It’s not rocket science, and they’ll reward you for it.
Just when brands thought they’d survived the pandemic and global supply chain shortages, two and half years later, customers and marketers are now plagued by the highest inflation in forty years and escalating energy prices. Will it ever end?
Brands that emerged strongly from the pandemic were quick to invest in initiatives that would not only keep customers shopping in the moment, but also keep them coming back for years to come. Services like buy online, pick up in-store and curbside pickup boomed, while partnerships with delivery services like Shipt, Uber and DoorDash emerged to ensure customers could get merchandise and supplies safely (and quickly).
As brands continue to navigate these challenging economic times, what role should membership play? Brands should leverage their membership programs to deliver added value that supports loyalty members across their lifecycle—to retain them, keep them connected, and engaged. When the economy improves and customers are no longer pinching their pennies, members will have established habits with an affinity for those brands who provided added value and cared for them in challenging times.
The good news is that doing so is not rocket science! Consider the following tactics for leveraging loyalty to keep your members engaged during a recession:
- Build a test and learn strategy. This is a core component of any loyalty program, but because many marketers are intimidated by perceived intricacies, it is rarely implemented. Test and learn strategies don’t need to be complex, start small, such as testing email subject lines to determine what garners higher open rates or testing offers with different member segments to determine where you can make the biggest impact. As results come back, you’ll not only gather more data on your members, but you’ll begin to identify which offers are successful enough to possibly become published benefits.
Building a test and learn strategy now will help you continuously deliver value to your loyalty members over the long term. Test and learn tactics also enable you to keep pace with customers’ changing preferences—no matter the state of the economy. The key factor to remember is that test and learn should be an always-on part of your program that must be monitored and adjusted over time—it’s not just a “set it and forget it” approach.
- Build a content library to kickstart personalization. Laborious? Yes. Customer-centric? Absolutely. Best-in-class loyalty programs engender both transactional and emotional loyalty. Programs cannot rely on discounting alone to keep customers loyal and engaged customers can be lured away by a deeper discount. Personalization is the bedrock of deep, long-lasting customer loyalty and creates a one-to-one emotional connection with members that will weather any storm, including financial ones. Personalized and curated content is an excellent way to deliver added value that drives a deep, lasting customer connection.
When planning your content, consider a variety of formats—short form, long form, third party, videos—to keep your members informed and entertained. It can be informative and fun. While members may not purchase as frequently during tough economic times, you can still deliver value which will strengthen the emotional connection they have to your brand and will boost the likelihood they keep shopping with you when the economy recovers. Remember: not all value should be delivered in the form of a discount. Aim to deliver a spectrum that highlights diverse types of value: monetary, educational, fun, philanthropic, and more. Keeping your content varied will keep your loyalty members engaged and curious about what’s coming next.
Content can be equally valuable when it is proactive, timely, and relevant. Use your test and learn strategy to determine which types of content your members prefer to optimize their member experience.
- Leverage your partners. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t have to go it alone. Use this time to work with your strategic partners and get creative about added value you can deliver to your customers. How can you create an offering that benefits both your members and their clientele? What have your loyalty members been asking for that you and your partners could deliver that would make this tough time a little bit easier for them? Collaborating with partners differentiates you from the competition by creating distinctive value bundles while lightening the load.
If your program doesn’t have strategic partners, now is the time! Consider partners whose brand values echo your own, and who offer complementary products or services that augment your offering and enhance the customer experience.
- Shore-up your tech stack. Delivering a meaningful and memorable member experience relies on the technology functionality and the right systems integrations. Organizations often run technology solutions with overlapping capabilities, causing systems to slow and redundancies to occur. Technology should be an enabler of rich, real-time communications and experiences, not a hindrance to productivity and relevancy. Recognizing any adjustment to technology can be a large financial investment, consider it an investment in your loyalty members as well (and of course be sure to run the business model). Some key questions to consider:
- How much time does your team spend on manual processes that could be accomplished through automation?
- Are you able to collect all the member data you want and need?
- Are you able to interpret and act on your collected member data?
- Are you able to segment your members and deliver personalized communications and offers?
- Are you able to report on the performance of campaigns and initiatives with a high degree of confidence?
All the tactics presented above require a solid, well-integrated technology foundation. After assessing your stack, map out the requirements on your roadmap and get going.
Ultimately, tough economic times, pandemics, and periods of customer uncertainty don’t last forever. By leveraging these strategies today, you will set your program up for long-term success—to drive meaningful connections with members that deliver value and keep your brand top of mind.