BrainTrust Query: A Look Back at Loyalty Marketing in 2011
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Hanifin Loyalty blog.
Top of mind for loyalty marketers at the start of 2011 was the need to add value for members while keeping costs under control, and to better manage the financial liability associated with unredeemed points and miles.
But cracking the code of Social Loyalty to engage, entertain and retain the business of Consumer 2.0 became one of the most intimidating challenges faced by the industry over the past 10 years.
So how did the industry fare in 2011?
On the liability management front, the year started out with more rumors floating about than during an American Idol contest. Solutions designed to unify consumer loyalty wallets and create uber currencies, some of which could be redeemed in real time point-of-sale transactions, as well as those promising unprecedented levels of consumer targeting via internet banking and credit card transactions, were receiving lots of attention.
Two highly viable solutions offered not only liability burn solutions, but a means to add a new wrinkle to the loyalty value proposition. KULA Causes, which launched in fall 2011, introduced a new concept of Cause Related Loyalty marketing. The "currency of giving" enables loyalty program members to convert miles and points into donations to any of over two million charities around the world. LoyaltyShares is equally innovative, allowing loyalty program members to convert miles or points into shares of stock in the sponsoring brand.
PointTunes.com and The First Club each introduced solutions that change the way digital content can be obtained by consumers through a rewards program. Improved customer experience and lower costs for program operators are key advantages.
Social Shopping became a reality as Zavee and Thanks Again expanded their respective footprints and delighted consumers in their chosen market segments.
"Gamification" took a big step forward during 2011 as both Badgeville and Bunchball proved that "gamification is not a fad." Watch for much more in this space as game theory moves from a solution designed to stimulate consumer engagement to one that can change consumer behavior across a full value chain.
As consumer research consistently supported the desire for immediacy and transparency of rewards along with improved customer experience and proximity to the loyalty "experience," some important brands proved they were listening.
Early in the year, American Express played the social card as it touted Membership Rewards as a "social currency" and tested location based promotions with Foursquare. More recently, Groupe Aeroplan rebranded as Aimia, signaling a new era of competition among industry leaders.
In a year when many industries slogged along in a mediocre economy, Loyalty Marketers could barely keep up with all the change.
Discussion Questions: Which loyalty mechanisms that debuted in 2011 show the most potential to engage consumers? Which vehicles seem particularly adept at handling the dual challenges of serving the brands that sponsor loyalty programs while engaging program members?