There is a specific feeling that comes with launching a new loyalty program.
You know what I’m talking about, it’s a combination of anxiety, nerves, and excitement. Once the metaphorical big red button is hit, it culminates in a burst of excitement, quickly followed by checking the metrics every two minutes or so.
Once the initial launch is over and everything was successful, you can sit back and relax, right?
Well, maybe not.
The reality is you’re never done building your loyalty program.
Technology companies have moved away from “waterfall” development to agile development. To put this is simply as possible, this means, they’re not putting out one large update every year. Instead they are releasing new versions of their software regularly throughout the year.
This applies to how we should think of loyalty programs as well.
Loyalty Programs Shouldn’t Be One & Done
The goal of every business is to create and retain customers. Peter Drucker boils this down to two things: Marketing and innovation. We’ve already written a few blog posts about how optimization is a way of life on the marketing side, but his applies just as much on the innovation side.
After launching a loyalty program, the worst thing that a brand can do is sit back and relax. Once a brand launches a loyalty program is the exact time for company officials to take action as far as managing, monitoring, listening to feedback, and leveraging any and all insights gained from customer interactions.
Industry news will always cover a loyalty program that receives a comprehensive refresh, but is that really the best way?
Loyalty programs need to change over time to help them remain fresh and relevant.
Benefits and Experiences Should Evolve Over Time
As customer choice has continues to grow, building emotional connections to your brand has become more important than ever. Yet loyalty programs still overwhelmingly feel the same.
Adding the right benefit mix can lead to differentiation, but it doesn’t need to be done all at once. A better way to innovate on your loyalty program is to add to it over time. This lets you test new benefits, see how they are received, and keeps the program fresh.
In many cases, new beneftis that can be tested before they’re rolled out nationally. This is especially important for experiential benefits, since they can be harder to gauge adoption rates.
This approach tells your customers you care about them because you’re consistently showing them additional value. More importantly, this is an opportunity to reinforce what is important about your brand.
Amazon’s Prime program is the best example of this. When it launched, many people didn’t consider it a loyalty program. Now Prime is an integral part of Amazon’s brand promise and it consistently adds benefits
How To Measure Your Success
One of the hurdles of adding to your loyalty program over time is the fact that you need to make sure you’re measuring the results.
If you’re not measuring the impact, it’s not optimization. You need to know if the changes are improving the experience your customers are having in the program.
If you are piloting new benefits, segmentation is important. Understanding how customers in the pilot program feel versus customers in the standard program will lead to a better understanding of what emotions the new benefit is creating.
When you’re adding to a program, understanding the NPS and surveys can be a more telling measurement than traditional loyalty measurements. These sentiment scores will let you know how valuable your customers find your program. If they find it valuable and engage in it, the long term results will follow.
Never Stop Adding To The Program
Unlike Alec Baldwin’s famous “Always be closing” line in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross, here you should concern yourselves with the phrase: Always be adding.
Having a testing mindset is critical for brands to stay on top of their respective loyalty programs. This approach applies just as much to the innovation as it does to the marketing.
You may need to orchestrate a radical refresh to get your program up to modern standards, but don’t let that stop the future. The pace of change in retail is far too rapid to let your loyalty program stand still.
Add to your loyalty program gradually, don’t substitute for testing and ongoing analytical measurement, and always listen to your customers.
And Now For the Shameless Plug…
When you partner with us, we want you to add new benefits.
Our pricing model is unique in that there are no up-sells and no additional costs when adding to your program. We are partners in the success of your program. Learn more about the premium loyalty pricing model here.