels that can perform well for direct response, they are one-to-one communication tools, which just isn’t enough anymore. To stay competitive, brands really should expand their repertoire to include one-to-many communications that allow brand ambassadors to amplify the message. 

– Chris Teso, CEO, Chirpify

Stash Hotel Rewards

The loyalty program feature we think should be taken to the curb: member ID numbers. Nobody needs another nine-digit number to remember, or more likely forget. Personalization and recognition are top-of-mind for loyalty programs, but this antiquated ID system sends a clear message – “You are just a number” – or, even worse, a nine-digit mix of random capital letters and numbers. And if you can’t find that number while running through the airport or wrestling bags at check-in – you’re nobody special at all. 

–  Jeff Low, founder and CEO of Stash Hotel Rewards

Ketchup Group, loyalty marketing (Turkey)

What we are experiencing is a revolutionary change in consumer behavior with the rise of mobile devices and apps. Hence, today’s consumers are no longer fond of pulling out or carrying around all those loyalty cards that turn their wallets into giant sandwiches. They are always on the move and just want to get things done as quickly as they can. Therefore, brands are increasingly exploring new technologies and the trend is leaning towards more sophisticated, mobile solutions – often removing the need for physical loyalty cards.

– Yalçın Onur, CEO, Ketchup Group

Paydiant, mobile payment services

Antiquated plastic card-based programs. As consumers, we know first-hand that keeping track of multiple plastic cards, not having transparency into the points we earn, and having to jump through hoops to redeem rewards can make participating in loyalty programs more trouble than they’re worth.

– Chris Gardner, co-founder, Paydiant (recently acquired by PayPal)

GomezLee Marketing, loyalty services (Dominican Republic)
  • Value propositions based only on discounts and sweeps, because they are effective only in the very short term. They don't build long-term loyalty bonds.
  • Payback tactics or not using thresholds because they don't change transactional behavior. 
  • Non-targeted/mass communications because they are not relevant and therefore not achieving any engagement.

– Leo Gomez, president

Discovery program, Global Hotel Alliance

If I step back and think about the basics, the actual loyalty membership number is not a customer-friendly element. Few people can remember a 10-digit member number, so why is this asked during the booking/checkout path and during award redemption or web login? Members should get by with their email address as their account number (which may need more thought for countries like China where email addresses are shared by family members).

– Kristi Gole, direct or loyalty marketing, Global Hotel Alliance 

CrowdTwist, loyalty and analytics services provider

When it comes to strengthening loyalty initiatives, brands should replace single-tender rewards – ones that require the use of a specific payment vehicle like a private label credit card – with multi-tender rewards. Single-tender reward programs limit a brand’s view of its customers by excluding the majority from building a long-lasting loyalty relationship with the company. Meanwhile, multi-tender rewards offer far greater appeal to today’s multichannel consumer.

– Geoff Smith, senior vice president

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