There is no doubt that world events impacted the future of customer loyalty, a direct result of how we as people shifted our thinking about how we parse out our love for individual brands.
We are nearing the end of the first trimester of 2021. Framing the time elapsed this year in the parlance of higher education is intentional, because we got taken to school like never before during 2020. The earth shook and Mother Nature unleashed a wave of change across our world through the vessel of a highly contagious virus. The challenges presented to humanity had the potential to unite us to fight behind a common cause or divide us along philosophical and political lines. We all know how the year unfolded. We collectively experienced a societal darkness that was daunting to most while casting irrevocable implications for our future to many.
Need we point out that there is always light to be found within the darkness? And would you be surprised to know that we’ve experienced stranger and equally difficult times over the past 50 years? A friend pointed this out to me after watching 1968, a highly acclaimed four-part series available on Amazon Prime video. The series highlights the tumultuous series of events that took place during the year. Differing opinions on the Vietnam war had created societal division, racial conflicts accentuated the strife, and social and political leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. Let's just say 2020 has competition for the “worst year ever” after all.
We shared opinions, predictions, and news for the customer loyalty industry in several posts during the early days of 2021. Part of our mission at the Wise Marketer and Loyalty Academy is to highlight the voices that hold weight and are influencing change in the way we connect with customers.
Now that we have had most of this first trimester to let the predictions sink in and to observe how 2021 is unfolding, we wanted to share a few more thoughts on what will matter in 2021 for executives interested in forging stronger customer bonds and leading their organizations closer to becoming truly customer centric.
The top line thought is that the concepts of trust, clarity, and ease must be central to strategic planning this year, and probably for years to come. The ability of a brand to foster trust with its customers is largely dependent on how it behaved during the most chaotic moments of 2020. Were you an airline that made it difficult to refund airfare when travel became universally banned for a period of time?
Were you a retailer who stuck with rigid return policies in the name of sanitary commerce, only to frustrate your customer base and suppress sales? Or were you a retailer who treated customers as if they really meant “we’re all in this together”? Consumers absorbed many experiences during 2020, both good and bad, and the brands that leaned in strongly to embrace Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards managed themselves in a way that responded to customer needs and built an equity base of trust for the new year.
Clarity is what we need now to reinforce that trust is warranted between customer and brand. Clumsy enrollment requirements for loyalty programs, limiting options to one channel (you heard us mobile app), and peppering your loyalty marketing efforts with Loyalty Asterisks™ will cause customers to reevaluate if you evolved during 2020 or are quickly returning to the way loyalty programs operated pre-pandemic.
The strongest evidence of your commitment to Clarity is the Ease by which customers can engage in your program. How are you communicating the value you offer to your customer base? Are you responding to changing behavior patterns and communicating through multiple channels, more than ever before through SMS and Mobile? Are you proactive in using location-based marketing services to engage customers as they navigate their physical world? Are you aware of how Google is advancing Conversational Commerce with its Google Business Messages service?
Trust, Clarity, and Ease are three words to guide your customer loyalty marketing efforts during 2021. If you keep it simple and test program models, offer delivery methods, and campaign communications against this framework, you’ll be working with the momentum of customer opinion at your back and surely find success in the coming year.