Even as more and more consumer spend shifts online, one aspect of online customer engagement has failed to keep pace with the growth of ecommerce: online earning in consumer loyalty programs. This lack of growth in online earning persists despite the desire of members to interact with their favorite loyalty program online. If consumers seek online earning opportunities, then how can brands accommodate them? Loylogic’s head of Akruu Ben Ashwell reveals the challenges to creating online earning velocity, as well as the opportunities for brands to build loyalty through the next generation of online earning portals.
By Ben Ashwell
Online commerce has grown by leaps and bounds largely due to the ease of the user experience. Sophisticated data analytics, as well as the information transparency provided by the largest and most successful ecommerce players, keep consumers engaged, encourage repeat visits, and lead to strong brand advocacy. Recommendation engines, predictive keyword searches, and other sophisticated user interface (UX) tools make online shopping easy, rewarding, and fun.
Online shopping portals that provide loyalty incentives, alas, have failed to keep pace with the revolution in online commerce. While there are examples of online loyalty platforms that provide a variety of ways to earn points, no one has yet created the ability to earn loyalty points through multiple online activities, all in one place – even as consumers clamor for the opportunity to earn points through interacting with their favorite brands online. Here are the top reasons for the lack of traction in online earning:
Lack of targeted communications. There is a large gap between the amount of purchases consumers make online and their ability to earn points for doing so. The biggest reason for this gap is the lack of targeted communications from most online loyalty portals, which leads to an inability to incent consumers to change their behavior via personalized, relevant offers. When we shop online, we receive offers in our inbox based on our purchase histories and designed to drive us to click-through, browse, and buy. We have yet to see that same level of targeted communication for online malls – and therefore, consumers remain unmotivated to return and earn points for interacting with their favorite brands.
Poor user experience. The success of the most popular ecommerce sites has led to a basic level of consumer expectations for the quality of the online experience. And yet, for many online earning portals, the user experience can be frustrating or confusing – which leads to a much lower level of conversion and much lower likelihood of creating a loyal customer. The will to shop and earn is there – but the UX often leaves customers out in the cold.
Delay in crediting. With most online shopping portals, shoppers who transact to earn points often wait up to 60 days to receive credit for the purchase in their loyalty accounts. This delay results in the shopper either forgetting that they’ve earned a reward altogether, or repeatedly returning to the site in frustration to see if an expected reward has been credited. Either way, the delay results in lower consumer engagement – and a decreasing likelihood that the shopper will return.
Complicated fulfillment. Many of today’s global brands have loyalty program members dispersed across the globe. This geographical dispersion can make fulfilling rewards difficult due to complications with taxes, cross-border shipments, and local regulations. With even the largest ecommerce companies struggling to overcome these obstacles, loyalty program operators face even greater challenges in engaging their global diaspora of program members.
These challenges are among the leading reasons that online earning has yet to reach critical mass. Fortunately, today’s program operators have more sophisticated tools at hand that allow them to attract their best customers to a state-of-the-art online earning portal that delivers a compelling user experience, a regular cadence of personalized communications, and a variety of earn options that allow shoppers to choose their own level of interaction with the brand.
Rather than try to do everything themselves, program providers can choose a partner with the expertise and infrastructure to help them engage customers, reward them for their loyalty, and build strong, personalized relationships with them. When designing or partnering with a company to deliver online earning opportunities for your customers, consider these best practices:
Deliver a compelling user experience. Today’s best-in-class online earn platforms deliver a modern, seamless user experience that matches the most sophisticated online retailers, including recommendations, reviews, segmentation, and targeted offers and promotions. Look for a platform that provides a relevant user experience no matter where that customer is located – and you’ll create a sticky relationship that results in incremental, profitable behavior change.
Use data and user control to drive communications. One-size-fits-all communications no longer provide an opportunity for a consumer to do anything but delete your email from the inbox. Rather than sending broadcast messages that saturate customer inboxes, leverage communication tools that use segmentation to drive personalization and relevance while allowing your customers to choose how often, and about what, they’d like to hear from you.
Provide a variety of earning options. Online shopping doesn’t appeal to all of your best customers. To cast a wider net, leverage your online shopping portal to provide a variety of earning options, including such activities as connecting social media accounts, responding to surveys, and taking up promotions. To the extent that you can do so, go local – local earn partners provide relationship stickiness that competitors will find difficult to match.
For an example of how broadening earn options can change behavior, consider the co-branded reward credit card: 20 years ago, co-branded cards didn’t exist; today, they dominate the payments market. By finding a partner platform that helps you enable these best practices, you’ll encourage behavior shift that results in positive program ROI. Your best customers will change their behavior – you just have to make it easy for them.
Ben Ashwell is Head of Akruu for Loylogic. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This content was sponsored by Loylogic; to learn more about this sponsor, please visit them here.