By Rick Ferguson
When I first broke into the loyalty business in the spring of 1999, loyalty programs were still largely a paper-and-snail-mail affair. To join a loyalty program, customers had to fill out a paper registration form at the point-of-sale. In 7-10 days, they received a paper welcome packet in the mail which included both a plastic mag-strip membership card and a paper rewards catalog chock full of merchandise, travel packages, and gift cards for which they could redeem their points and miles. Redemption usually required calling a toll-free number and placing a redemption order with a live customer service agent. A few weeks later, your redemption item would ship from a warehouse and arrive at your doorstep. Then, the cycle of earning and redemption would begin again.
Today, loyalty is digital, mobile, and real time. Reward programs have become ubiquitous around the globe, and the loyalty industry is a multi-billion dollar affair. Coalition loyalty programs that reward customers for their spend within a partner network now operate in most developed countries. Advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning now drive customer loyalty strategies. Loyalty has converged with mobile payments to drive a new generation of programs, while new technologies such as blockchain now threaten to disrupt the legacy loyalty marketing industry. The loyalty industry, built by the Baby Boom generation, must now evolve and adapt to meet the needs of the digitally-native Millennials.
And yet, despite these swift and radical changes in technology, communications, and generational attributes, the fundamental tenants of loyalty marketing remain as true and as relevant today as they did 20 years ago: some customers are more valuable than others and deserve your loyalty; these customers are motivated by a combination of reward and recognition; and it is both possible and desirable to build and sustain profitable, long-term relationships with these best customers. These strategic pillars of customer loyalty have always been true, and always will be true.
Throughout the past 20 years, the Wise Marketer has stood at the leading edge of the customer loyalty industry, chronicling the news, research, best practices, and case studies that have shaped the industry. Founded by the father-son team of Robin and Peter Clark, the Wise Marketer has grown in reputation and audience to become the preeminent information source for customer-centric marketers and providers around the world. As the industry evolved from paper to pixels, from Excel files to data warehouses, and from paper envelopes to mobile applications, the Wise Marketer has been there.
Now I find myself leading the charge to build and expand upon the legacy the Clarks began. With this relaunch of the Wise Marketer web site, the launch of the Loyalty Academy certification program, and our upcoming Loyalty Academy conference in the spring of 2017, we’re planning an ambitious global expansion of the Wise Marketer Group. You’ll continue to see us expand with new products and services for the loyalty industry as we grow.
Why are we doing it? Because we believe in the power of loyalty marketing. The mantra of the Wise Marketer can be summed up thus: All marketing is most effective when it is placed in the service of building and sustaining long-term, profitable customer relationships. Customer loyalty isn’t earned through points programs; loyalty is rather a byproduct of those relationships. No matter your industry, business model, or geography, every business will be more successful through a relentless focus on demonstrating loyalty to your best customers.
If you’re interested in what we have to say, then by all means subscribe to our newsletter, attend our Loyalty Academy classes, and engage us in dialogue. Join the Loyalty Academy and become a member of a global community of loyalty marketers. Attend our conference to learn, share, and network with your peers. And tell your colleagues about us. We’re ultimately only as smart as our audience.
Thanks again for joining us on this journey. We’re happy to have you here – and we hope you enjoy the ride.
Rick Ferguson is CEO and Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group.