"COVID-19" is likely the most-searched term on Google nowadays. To state the obvious, our lives have changed drastically and although we are optimistic, normal life will likely not resume to exactly how it was within the foreseeable near future. With these changes come brand new challenges in the field of marketing, especially in loyalty program marketing. Among the many questions up in the air at the moment, it is important for brands to answer the following as they look to make decisions about brand-customer communication and relationships in our current climate:
What is the realistic definition of loyalty in times when everyone is in 'survival' mode?
How can marketers empathize, sympathize, and be good, responsible human beings in these uncertain times?
Comarch teamed up with The Wise Marketer to come up with 6 vital strategies that will help brands and consumers alike.
By: Bindu Gupta, Comarch
1) Be attentive to your brand message. What is the accumulated impact of your decision making on your brand voice and image?
- Reassure members that your brand is taking all possible measures to ensure the health and safety of customers and staff.
- Adjust store hours to balance customer needs with staff needs.
- Offset the negatives of closing brick and mortar stores by creating a virtual presence to make the online shopping experience feel more personal and an online experience that creates a satisfying “touch free” visit and purchase for customers.
- Add more payment options to give customers flexibility.
- Offer product discounts and free shipping, if possible.
- Implement a strategy to prioritize the delivery of essential items, to show that your brand cares about the well being of your customers.
2) Change Loyalty program rules to be mindful of the current emotional, financial, and physical state of consumers during this time.
- Be intentional in your approach and ensure that the messaging you send is informed and understanding of the current situation and its implications.
- Stay informed about the situation as it changes daily, especially as it differs by geography. Alter your messaging based on the most recent available information.
- Extend points expiration dates, if possible.
- Offer a discount for healthcare professionals and other essential workers for risking their lives to save others.
- Waive cancellation fees for existing and new bookings, if applicable.
- Change or reduce elite membership criteria to recognize even more members for their continued loyalty.
- Give loyalty program members the option to donate to charities using their accumulated points or implement a matching program, in which your brand matches members’ donations to relevant charities, up to a predetermined total amount.
- Offer reward points or other loyalty currency for doing their part of social distancing.
- Offer more points for taking safe actions, such as grocery shopping only once a week to maintain social distancing. Incorporate a social media aspect to this to help promote social distancing even further. Keep in mind, challenges will exist when executing this offer due to the social media and self-reporting aspects.
3) Focus on how you can improve the use of your data.
- With data including historical purchase behaviors, preferences, and geo-location, leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze this information to make data-driven decisions moving forward.
- Online Retailers can try the following:
- Pre-populate shopping carts based on the most purchased items in the past to help save time.
- Show product availability by the closest store based on geolocation and include information regarding lack or low stock of high-demand products.
- Take it one step further by providing options of stores which might have the same or similar products in the case of unavailability. This shows how customer centric the brand is, especially in these uncertain circumstances.
4) Create intuitive user experiences through desktop and mobile applications.
- Desktop UX is more important than usual as more people work from home. That said, it is just as important to have a mobile app that adapts to highlight key resources and shortcuts such as reserving delivery times. Additionally, adding features such as allowing customers to review the delivery time slots in advance (before placing an order) will help to enhance the user experience.
- With user experience more important than ever, addressing the current situation and altering your introductory messaging is an easy way to tailor the UX for the constantly changing circumstances. For example, changing a simple “Hello” on the welcome page to a COVID-related “We hope you are safe & healthy” message can make all the difference and help your brand resonate with consumers.
5) Adopt the most efficient technology to reduce operational costs, especially to offset lower demand.
- Make plans to use a cloud loyalty provider, which will include easy integrations, ease of use, and low costs, which benefit brands immensely during a time like this where many rely on technology more than usual.
6) Be positive and think post-crisis.
- Maintain confidence that we will come out of this stronger and smarter.
- Make a business plan for post-crisis recovery: What were you already working on that should be accelerated? What new ideas should be tested?
- Carefully plan communications, including how to welcome customers back, especially when every other business will be doing the same.
To learn more about how to leverage your loyalty program and enhance customer engagement in these unprecedented circumstances, we invite you to attend our webinar, Navigating the Crosswinds: Managing a Loyalty Program in Uncertain Times, on April 29th at 1:30 pm ET. During this live, engaging event, we will discuss how brands can ensure that their loyalty program is aligned with the customers’ most basic needs — and not just looking to increase NPS or share of wallet.
[Editor's note: This webinar is over, but if you'd like to view the recording, go here.]