December Editorial Focus: Loyalty Marketing and Customer Engagement Technology

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By: Bill Hanifin, CLMP™ |

Posted on December 13, 2019

Our coverage of the Retail sector during November cracked open topics that brought high levels of interest and passionate responses from readers throughout the month. If you missed out, I’d refer you to these key articles that will bring you up to speed quickly:

  • We took a deep look at how the phenomena of Black Friday has evolved into a Golden Quarter of retailing and offered insights into how to blend your customer loyalty efforts into the marketing mix of the holiday season.
  • We also offered up some Continuity Thinking™ by revisiting last year’s article on Black Friday and validating theories and trends proposed in 2019.
  • Recognizing the importance of the customer in all of our business plans, we shared a deep examination of how your customers are making purchase decisions during this 2019 season of giving.
  • And, just when you may have been conceding total domination of the retail industry to Amazon, we identified some factors that led us to ask if Amazon’s kingdom could be under threat. We posed these questions to a global panel of practitioners in our network. James Christensen, Phil Rubin, and Nicole Wilhem provide insights that you need to read to understand how to compete more effectively in this “Amazon era” of retail.

During December, we turn our attention to Customer Loyalty and Engagement Marketing Technology. There is a technology transformation underway if you haven’t noticed and it compels us to look at what this means for marketing professionals and brand executives.

Old-school is cool, until it isn't

During an event earlier this fall, we listened to the Head of Global online retail for Steve Madden recount a story which brought this transformation into focus. The setting was a meeting with a potential vendor. That group was making a pitch to provide its “enterprise” software, and the proposal took on a traditional structure; a 6-figure up front implementation and configuration fee that anticipated months to complete. Ongoing work would be managed by a long term contract with heavy penalties for early cancellation.

The executive from Steve Madden was too polite to walk out of the meeting, but described the approach by this vendor as “oh, so 2012”.

The landscape of marketing technology has evolved. Innovators are taking a true partnership approach to providing services, embracing pay for performance economics, and pledging to deploy and launch marketing programs with greater speed and alacrity. Providers are minimizing up-front fees and challenge their own performance with “cancel anytime” policies that put more power in the hands of the brands they serve.

The approach not only makes sense but is a necessary adaptation to a world that is changing so quickly; in this age, long lead times invite excessive business risk. When strategy is set, technology needs to enable quick deployment, and support multiple pilots or tests so that champion strategies and campaigns can be identified for future build-out.

Expectations are high, but loyalty technology can help - and it's attainable

The changing nature of the loyalty provider technology business is putting pressure on firms with familiar names and long legacies of success. While many recognize the need to change, it’s not always possible to change directions or alter proven business models. There are implications also for the investment community that supports emerging providers. Long term contracts create the comfortable financial structure that helps to define future corporate valuations. What will happen when valuations are based on performance and client satisfaction rather than iron-clad agreements?

Over the balance of this month, you’ll hear from informed voices about what the future of marketing technology entails, while giving you a peak into how sophisticated technology platforms are being made available to small and medium, not just “Top 10” businesses. This changing approach means that brands will increasingly be able to engage customers at the highest level of their expectations (and they’re getting pretty steep these days) regardless of revenue size.

This single development is one reason why we see more businesses able to compete effectively in this “Amazon era” and why, for instance, credit unions and community banks are able to float consumer engagement and loyalty offers that allow them to compete with national banking groups.

As one of our advisory members mentioned recently, “the cycles are happening too fast to build platforms; we need to shift our focus to immediate performance.” We agree and look forward to sharing deeper insights on these topics with you this month.

Stay informed!