Executive insights to ensure you connect with customers featuring Cindy Faust, Chief Commercial Officer, Aimia
On April 8, The Wise Marketer published an article which took a first look at how customer loyalty strategies would need to adapt to connect with customers as their lives returned to a “new normal”. Around the same time, we also interviewed an expert panel to gain insights representing multiple regions of the world, Australia, Spain, and the United States.
As if we needed more reinforcement for how starved for accurate information, we all are during the pandemic, we expressed a hopeful thought that April 8 might represent the “mid-point” in the crisis. Now, in early June, the endurance event known as COVID-19 is 3x the duration that we had experienced in early April, with much of the tale to be told.
We’ve had time to adapt to the crisis and now many states are navigating the first week of re-opening business. The timing seemed right to ask Cindy Faust, Chief Commercial Officer, Aimia for an update on her thinking about what brands can do to adapt their loyalty strategies and program structures in the coming months.
To be fair, none of us know much more about the long-term impact of the virus now than we did at the commencement of the crisis. As we noted in the earlier article, once the spread of the virus subsides and daily routines become more familiar, two extremes in human behaviors are possible:
- People will exhibit “short memories” regarding social habits and return vigorously to life as they knew it before the crisis.
- People will exhibit a collective step-change in behaviors as we become a nation of germophobes, make social distancing a norm, and place more emphasis on social causes.
It’s still too early to know what will happen, but one thing we can assure every marketer is that the way your brand engages its customers in the early stages of reopening will leave a lasting impression. Customers are highly sensitized to their circumstances as result of the pandemic. Feelings of helplessness, sorrow, and vulnerability are common. We believe there is heightened expectation that brands will exert every effort to improve customer experiences and show appreciation for customers at every point of engagement.
Cindy’s first thought endorsed this theory saying, “Loyalty is more important now than ever — this is clear to us as we’re seeing how brands are handling the COVID-19 crisis. As loyalty members are often a business’ highest value customers, and the customers you most want to retain, brands are re-examining what they can be doing to reposition the role and value of their loyalty program to give their customers that extra love and support to show they’re recognized.”
Cindy recommended four key areas in which any brand can adopt a more friendly and collaborative approach to customer loyalty to connect with customers:
Show Flexibility in Program Rules
- One way to show value is through flexible redemption options. Customers right now are limited in where, when, and how they can redeem. Brands should be thinking about how they can keep members engaged via redemption, possibly by expanding partner redemption options or offering “stay at home” rewards that can be used right now, such as online movie rentals, online subscriptions for products, and waiving delivery fees. Not only does this provide some delight and a morale boost for members, but brands can win too, by burning up some points liability.
- Take a look at expiry dates and tiering requirements. Making customer-focused changes can keep members feeling recognized and valued. Demonstrate your ability to be flexible in challenging times.
- Customers are looking to make connections while being physically distant. Is your program set up to share points or send rewards to friends and family?
Talk with your Customers
- Brands can demonstrate transparency by surveying members for exactly what they need and want. Why not discover the rewards that motivate your customers the most, how their online experience has been since shifting to digital shopping, and what they might want to purchase or where they want to travel to in the future?
- Most customers are engaged in digital channels and perhaps have a little more time on their hands. We suspect that people are more responsive than usual to surveys or other data collection resources.
Have a Heart (and show it)
- For our clients who have charitable earn and gifting options within their program, we’ve seen a high level of engagement and support from members. Right now, social giving has been amplified and even shifted to support the greater cause in the fight against COVID-19. This has the potential to grow community within the brand.
- For example, Verizon Up has a reward redemption option for a $5 Visa Reward to Pay it Forward to spend with local small businesses.
- London Drugs cleared shelf space for locally made items to give small businesses a boost.
Treat your Associates like a Customer
- We’re seeing heartfelt responses from customers to how brands treat their employees during this time. For those companies giving bonuses, extra pay or other benefits, customers are pledging additional loyalty. The goodwill these brands are instilling will carry them through the next several months.