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What's Your Favorite Flavor … of Loyalty?

David Slavick

Loyalty comes in many flavors. Depending on the tastes of your customers, you may need to offer something more exciting than vanilla, richer than chocolate, or a blend, like Neapolitan. Strategists and practitioners alike use many different flavors to attract and engender loyalty. Many scoff at the mention of points as old school and, for many, that may be true. Who has the right recipe? Our audience. Consumers challenge what we believe to be true and, by doing so, give us insights into what they desire. So what satisfies their palate?


One method is for loyalty efforts to tug at the heartstrings. The brand must connect with the consumer at an emotional level and move the member to feel something about the brand or service. Are you prepared to deliver on that brand promise?

NIKE, Apple, lululemon, Mercedes-Benz - they all offer something tangible to their fans that's deeper than points. Their commonality - aside from being globally popular and valuable: They’re laser-focused on brand identity, delivering outstanding service, and favoring brand love over hard benefits and rewards.

For many program operators, this is all that is required. The vanilla solution is a simple design: easy to understand and it works well. Buyers are easily encouraged, and anticipate a reward for demonstrating the desired profitable behavior.

There is no doubt that consumers are motivated by spend-and-get programs. A loyalist:

  • spends with the brand/service
  • expends effort with their social network to be an advocate
  • generates referrals that lead to new customer acquisition

And they may appreciate a tangible reward to use on a future purchase or alternate burn (e.g. items in a catalog, or special experience or access). The consumer understands basic math. You spend and you get something back.


More operators should explore that richest flavor: Offering value-add that focuses on what we all desire most:

  • convenience
  • time
  • personalization

This is not an easy task. It requires a higher level of service that delivers on what consumers expect but, often, fail to get.

The consumer shares insights on preferences and identifies themselves with most purchases and interactions. They cheer for the brand on social media, provide feedback via surveys. Yet many brands fail to incorporate this insight and deliver a curated experience for the consumer.

Is technology the root of the shortfall? The loyalty flavor infused with rich chocolate and other favorites requires investment in analytics, including cognitive and artificial intelligence that provide predictive indicators to satisfy the consumer. But spending the time and money to develop a vision for rewarding experiences that are meaningful, credible, exclusive and differentiated will generate the type of loyalty you want: A consumer who enjoys the loyalty flavor so much that it's a repeat must-have.

Experiment with different flavors and mix things up a bit. Who knows? You might create a recipe even Ben & Jerry's will envy.


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