Loyalty Program Wildly Important Priorities – Do You Have Them?

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By: David Slavick |

Posted on October 11, 2018

As a program owner and visionary for a retail loyalty program one of the keys to our team’s success was laser-focus on WIPs (wildly important priorities).  I was inspired to codify these priorities by an inspirational leader at American Eagle Outfitters – Joe Kerin, EVP Store Operations.  If you don’t have a commitment to WIPs but even more importantly a select few WIPs to ensure 100% achievement every business day, then you are not going to fulfill enterprise expectations.

By David Slavick

Now emotionally we all want to be recognized and rewarded for the great work that we do.  Likewise, we strive to partner with the moving parts of the enterprise so that initiatives are planned and launched successfully.  Unfortunately, human nature has a tendency to cause us to be distracted.  Or worse yet, agree to stretch our efforts well beyond what is humanly possible to achieve with 100% success at a sustained level.  Your partners or senior executives have their own WIPs.  From time to time they ask for “more” or why don’t we explore something “new” or a hot topic or trend that may or may not be worthy of being considered a WIP.  The reason CRM/Loyalty teams lose their way is because of various factors, but too many WIPs is a major contributor.  It takes your eye off the ball.  It stretches your staff to the point that they aren’t doing what they do best or distracts them from what their primary role/ responsibility is on a 24/7 basis.

Focusing on the new bright shiny object – crypto-currency as an alternate equity earn?  Or why not blockchain within our ecosystem, and promotional partners?  How about a subscription model for what has been to date a highly successful free program, it works for Amazon and Wine Clubs, so why not us? Add a credit card program and use it to help fund the program value proposition?  Sound familiar? I am sure there are many more “options” that are suggested during the calendar year.  My point is that any one new initiative must be evaluated within the framework of the WIPs that were established as the guiding principles of the program currently in operation.  If it distracts, detracts or diffuses program impact – don’t go there.  The only reason you should is if the program is truly underperforming against your well defined financial model that established your key metrics which measure program shift/lift.

So what are true WIPs and if I don’t have them, how do I go about defining them for my program?

Here are a few examples so you have guideposts that every program should rely on:

  • The program must be free, fast to earn, and easy to understand while always being brand right.
  • The program is servant to the customer, the customer is ALWAYS right – no arguments on returns, no refusal to redeem coupons within reasonable timeframe of expiration, outstanding customer service and responsive support.
  • The program must fulfill its incremental lift metrics with careful monitoring of all key performance measures, plus provide timely and accurate reporting to all segments of the enterprise.


Alternatively, a program might have the following WIPs depending on the business model and what is or is not a priority:

  • The program must exclusively recognize and reward credit cardholders and provide differentiated value to those members who represent the top 5% of sales and 40% of annual revenue.
  • The program must provide real-time recognition and reward to members, leveraging data and insight at every opportunity, but must be permission based while not crossing the line of intrusiveness based on that insight and personal service – don’t be creepy, be cool.
  • The program must provide for omni-channel support, deliver a cohesive brand experience that is nurturing and causes members to recommend the brand to their friends and family, while encouraging them to have preference for our preferred tender.

You can readily tell by comparison how different these WIPs are.  The WIPs provide focus for you and your team.  Call it swim lanes that drive decision criteria, resource allocation, budgets, taking a meeting with a vendor or partner on a particular topic and many more demands that occur every business day.

Operationally, WIPs impact what needs to be monitored, reported on and responded to.  Is the in-store experience for program members more important than zero defects in how the program operates online?   Are finding partners to extend the value proposition more or less important than building a tiered program design that recognizes and rewards members leveraging in-kind/proprietary rewards? Should the program shift from hard benefits that result from how much the member spends, or evolve to a soft benefits design that gives greater value to brand advocates who help with social posts, likes, community blogs, product or service reviews online, referrals fueling new member acquisition, etc.

Reflect on your program today.  Then get started drafting WIPs – current state.  Next create future state WIPs.  Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle.  Place WIP current state on one side, WIP future on the other.  Now reflect on current initiatives, challenges from internal partners, operational problems/concerns that have been raised, plus proposals you’ve fielded from vendors and partners in the past 12 months where you and your team have invested time and energy to meet and evaluate, and so much more.  What fits in each column and how do these considerations, ideas, proposals, issues align?  This should prove helpful on the go forward to inform and direct your team’s energy and at the same time ensure that your program gets the attention it deserves to the maximum extent possible.  All to the benefit of your valued customers plus your own peace of mind!

David Slavick is a Digital Global Strategist, Technology Expert in CRM/Loyalty Innovation.