Choosing the right loyalty management software can be daunting.
With so many choices, which system is the best? Will there be unexpected or hidden costs? Can it really solve my problem? And can it do what my customers expect?
After all, your loyalty program is a huge part of your overall brand and customer experience.
There is a staggering number of features out there to consider when assessing your loyalty management software needs.
But the decision comes down to how you answer these questions.
1. What Do I Like and Dislike About My Current Loyalty Management Software?
If you currently have a loyalty program and you’re looking to re-platform, it’s important to start here.
(And even if you don’t have a problem today, you should still consider what your ideal program would look like.)
What’s working and what isn’t with your current platform today?
Maybe your current platform does a good job with reporting, but it’s very difficult to customize or add to it over time.
Perhaps you are thinking of adding a premium loyalty program that your best customers will pay to join, but your platform doesn’t support billing.
Or maybe your annual licensing fee just feels a bit astronomical.
It’s important to make a list of likes and dislikes to help you narrow down your potential software vendors as you go.
Then, start asking yourself more questions as you evaluate platforms.
2. Can It Support the Types of Rewards My Customers Value Most?
At the core of most loyalty programs is some type of currency that eventually earns rewards.
Points-based loyalty programs are the most common. But a one-size-fits-all loyalty program doesn’t work today.
We live in an instant world. Many consumers don’t want to wait to collect points to redeem after several transactions.
These customers are often willing to pay for a membership to a premium loyalty program or a premium tier of a program.
But these customers expect elevated benefits like instant discounts, free shipping, and exclusive experiences.
According to our 2019 premium loyalty data study, 67% of customers say instant discounts that can be used whenever they shop would motivate them to invest in a premium loyalty program.
So, think about whether you intend on offering a traditional free points program, a standalone premium loyalty program, or a tiered program.
And think about the currency your software will need to support.
If you’re thinking about a traditional program, it will need the ability to manage points.
But if you’re thinking about launching a premium loyalty program, the currency will look a little different. Think instant benefits, cash back and even gift cards back to your brand.
The most important thing is to make sure your potential loyalty management software can handle whatever types of rewards your customers prefer.
3. Can I Use it to Send Personalized Marketing and Promotions?
Personalized communications and offers that are more relevant to members will drive higher response rates and program engagement.
Basic personalization elements might include name, tier status, recognition of member performance in the program, and the value to you.
Targeted promotional offers based on profile, segment, program performance, and tier are also possible.
On the more advanced side, some loyalty management software allows for dynamic content.
This is web content that can change based on individual members’ behavior, preferences, and interest.
If you want to engage your best customers, you can use this technology to dynamically change not only the website experience but also the email content that you send out.
It’s all based on the data you collect on your members.
If your loyalty management software has a CDP and a good analytics platform, you can use that data and segmentation to drive personalization.
4. Can I Use it to Analyze That Data for Optimization?
Does your loyalty management software offer the ability to provide predictive and prescriptive analytical services?
A loyalty program can be one of the best data collection tools available.
What could be better than first-party data on your best customers?
There are certain KPIs your software should track to deliver deeper insights and strategies that can be used to optimize your program.
For example, member acquisition, increase in spending, reward redemption rate, and churn are all important pieces of data to measure the health of your program.
Product usage is also critical. It will give you insights into what benefits your members love and which ones don’t get much use. This is the foundation of personalization.
Once you start collecting this data, your analytics team, or an external partner team, can help generate actionable customer insights through data.
Remember, data collected from your loyalty program is first-party data that is coming from your best customers. It’s like gold for your marketing efforts.
5. How Easy is it to Add to My Loyalty Management Software Over Time?
Hopefully, the software you choose can collect a lot of great data.
But once you have it, how easy is it to update your program based on your findings?
Loyalty programs should never be “set it and forget it” because consumer tastes, habits, and expectations are ever-changing.
You can use the data you have collected to truly listen to what your customers are saying and understand their needs.
But what good is that if your platform makes it hard to update and enhance your loyalty program over time?
If enough customers aren’t signing up for your program, is the value proposition compelling enough?
Maybe certain benefits aren’t being used. Would it make sense to cut them?
When members aren’t as active as you’d like them to be, are you communicating with them enough through your platform? Do you need to tweak the benefits?
Is it easy to make these tweaks on the go, or is changing the program to better suit your customers difficult or require customization?
Remember, once your program launches, that’s only the beginning.
Make sure whatever platform you go with is designed with optimization in mind.
6. What is My Budget?
One of the biggest considerations when it comes to loyalty management software is the cost.
And it can be very high, depending on what direction you go in.
Many software vendors charge not only for platform setup, but also for the initial consulting. And this can run into the six figures.
In addition, they usually charge an annual or monthly license fee just to use the software. This can often cost more than the implementation itself.
So, this becomes not only a question of your initial budget, but also how they charge.
Ask them if they charge for further customization and optimization as well. Many of them do.
Is the vendor going to charge you any time you need a change order? Will they bill you for services beyond just the platform like creative work?
It’s important to understand not only the costs of the software itself, but of any additional costs that might be overlooked initially.
At Clarus, we have a unique pricing model where we do not charge any upfront fees or add-on costs for consultation, build, deployment, optimization or services.
7. How Customized and On-Brand Do I Need it to Be?
Your loyalty platform needs to look and feel like your brand on the outside. This ensures your customers have a consistent experience across all touchpoints.
Is the software you’re looking at able to be customized to your brand identity standards?
Even more than just logos, colors, and fonts, will communications that come from your loyalty platform match the tone, look, and feel of your website?
When a customer logs into their loyalty account, can they even tell that they may be in a separate system?
While a loyalty platform may be a separate system on your end, to your customers, it’s all part of one big brand experience.
Related content: How to think about loyalty program branding.
At Clarus, no two programs we build for retailers look exactly the same.
We make it easy for each brand to add its personality to the program, mechanics, rewards, and more while continuing to be supported by our loyalty platform.
8. What Are My Technical Resources?
Or, perhaps another question is, “How hard do I want my technical integration to be?”
You want your loyalty management software to integrate with your POS system, website, and other touchpoints as easily as possible.
Make sure potential vendors have standardized APIs and an API developer portal.
APIs (or Application Program Interfaces) are important for all aspects of business technology including loyalty programs.
They are what allow different programs to communicate.
This allows your internal systems to connect with those of your loyalty platform. It eliminates the need for a lot of custom technical integration to get systems communicating seamlessly.
APIs from your loyalty management software should include Member Enrollment, Membership Status, Membership Update, Member Purchase File, and for a premium loyalty program where customers are paying to be in it, Membership Billing.
In addition to the APIs, an API Developer Portal is recommended.
This is detailed integration documentation that would give clients and prospects a clear understanding of integration preferences.
The portal will give your IT team an idea of how easy or difficult technical integration can be and communicates a standard baseline process.
It serves as a developer resource center that provides your team clear instructions on how to hook into the loyalty platform, how to format data, and more.
At Clarus, we take care of all the IT heavy lifting and can integrate with virtually any infrastructure to complement your existing CRM, eCommerce, POS, and payment gateways.
So, ask potential loyalty vendors how much development time their platforms typically require.
What would it take from your team to get their program fully integrated and up and running?
Ready to Start Searching for Loyalty Management Software?
Once you’ve honestly answered all the questions above, it’s time to start the search.
It’s important to get buy-in from your team at this point to ensure everyone is on the same page.
The last thing you’d want is to make a shortlist of potential vendors only to find out there is misalignment on goals, budget, resources or expectations.
The most important thing to remember is that most vendors are going to tell you their loyalty management software is the best.
Make sure you know exactly what will work best for you and your customers before making a commitment.
And if you’re looking for more advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We love talking loyalty and would be happy to give some guidance.