Customer Loyalty in 2021: Trends and Future Predictions

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on January 6, 2021

Wise Marketer has been collecting opinions the future of loyalty marketing in 2021 from people near and far. We wanted to know what the most important take aways from a crazy pandemic year should be as well as which customer loyalty trends we should pay attention to in the coming year of 2021.

We have so much feedback to share that we are going to parse it out in several articles.

Today, you are hearing from one senior global executive based in Europe and a highly accomplished academic authority in the US. Let us know your thoughts on loyalty trends that may flourish in 2021 and share them here or via our contact form and you too can be featured at Wise Marketer!

Pavel Los, Global Loyalty Program Manager and Country Chairman, Shell (CLMP):

During 2020, we witnessed substantial growth in new loyalty schemes introduced as well as the evolution of existing programs. The global COVID-19 pandemic was a strong motivator for this activity and the introduction of new technologies enabling faster implementation contributed to these changes.

In my view, the biggest trends in the customer loyalty industry during 2021 are focused in three areas:

  1. Increased focus on customer value segmentation enabled by new technologies
  2. Delivery of personalization through relevant offers that resonate with customers
  3. Rewarding customers based on their value

The challenge loyalty marketers face now and will need to focus on in 2021 is to create true value from these new and updated programs. Customers are concerned with safety and want to limit their time spent in physical locations, so digging a loyalty card out of a wallet or purse or taking time to launch a mobile app is an aspect of customer experience they might want to avoid. 

To overcome these obstacles, loyalty teams will need to find ways to deliver the right offer and reward to the right customer in the most elegant and efficient manner. The path to this solution is through value-driven segmentation.

Brands everywhere are under economic pressure brought by the pandemic and can’t afford to spend precious resources and burn budgets on low return investments. Marketers will need to become more precise in the way they allocate marketing budgets across their customer base.

Yuping Liu-Thompkins, Ph.D. Professor of Marketing and Director of Loyalty Science Lab, E. V. Williams Faculty Fellow, Old Dominion University:

Looking ahead at 2021, we believe the loyalty industry is likely to see a few significant trends.

After a stressful pandemic year and still a lot of unknown for the coming year, the consumer mindset will be especially responsive to positive experiences and little indulgences. As a result, we expect to see rising redemption activities in 2021, especially for hedonic rewards.

Among loyalty programs and loyalty marketers, we are likely to see a corresponding increase in focus on non-purchase member engagement activities such as redemptions, digital interactions, and virtual experiences.

Another trend we are likely to witness is a stronger investment into loyalty program analytics and customer analytics in general. The accelerated digital transformation across multiple industries is forcing businesses to reconsider the readiness and degree of their analytics and personalization efforts. As a robust channel for communication with active customers, loyalty programs would be a natural place to see some pioneering changes in enhanced analytics and personalization initiatives.

Finally, we expect to see an increasing integration of social components in loyalty programs. The pandemic has significantly changed the social customer journey. Some of these changes are likely to stay. As businesses and their loyalty programs re-examine their social customer journey mapping, opportunities for loyalty programs to become a nexus for social customer journey activities will present themselves. We expect that the best loyalty programs will come up with innovative ways of making their programs more socially involving, beyond traditional point transfer/gifting and social media engagement activities.