THE CLARUS Blog

Finding the Right Loyalty Management Partner: Categories, Qualities, and Questions

You’re trying to find the right loyalty management partner to launch, relaunch, or revamp your loyalty program, but where do you begin?

With so many types of loyalty programs out there and ever-changing technology, choosing the right partner can be daunting.

A loyalty program is a huge undertaking, so getting it right the first time is critical.

How do you find the right fit?

It all comes down to categories, qualities, and questions.

 

Categories of Loyalty Management Partners

The type of loyalty management partner you work with depends on a few key factors.

How much of the program do you want to manage internally?

Do you have a lot of time resources to devote?

How far do you want to go?

Three main types of loyalty management partners can fit your needs depending on how you answer.

 

1. Loyalty Agencies

Loyalty agencies offer a range of services designed to help brands with all their loyalty needs.

These services include consulting, market research, building and managing loyalty programs, measuring performance, customer relationship marketing, and offering operational support.

And while they can help you choose a loyalty platform, most don’t have their own. They prefer to work with existing platforms.

What they can do, however, is offer support by helping you set KPI (Key Performance Indicator) benchmarks and leverage data and customer insights moving forward.

They evaluate and monitor your program on an ongoing basis, making adjustments when necessary.

If you’re looking to dip your toes in the water and need help with strategy, it may be good to consult with a loyalty agency.

But if you’re looking for a custom loyalty program with a full suite of value-added services with a team to manage and optimize it, this might not be a great fit for you.

 

2. Loyalty Technology Platform Vendors

These vendors build and sell (usually as a SaaS solution) loyalty technology platforms.

Vendors selling loyalty technology platforms offer services such as implementation, integration, analytics, and support.

Some may also offer design services, but most outsource this to other agencies and third-party vendors.

Loyalty platform vendors typically charge not only an annual or monthly licensing fee, but they also charge for consulting and setup.

Those costs can skyrocket into the six figures. The licensing fees can be even more.

Not all platforms are created equal, so make sure you know what you’re looking for before you seek vendor information.

If you have the resources and experience to handle strategy, technology, creative, marketing, analytics, and optimization (plus the budget to handle the costs), a technology platform vendor might be worth reaching out to.

 

3. Hybrid Loyalty Solutions

As far as the loyalty management industry goes, these vendors do it all.

These vendors offer the most comprehensive picture of your loyalty program because they are involved in every step of the way.

Hybrid loyalty providers combine consulting, technology, and services capabilities that include everything from strategy to program management, to loyalty measurement and analytics.

They are involved with your loyalty program and accompanying strategies from Day 1 and monitor and manage your program daily after it launches.

They provide end-to-end service that focuses on managing your program so you don’t have to.

Most of these vendors charge similarly to platform vendors. There’s often a substantial recurring fee for management and updates after launch.

Clarus has a unique pricing model in that we don’t charge any upfront fees or for any additional upgrades or services.

We build premium loyalty programs that members pay for.

That allows us to offer a revenue share model that simply takes a portion of the membership fees that your customers pay.

Here’s how we think about the loyalty revenue model.

 

Qualities of a Great Loyalty Management Partner

 Once you’ve identified some potential companies to work with, it’s important to go deeper and figure out if they are a good fit.

When talking to these vendors, keep the following qualities in mind.

 

1. Do they have a holistic approach?

Since a loyalty partner is an extension of your brand, reflecting the company’s best qualities to consumers, taking a holistic approach is critical for success.

From marketing to design to IT to customer service, a loyalty program touches so many points within your business. And it all needs to work together seamlessly to give your customers the best experience possible.

After all, a great loyalty partner has just as much at stake in the program as your company does.

Your loyalty management partner should offer a full range of expertise that includes program design, implementation planning, product development, creative services, and ongoing program performance evaluation.

This comprehensive turnkey solution will enable your loyalty partner to build, manage, and optimize your customized loyalty program. Your loyalty partner should be by your side every step of the way, always offering ways to optimize and improve your program.

Speed to market is another crucial aspect to consider in a loyalty partner.

When a loyalty program is handled entirely by one team, your customers are given a comprehensive on-brand experience with no gaps.

Your ideal loyalty partner will have experience building programs in your industry and will take the time to discover everything about your business, including what benefits your customers will see the most value in.

 

2. Are they data-driven?

Nearly 70% of consumers agree that their loyalty is more difficult for a retailer to maintain than ever before.

Today’s customers have little patience and expect brands to know them and communicate with them in a relevant, engaging fashion.

In the Age of the Customer, brands realize that consumers have an abundance of choices. Brands need to do as much as they can to truly understand their customers’ expectations and desires.

Consumers are willing to disclose personal data in exchange for personalized communications and value-laden offers.

Your loyalty partner should leverage customer data to make the best possible business decisions and optimize your loyalty program whenever necessary.

 

3. Are they forward-thinking?

If your loyalty partner is adept at managing current issues with your program based on their past knowledge and experience, that’s great.

But it’s not enough.

What’s worked in the past can be a helpful guide for the future. But you also want a loyalty management partner that keeps abreast of cutting-edge technology, research, and other learnings that will prepare your program for anything in the future.

This forward-thinking mentality is a key quality in your loyalty management partner. You want your partner to come to you with thoughts and ideas about how to improve your loyalty program or industry issues that could impact your brand down the road.

Things such as instant gratification, balancing transactional and experiential benefits, and premium loyalty programs are great examples of forward-thinking assets that can enhance your brand.

Competition is fierce in the loyalty industry. You want a loyalty management partner focused on the future so it can help your brand win in the long run.

 

Questions You Should Ask Before Choosing a Loyalty Management Partner

Choosing the right partner comes down to some big questions.

To start, what kind of loyalty program do you want to offer your customers?

Will it be a free, points-based program? Or a premium loyalty program that members pay for? Or a combined program with a free and a premium tier?

What are your customers’ biggest pain points? How can this new program address those engagingly?

How much of it do you want to manage yourself?

Can your loyalty management partner build everything for you turnkey? And can they manage it from launch and beyond?

 

Choosing the Right Partner is Easier Than You Think… If You Have the Right Mindset

Your loyalty management partner needs to understand and help assist you in setting your loyalty goals.

Alignment is vital every step of the way.

Setting goals for your loyalty program is important to your brand’s key decision-makers are on the same page. Having a loyalty partner fully aligned with those goals is the second piece of that puzzle.

Once you and your loyalty management partner understand your specific goals, it’s important to discuss them. What’s required from both sides to reach them?

It’s important for brands to listen to their customers. It’s also important for your loyalty partner to listen to the needs of your brand.

Find a loyalty partner that takes a holistic, data-driven approach, is forward-thinking, understands your goals and works toward achieving them, and is trusted and reliable.

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