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Is Your Loyalty Program an Elephant or a Goldfish?

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By: Peter Vogel, CRO of vPromos |

Posted on August 8, 2023

Customers deserve to be recognized and rewarded without unnecessary effort, every single time.

Editor’s Note: The role of mobile apps in loyalty program enrollment and management is up for discussion. We tackled the key points in the pros and cons of using a mobile app in this previous article. We have also researched alternative enrollment methods and connected with Peter Vogel, CRO of vPromos. who shared a unique perspective on the importance of “recognizing your customers.” In this second of a three-part series, we examine the role of technology in identifying customers and increasing scan rates.

Would you rather have your loyalty program described as an Elephant or a Goldfish?

Putting this in customer terms, would you rather be remembered by your favorite retailer and welcomed when you visit their location, or suffer being ignored? The answer seems obvious, yet many retail loyalty programs don’t offer the technology and processes, much less the value to create this welcoming scenario.

Memory is a crucial factor in building relationships, and we form opinions of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and the brands we frequent when they don’t remember us after multiple interactions. The less we are remembered, the more our opinion of the other party is damaged.

Enter the Elephant.

There are so many phrases in the English language that people use regularly without knowing their origin. I’m sometimes slow to respond to email and more than once I have told a patiently waiting colleague that “I might be slow, but I have a memory like an Elephant and never forget”.

How did the Elephant gain this notoriety for having a good memory? The African Bush Elephant is known to be the heaviest land animal on the planet. Their cerebral cortex, the region of the brain where memories are stored, is correspondingly large, which helps enable remarkable long-term memory. The phrase "An elephant never forgets" may have originated from observations that putting this large brain to use, elephants can follow the same paths and pass down genetic memories of directions and places across generations.

And the poor Goldfish.

Research shows the average attention span for the Goldfish is nine seconds, meaning it is pathetically fleeting. Studies give better marks to Goldfish memory, but regardless, the Goldfish is a hopelessly distant second to the Elephant in terms of memory power. The more shocking statistic about Goldfish is that their attention span is just a hair better than humans. According to a study from Microsoft, people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. The reason for the decline was cited to be the impact of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain. The term "The Goldfish Effect" was born from this and similar studies.

If you are a retailer of any type, you should seek to have a “data memory” about your customers that resembles that of the Elephant. Every time a customer visits your store or has lunch in your restaurant, you have an opportunity to serve them well. Your ability to serve the customer is based on:

  1. Knowing who it is standing in front of your register, and
  2. Being able to greet them properly and make them offers in the context of their overall relationship with your business.

There are many loyalty programs in the market that miss the mark because they fail to drive an acceptable “scan rate” among members. In my own experience, technology obstacles and weak value propositions have led me to skip identifying myself at the point-of-sale, even in my favorite stores.

The range of enrollment options for loyalty program operations that we covered in our first article in this series outlines the reasons why mobile apps can introduce unnecessary friction into enrollment. This leads to suppression of willingness by customers to identify and be “counted” at the time of purchase in the future. Through the work the Loyalty Academy™ has done in the Psychology of Loyalty, we know that humans have a competitive streak and want to be counted and awarded the value we feel we deserve from the brands that we patronize. There’s a part of our brain that seeks to balance out the effort we have made to join a loyalty program with the value we receive.

Imagine then, that when a pin-pad does not work, a QR code won’t scan, a customer can’t find the app on their phone, or a cashier needs to ask for a customer’s phone # in order to record a transaction. This creates frustration among customers. Repeated poor experiences like this mean that the impacted customers may not be tracked and will fly under the radar in subsequent visits. Scan rates plummet and store managers are scolded by leadership for allowing engagement rates to fall.

Smart Enrollment™ from vPromos

Smart Enrollment™, utilizing the credit card terminal as a marketing tool turns your loyalty program into an elephant. Here’s how it works:

  1. First, the terminal identifies the credit card used by the customer and if not recognized, the terminal prompts the customer to join the Loyalty Program:
    “It looks like this card is not yet enrolled in our Loyalty Program. If you’d like to start earning rewards today, simply enter your mobile phone # below and we’ll create a free account for you. You’ll get a $5 reward for joining”

    Customers are prompted to join the loyalty program EVERY time a credit card is not recognized. Members can also add a second and third card all tied to the same account.

  2. Then EVERY time a customer pays with the same card, the transaction is automatically tracked, and purchase is applied to the member’s loyalty account. The member is also notified via text that rewards have been earned. No prompting from the cashier is ever needed. No phone #’s entered. No mobile app required. 100% automated.
  • Once a rewards threshold has been reached, the reward will automatically be applied to the member’s next purchase with no effort from the customer or the cashier. The customer doesn’t need to be asked if a reward should be used and they don’t have to remember they’ve earned a reward. It always happens automatically with no promoting form the cashier.

With vLoyalty’s Smart Enrollment, your Loyalty program has become an Elephant.

The terminal ‘remembers’:

  • To ask the customer if they are a member of the program
  • To enroll the customer (even adding a second or third card)
  • To track transactions
  • To automatically apply rewards, when earned

Reducing frictions and creating the most seamless and user-friendly experience is a hallmark of the vLoyalty solution.

As humans, your customers desire to be recognized and they want to be able to get credit for their trading with your brand easily and without extra effort. They want to be welcomed as an old friend, not feel belittled by being treated like a stranger without reason.

By making the right choices, your brand’s loyalty program can have the memory of an Elephant, building trust and strong relationships. The alternative is to live in a rocky world where you are perceived as forgetful as the average Goldfish.

Don’t be a Goldfish!