The collision of brick and mortar retail with the relentless forward progress of ecommerce and digital marketing has created an interesting environment for loyalty to evolve and take shape beyond the “single interaction” model, where customers are rewarded for one type of behavior at the cost of bigger picture loyalty. The brick and mortar world has been exposed to rapid change, and the complexity of consumer interactions stemming from the paradigm shift actually provides a lot of opportunity for loyalty vendors to serve a growing multitude of loyalty engagements – perhaps nowhere more so than in the worlds of retail and restaurants.
“Loyalty isn’t just an in-store conversation, but is actually a sphere of engagement, inside of which consumers gravitate to their own preferred means of interaction. The growing challenge for loyalty marketers is to understand how to capitalize on other interactional behaviors outside the scope of many loyalty solutions.” That’s Dennis Becker, the CEO of a company called Mobivity, which provides a platform for a huge variety of customer interactions & engagement vehicles.
Mobivity has recently acquired Belly from Hatch Loyalty, a technology that facilitates loyalty interactions from within the store environment. The combination of Mobivity’s existing suite of products with Belly’s technical functionality in the loyalty realm, along with their broad base of existing customers makes for an interesting case study that loyalty practitioners should be aware of; it is perhaps an indication of what future vendors might look like in general.
“We have a very holistic view of loyalty,” says Becker, “In brick and mortar business, digital audiences are fragmented. Loyalty has, thus far, been relegated to a specific single interaction, such as paper-based punch cards or apps. The point of loyalty should not to be focusing on rewarding one type of behavior over and over again, but rather affecting loyal behavior over a multitude of engagements.”
With Belly now a part of Mobivity’s portfolio, creating these enhanced interaction opportunities will be a top priority moving into 2019. One of the most promising areas of development is in RCS (Rich Communication Services) using text-messaging technologies to actually replace more traditional app-based solutions.
Tapping into a fundamental consumer behavior (considering that there are over 22 billion SMS messages sent every day, text messaging and RCS campaigns are being developed into the Belly platform to leverage Mobivity’s partnerships with major tech players like Google and Samsung. The big draw for consumers and loyalty providers with innovations like these is a streamlined approach to engagement with barriers to participation effectively mitigated.
The big draw for consumers and loyalty providers with innovations like these is a streamlined approach to engagement with barriers to participation effectively mitigated.
Rich user experiences that have only been available in apps up until now – buttons, maps, payment integrations, images and video – all will become available in a text messaging environment. “This will solve a lot of consumer friction,” states Becker. “Having the consumer set up another user ID or password, maintaining installation of the app if they change phones…even push notifications aren’t really that effective as a way to keep consumers coming back to the app.”
A quick look at the capabilities of RCS quickly highlights how delivering experiences in the native messaging application is far more seamless than requiring users to continue downloading more apps. Application to Peer (A2P) RCS is technology used to send opted-in consumers personalized marketing messages which allows for in-app purchases using native payment methods like Google Pay.
And since RCS is location aware and supports Google maps, the purchase cycle can be location-influenced. Loyalty practitioners will be quick to understand the implications; for users of platform services like Belly, facilitating registration into explicit loyalty programs can now be coupled with RCS reminders to engage, redeem, or otherwise take action.
Explicit loyalty programs can now be coupled with RCS reminders to engage, redeem, or otherwise take action.
With engagement technologies like RCS about to be unleashed upon the industry, there is an enormous opportunity arising from the multitude of data unlocked through their use by customers. But the opportunity stretches beyond the mere collection of data and into the realm of intelligent analysis leveraging AI’s.
Data has reached a critical mass, and to capitalize on its advantages requires more from vendors than merely organizing the never-ending stream of information. Mobivity parses data from 15 million+ transactions per week across all of its brands (even more than what most credit card companies have access to), and is planning introduce AI analysis for full-scope loyalty data. This means that marketers no longer need to forecast years of human knowledge and scrutiny to perfect loyalty programs; machine learning will be available to identify trends, make predictions, and put forth strategic recommendations.
RCS is an up and coming example of how loyalty interfacing is bound to change drastically, but areas such as better UX design to take advantage larger phone screens and enhanced content also stand ready as major transformative forces.