International Roundtable: How Has Loyalty Changed Due To COVID-19?

Mission, vision, and value statements are created in boardrooms with regularity. It’s a tenet of business to have these core expressions of focus documented for employees, leadership, and shareholders to see. But too often, corporate mantras are greeted with a shoulder shrug rather than energetically embraced for execution.

Are you curious about the genesis of these statements? Ever give thought to how steering committees composed of smart people can spend weeks in meetings only to arrive at something that sounds like they just checked the box rather than break new ground?

We think about stuff like that at the Wise Marketer. We are curious, and we find it irresistible to unpack the words and phrases that companies use to define themselves. Why is any of that important? Because these statements are created not just for internal use, but to communicate the essence of brand promise. Customers watch carefully as they compare the brand’s actions, meaning how they deliver on a daily basis, to the lofty statements posted on their websites – and alignment of those two elements are driving customer loyalty more than ever before.

At the Wise Marketer, we have been paying attention to what we say about ourselves. Our tagline says that we are the “Global Voice of Customer Loyalty”, and we are intent on delivering the “global” element of that brand promise. Here are a few ways we are delivering on this:

  • The Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional™ (CLMP) program from the Loyalty Academy™ now includes professionals from 20 countries around the world.
  • We are partnered with the Let’s Talk Loyalty podcast, Paula Thomas’ groundbreaking podcast that highlights people making a big impact on customer loyalty from all corners of the globe.
  • The Delphi Report™, the third edition now in production, invites the opinion of a global group of loyalty professionals, both CLMPs and members of the Customer Strategy Network.

We have read [and published] many articles about the impact of the global pandemic on customer behavior and loyalty over the past few months, but wanted to survey opinions outside of North America. We posed the question “How has loyalty changed due to COVID-19?” to a group of CLMPs and here is what we heard in return:

“In the current pandemic it is critical that businesses focus on assuring customers & building trust. Successful businesses are using their loyalty programs to showcase these exact aspects by being more understanding and flexible in their benefits, range of choice and touch points.” – Kunal Mohiuddin, Loyalty Consultant (India) Partner, Customer Strategy Network

“In these difficult times, a brand’s ability to display compassion and empathy in its interactions with customers will help build stronger loyalty and affinity. Coupled with an insight-driven approach, loyalty marketers need to reset and rethink about how they should engage with their customers…moving away from a transactional bias to a more personalized and experiential approach. This will help elevate a brand’s relationship with its customers beyond just monetary considerations, which will likely be more enduring.” – Shawn Tan, CEO – Interactive Rewards (Malaysia), Partner, Customer Strategy Network

“B2B loyalty marketers have had to rapidly advance down the digital path.  Absent the face-to-face interactions between their sales force/channel partners and their customers, they have learned to adapt using their loyalty programmes as a foundation for B2B relationships. Auctions, contests, sweepstakes, and all manners of customer experience are being deployed as a customer engagement tactic with programme members. Member care, often over the phone, has taken on renewed significance. Rewards are being recalibrated — more focus on customer needs, things that help the business, options for employees and essential services that will never go out of style.” – Colin Samson, CEO, Reward Paths LLC (US) and Incentive Solutions Ltd (NZ)

“Whilst it is still very important that programme offers, to purchase or redeem, are relevant, timely and attainable, I believe it is more important in these changing times to focus on the non-transactional aspects of the scheme. Every time a member interacts with the business, whether to make a purchase, redeem, enquire, query or complain, then the process is an opportunity to demonstrate how important that member is to the programme. These ‘moments of truth’ will be judged by members and, if handled effectively, can drive real loyalty and even advocacy.” – Mike Atkin, CLMP, CEO at MJA Associates, Partner at Customer Strategy Network

“The global pandemic has forced brands across all sectors to focus efforts on their ‘digital customer’. Specifically, the identification of these customers and personalization of their experience both online and instore. As loyalty practitioners, it is our responsibility to continue to apply the basic concepts from our industry, especially relating to permission based communications and hyper relevant incentivization, whilst reinventing the operating models for these new ‘digital customer’ loyalty programs of the future which continue to drive ongoing profitable behaviour and add value for brands.” – Nick Chambers, CLMP, CEO – Mobile Loyalty Technologies (UK) and Partner, Customer Strategy Network

“So many businesses which have struggled to encourage their customers to adopt digital interfaces to interact/engage with their brand (pre COVID-19) have found huge adoption of digital channels — whether they are retailers, telco, or health clubs. Post-lockdown scenarios, customers continue to use digital channels at a significantly higher rate/engagement level than pre COVID-19. One of my personal favourites is the use of the mobile app for the health club chain, Virgin Active, to book my visit, my pool lane, etc. There is no doubt that this is a massive win for Virgin Active, who wouldn’t have experienced such high mobile app usage previously.” – Amanda Cromhout, CEO – Truth (South Africa) and Partner, Customer Strategy Network

Note: If you want to hear more about customer loyalty trends in South Africa, listen in to this conversation featuring Ms. Cromhout and TFG, a leading South African retailer as they discuss how they better service their 16 million customers across credit and loyalty through digital channels.

Interested in joining the most recognized and global group of loyalty professionals and have the opportunity to give your voice a platform on Wise Marketer? Get in touch at the Loyalty Academy to learn more about becoming a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional.

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