Fostering loyalty amongst customers is an initiative at the forefront of contemporary marketing strategies. Yet, many businesses and organizations still struggle to accomplish this and even more face challenges in formulating and implementing programs that award customers for their loyalty. Despite American consumers holding nearly 4 billion collective memberships in loyalty programs, the majority of these — roughly 54% — are inactive memberships.
According to one report from McKinsey, “more than 75% of consumers have changed their buying habits…39% have either changed brands or retailers, and 79%…intend to continue exploring their options” since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020. As customers’ behavior and expectations of brands continue to change, it leads us to wonder how we can implement loyalty programs that fuel engagement in order to create deeper feelings of genuine loyalty.
“Most brands today generally end up using loyalty programs as an ancillary feature of their broader customer engagement strategy, where others utilize it as a singular entity,” says Aditya Bhamidipaty, CEO of FirstHive. As an award-winning customer data platform (CDP) enabling brands to enact personalized campaigns and propel conversion rates through controlling their customers’ data, FirstHive has helped hundreds of brands strengthen their loyalty programs and create deeper feelings of engagement and trust between them and their customers.
Recently, we talked with Bhamidipaty about how FirstHive’s CDP programs can help other brands and companies build and maintain loyalty programs that offer true value to their customers. Here’s what he had to say.
Customer loyalty begins with customer engagement
“Whatever the brand or business in question might be,” Bhamidipaty says, “the goal of their loyalty program — to engage existing customers, entice them into making repeated purchases, and increase their affinity towards that brand — should remain unchanged.” As he explains, this should likewise serve as the larger goal of the brand’s general marketing efforts.
Evolutions in technology have allowed brands to possess hoards of valuable information and data on their customers. This data can be effectively leveraged to provide insights into customer behavior, wants, needs, and pain points, assisting them to foster heightened engagement from their customers by fostering lasting relationships with them.
“For most customers,” Bhamidipaty continues, “it is less about the discounts, points, or free rewards a brand’s loyalty program offers them. Rather, it’s more about how a brand’s technology or processes interacts with them. To generate loyalty from customers, brands must first demonstrate their loyalty to their customers. This is best accomplished by creating more meaningful means of engagement with them.”
According to Bhamidipaty, brand engagement with customers is far more than simply communicating with them through social media posts or customer support channels, or bombarding them with notifications from its website. True engagement comes from a brand’s ability to understand its customers on a deeper, more individualized level.
To accomplish this, brands should routinely gather and analyze their customers’ data and information which can be done by building and maintaining an all-encompassing CDP. Through platforms such as FirstHive’s own CDP, brands are better able to pinpoint the wants and needs of their customers throughout their journey, enabling them to deliver personalized means of engagement at each step of that journey from pre-purchase to post-purchase. The end result is a customer who is not only engaged with the brand, but emotionally invested in it.
How CDPs foster customer engagement and loyalty
“Once a customer is emotionally invested in a brand,” Bhamidipaty tells us, “they will feel a stronger sense of loyalty towards it. That sense of loyalty is crucial for any brand seeking to embolden its customer engagement rate and heighten the effectiveness of its loyalty programs.”
Indeed, as Bhamidipaty mentions, this is what makes the implementation and role of CDPs so crucial, as they allow brands to generate unique and persistent customer identities. Those identities can then be used to track each customer’s behavior patterns and preferences across an array of channels. Furthermore, because CDPs such as the one developed by FirstHive leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in their functionality, these technologies allow brands to continually analyze their customer identities continually over time, gathering additional insights from its analytic capabilities that can then be used in generating predictive recommendations for marketers.
“Establishing this process with a CDP helps brands and their marketing teams make intuitive decisions collectively in real-time,” Bhamidipaty adds. “A well-built CDP that is regularly maintained can integrate customer data and engagement processes from across all of a brand’s internal systems. It establishes a common language for an organization to use when communicating with each customer and customer identity, creating an experience for each that is as seamless and personalized as it is consistent, which is vital to the success of the brand’s customer engagement initiatives and loyalty programs.”
In mentioning how a CDP operates and how it can help brands master their customer loyalty programs, Bhaditipaty describes it as a kind of antennae, capturing customers’ data whenever it is transmitted, and wherever from. Brands and clients that have adopted FirstHive’s CDP, according to Bhaditipaty, have experienced an average six-fold jump in the ROI of their marketing efforts, with some seeing the number of active participants in their loyalty programs grow by 950% year-over-year.
“There are plenty of other benefits a CDP can provide to brands seeking ways to improve their customer loyalty programs,” Bhaditipaty says, “but it all begins with understanding the customer through data, and leveraging that data to engage with them and foster stronger feelings of loyalty in the brand itself.”