Loyalty online creates instant connections

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Marketers are finding new ways to improve their customer loyalty programs by incorporating online channels from mobile to search in order to reach consumers where they're spending more and more time.

Brady Brewer
VP of US marketing, Starbucks Coffee Company
At Starbucks, we focus on creating authentic connections both in and outside of our stores.

For example, our loyalty program, My Starbucks Rewards, provides customized rewards that increase with frequency of visits. Although we're still on the early frontier of mobile, we see great potential in integrating our loyalty program with the emerging mobile landscape to strengthen customer engagement.

What's exciting about mobile is that this channel provides the potential for us to connect with customers in real-time, recognize their presence at one of our physical stores and immediately reward them. In noticing that many of our customers are early adopters of new technology, social media and mobile applications, we recently introduced two iPhone and iPod touch apps, myStarbucks and Starbucks Card Mobile. The latter not only provides the convenience of quick, phone-based payment but also the ability for members to track their rewards and manage their My Starbucks Rewards account.

With the early success of these mobile apps, we continue to explore how to further engage our best customers through mobile platforms. The launch of the however-you-want- it Frappuccino in early May provided a new opportunity.

We created loyalty-based offers especially for Starbucks Frappuccino beverage fans and users of Foursquare and Brightkite. On Foursquare, we developed special recognition for mayors of Starbucks tied to the debut of the new Frappuccino. From May 17 to June 28, the Foursquare mayor for each store will receive an offer for $1 off any size or flavor Frappuccino each day he or she is the mayor. Through Brightkite our timing synched to the greater Frappuccino Happy Hour promotion which ran May 7 to 16, providing users the opportunity to earn a special Starbucks badge when they checked into a Starbucks.

Customers appreciate connections with brands they love, and mobile provides a new opportunity to do so. Mobile can take your loyalty program in more meaningful directions, and the time to explore what actually resonates with customers has never been better.

The Takeaway
Reward your customers in real-time by using engaging mobile promotions


Paula Selvidge

VP of customer experience, PerfectForms

Visitors to your website can form impressions in as little as 50 milliseconds. Through the ‘halo effect,' those initial judgments impact perceptions of usability, credibility and ultimately influence purchasing decisions. Websites are today's storefronts, and if yours gives off a good first impression it can turn passersby into loyal, lifelong customers. Following a few tips can help you achieve success.

First, address usability: You must understand your customer and design your site to meet their needs. Consider the site's age demographic when selecting a font size or typeface. If your average customer is 75 years old, filling your homepage with hundreds of links and using an 8-point font is counterintuitive. Research suggests using between a 10- and a 14- point font for optimal readability.

Efficiency is critical to creating a usable interface for your customers. Users want to take as little time and effort as possible to achieve their intended goal — whether it is setting up an appointment or buying a product. A great example of efficiency done right is Amazon's “one-click” purchasing process. Using stored personal and payment information, the online retailer makes it easy for customers to purchase a product as soon as it catches their eye, encouraging brand trust and loyalty along with impulse buys.

Additionally, creating an emotional connection with your customers can further your website's success. The use of color can be very effective in setting a tone or conveying meaning to a consumer, i.e., using red to elicit urgency and action. Another element is the “voice” of site content. Is your tone jovial or serious? The homepage of a children's toy company should not be stern and formal, but it might be appropriate for a law firm's site. Consider your homepage graphics with the same discerning eye.

Image is everything on the Web, so be sure your website accurately reflects your brand. A site coded in HTML 2.0 with random links and clashing colors does not encourage loyalty.

A site with smooth lines and subtle color gradation puts your mind at ease, inviting you to relax, enjoy and come back as often as you want — to buy things.

The Takeaway
Design your website for a friendly user experience to encourage loyal buyers


Bonin Bough

Director, social media, PepsiCo

If there's one thing a brand marketer craves, it is connectivity to its consumers.

For generations (if you'll excuse the expression), Pepsi-Cola has been known for making connections with youth through pop culture and brand initiatives.

But those connections were largely one-way. Today, we are connecting like never before because we have the means to engage consumers in true dialogue about the roles our brands play in their lives.

That's the beauty of social media. Inference and interpretation have given way to interaction. It's not feedback we receive from our consumers. It's a truly connective form of give and take — it's constant, it's edifying and it keeps us on our toes. Social media has given us the ladder to always reach higher in this regard.

People still occasionally ask us, after Pepsi established itself as one of the premier annual advertisers on the Super Bowl telecast, why we skipped the most recent championship game. We still love to advertise on TV and would never rule out future Super Bowls, but we saw a unique opportunity this year with the Pepsi Refresh Project. We knew there would be nothing like it from a community- building standpoint, both in terms of the literal communities our consumers are intent on enhancing and the community we hoped to continue to cultivate with consumers.

In the months since we initiated this idea online, both types of communities have thrived. Thanks to the commitment of our consumers to their communities, the Pepsi Refresh Project has awarded more than $5 million dollars to fund 128 grants in cities and towns all over America. And we know that our community — which encompasses our franchise company, our bottling system, our retailers and our consumers — has bonded more than we could have imagined.

Without the connectivity yielded by our ever-expanding web of social media, we never would have known if this was possible. Now we do, and it's a very good feeling.

The Takeaway
Social media strengthens connections to customers and allows entrée into their lives


Martin Reidy

President, Meredith Integrated Marketing

Today the word “loyalty” gets bandied about endlessly. In our field of marketing, we are in an ongoing quest of a particular Holy Grail: the loyal customer. Yet we all know the stories of Julius Caesar, Samson and Obi-Wan Kenobi, right? They were all struck down by their most loyal partners.

What we learned from this trio of tragedy is that loyalty is a two-way street. We ask customers to be loyal to us. But what do we do to show our loyalty to them? We answer this by giving them “loyalty programs.”

While the intentions might be in the right place, customers are increasingly skeptical of loyalty programs. In truth, most programs do not meet the needs of consumers. Consumers are bombarded with so-called loyalty programs, benefits, points and prizes. Colloquy estimated in 2008 that there were 1.8 billion loyalty program memberships in the US. Approximately 56% of those memberships were inactive.

To increase loyalty, marketers must show their customers respect while earning their trust. This means understanding what truly interests them and not simply inundating them with material that (in your heart) you know is just advertising in disguise.

You must also be accessible at any time, not just when you want them to buy something. Take their feedback seriously and improve your products and services with this information.

The digital world allows us incredible opportunities to have conversations with our customers that can improve our products and meet loyalty goals. Be careful, though, as this power is easily abused.

Don't simply assume your customers are aware of your loyalty program. Cross-promote your loyalty program in every touch point that makes sense, especially ones that you own: product packaging, websites, call centers, social channels, SMS, bill statements, direct mail, e-mail streams and search.

To create a “Loyal Brand,” use today's digital tools responsibly and leverage your customer insights to develop ideas that truly resonate. One size doesn't fit all, so treat your customers with respect and deliver a relevant loyalty program.

The Takeaway
Loyalty is a two-way street, so deliver relevant programs to your customers

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