Shifting Loyalties: The Move To Mobile

Customer loyalty programs continue to be important for consumers and businesses. But successful programs must give people what they want: omnichannel interaction and a commitment to mobile.

By Dan Slavin, CEO, CodeBroker

Renowned American playwright David Mamet once wrote, “What I value most in my friends is loyalty.” Loyalty is indeed a precious commodity, and it is in business that it has particularly high currency.

Consumers have so many choices when it comes to signing up and engaging with a loyalty program. We’re not just talking about the various chain stores, airlines or restaurants sponsoring these programs, but also the varied ways these businesses make consumers jump through hoops to sign on.

The ideal loyalty program should give consumers program access that works best for them, whether that’s via social media, desktop, mobile app, text, email or at the point of sale. Consumers want digital, but in a way that conforms to best practices.

According to a 2016 EKN Research mobile loyalty industry report, which discusses the transformation from physical to digital loyalty, there is huge demand in rates of mobile-based customer loyalty programs, and its power is immense. Statistics show that digital is influencing sales today by as much as 50 percent. As with so many trends digital, millennials lead the way: 70 percent of this generation shops online at least once a month, and 33 percent of them shop on their phones.

Not surprisingly, there are still glitches and obstacles to engagement. For example, not all loyalty cards or programs are as easy to use as you’d expect.

A recent CodeBroker Mobile Loyalty Study included responses from 1,207 U.S. consumers across all age groups and income levels. As many as 70 percent said they would use a mobile version of their loyalty cards if they didn’t have to sign into a website or download an app. And 71 percent said they would be more likely to use their loyalty cards if they could access cards and rewards from their mobile phones.

It’s notable that a fast food chain in California reported that just 18 percent of their loyalty cards had been activated in the prior six months, while 44 percent of cards had remained entirely unused during their entire issuance. These are worrying trends for any marketing department.

That is why EKN reported that the next stage of the evolution in retail loyalty will be the much-needed powerful symbiosis of both the physical and the digital loyalty worlds, or omnichannel loyalty – captivating buyers via the desktop, social, mobile app, text, email or at point of sale.

In fact, EKN reported that retailers rank omnichannel-related loyalty as their No. 1 tool for improving loyalty and engagement. A full 60 percent of retailers believe it is essential to make loyalty programs work across all channels.

Research shows that customers want to be part of loyalty programs that can track and manage points/credits and incentive offers right from their mobile phones.

The EKN study also notes that a whopping 94% of retailers acknowledge that their in-store digital capabilities are as important for customer experience as they are for store operations. Naturally, optimizing these will require logistical and technological transformations by retailers. Easy omnichannel accessibility to the loyalty program is a key factor, as are the leveraging of engagement data and being able to identify opportunities that utilize existing POS, CRM and loyalty systems.

Customer loyalty programs will continue to have their place in businesses of all stripes. However, successful programs must give consumers what they want: an omnichannel choice for sign-ups and a full commitment to mobile. Customers are more demanding and more spoiled for choice, and their choice is clear: convenient, integrated mobile access to loyalty programs.