Latest loyalty rewards: this time it's personal
Loyalty programme members are being rewarded with more and more personalised products and services, including concierge and personal shopper services, sports and theatre tickets, points-based internet auctions and family rewards.
Out of all the loyalty rewards that you have received, which ones do you remember? Which ones do you tell others about? The odds are that they are not the hard rewards but the soft ones; not simple discounts but memorable, greater-than-expected pampering. Exceptional service during and after a transaction is recounted much more often than the level of discount. And the delight is even greater if the reward is something other than the usual products and services offered.
Companies with high value customers have known this and used it for many years: loyalty has been cemented in boxes at the opera, in seats at premium sports events, and in lavish dinners. But the concept isn't limited to those very high value customers. Retailers who run continuity programmes have found that if the rewards are bought in specially for the programme - rather than taken from normal stock - the effect is greater. If a supermarket calls out an emergency repair service at no charge to the customer because her car will not start in its car park, the warmth of feeling is deeper than any discount would produce. And feeling counts where loyalty is concerned.
Expanding market It is not surprising that the market for loyalty programmes that can provide these special, personalised rewards is growing. Two leading providers in the market are Maritz Loyalty Marketing and Circles.
According to Maritz, consumers are increasingly suggesting that rewards should be customised to their lifestyle. "The smart companies have recognised that it takes more than just coupons and discounts to drive customer loyalty. True customer loyalty will require personalised rewards, benefits and offers that supplement the quality of the services the company already provides to its customers," explained Chris Moloney, director of market development for Maritz.
And US-based concierge service provider, Circles, agrees with that view. To the enterprise, a concierge and personal assistance service is both a measurable profit-builder and a significant marketing tool, making the firm's brand indispensable to its customers. And to the customer it's a great time-saver, and a service that makes the company invaluable to them.
Hotter rewards Many consumers are already receiving some or all of the growing number of personalised rewards and services:
- Personal shoppers who help consumers use their accrued points toward the purchase of desired products and services.
- Concierge services, allowing consumers to use their points for anything they want including theatre shows, concerts and special sporting events.
- Points-driven internet auctions - much like eBay - that allow consumers to use their points to purchase items they want.
- Online travel web sites that allow consumers to use their points toward personal travel on any airline.
- Customised 'wish lists' that let consumers pre-select rewards and then track their progress toward earning them
- Donations of money (funded by reward points) to a consumer's favourite charity.
- The ability to use points for personal investment vehicles such as retirement funds or college savings programmes.
- Householding - where members of a family can combine their reward points to receive a family-oriented product or service, such as a package holiday.
"In their quest to keep loyal customers content - and purchasing more - businesses are developing loyalty programmes that recognise customers as unique individuals, rewarding them in a very customised fashion. Consumers are starting to reap the benefits of these new programmes and rewards," said Moloney.