Consumer technology companies focus on building great products as their primary loyalty strategy, relying on an “if you build it, they will come” mentality. But for many companies, this isn’t enough. With a fan base that more resembles the followers of luxury and lifestyle brands, consumer tech companies can learn a great deal from other industries when it comes to loyalty program design. But replicating proven tactics won’t be enough to win over discerning customers. To develop emotive bonds with their fan bases, tech companies will need to innovate on effective membership models and make them work for tech’s unique value proposition. By examining loyalty programs that drive continuous brand engagement, robust ecosystems, and renewal opportunities, tech companies can lean into experiential rewards and trailblaze a new kind of customer engagement.
Drive Continuous Customer Engagement
A main value proposition for company loyalty programs is that they allow brands to drive value and engagement from customers both inside and outside of the purchase cycle. For example, Vans Family, Vans’ loyalty program, provides a member experience that emphasizes value outside of purchasing Vans products. The Vans Family experience relies on personalized member interactions and access to exclusive content to create a value-added membership program that drives engagement for members 365 days a year. The Vans experience puts tangible value in these non-transactional interactions, encouraging and rewarding engagement opportunities for members through providing points for interactions.
For consumer technology companies, driving this value is particularly important, as purchase cycles tend to be longer than in industries like retail. The role of content, both brand and customer-created, and engagement opportunities allow customers to interact with brands even when a purchase is not an option for them. Driving these engagement habits keeps the brand top of mind for customers when it is time to make a purchase, creating more loyal customers and increasing customer value over time. Consumer technology companies should consider the role of non-transactional engagements and content to create a sense of member loyalty to their brands.
Create a Robust Member Ecosystem
Best practice loyalty programs focus beyond the product to create an ecosystem between product, content, partners, and the brand. These brands use a robust ecosystem of brand partners and partnership strategies to provide loyalty program members value in interactions outside of a brand’s four walls. Creating strong member ecosystems allows loyalty programs to provide benefits outside of the traditional transactional benefits that products with longer purchase cycles rely on less frequently.
For example, transportation companies like Alaska Airlines rely on their partnerships to provide Alaska Mileage Members value for their brand loyalty even when they are not flying. From dining to shopping, Alaska’s partners provide members opportunities to engage with and benefit from Alaska’s mileage plan outside of direct interactions with the airlines. Consumer tech should look to build a member ecosystem that supports members outside of their product’s use to continue to support loyalty even when a member is not completing a purchase.
Increase Buy-In With Renewal Opportunities
Consumer technology companies can take brand engagement and value one step further to provide subscription-based products and services to their customers. Subscriptions are a million-dollar industry and allow brands to orient towards their brand experience and lifestyle value while providing consumers the utmost convenience and benefits from their products. Consumer technology companies can turn to subscriptions to maintain customer loyalty and provide value to members outside of inconsistent technology purchases. Maintaining consistent customer touchpoints and opportunities to provide customer benefit from continued patronage of a brand can increase buy-in and long-term brand loyalty.
The most well-known example of loyalty subscriptions is Amazon Prime, Amazon’s subscription service that serves hundreds of millions of members worldwide and provides a value-added experience that many Amazon customers consider vital to their purchase experience. Amazon Prime positions itself to continuously show customers the value and benefits they receive from consistent engagement with Amazon and its products. Consumer technology companies can benefit from the strategies deployed in subscription models, premium membership, and paid tiers to maintain customer engagement and create value for their brand outside of their products, driving long-term loyalty from customers.
Make Implicit Membership Explicit
Some will argue that technology customers who own products from a brand experience an implicit membership to the brand. Companies like Apple support brand loyalty through their ecosystem of products, creating super-users who are loyal to the brand without being members of an explicit loyalty program. Apple products seamlessly connect and integrate with each other, creating value for Apple users that cannot be achieved for those with mixed technology environments.
However, implicit membership is not enough to continue strong customer loyalty in the consumer tech industry; making membership value clear to members through an explicit membership experience will help drive members’ purchases within a product ecosystem, creating more loyal members over time. Consumer technology companies can drive a new form of customer engagement that leans into both implicit and explicit forms of membership, strengthening customers’ relationships with brands.
How these traditional loyalty strategies come to life for different consumer technology brands is up to the company and what they believe is best for their members. As brands continue to fight for consumer loyalty throughout industries, traditional loyalty strategies can support a brand’s ability to create and retain loyal members.
Senior Strategy Consultant