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CRM & Loyalty

The era of fluidity: How to achieve genuine customer-centricity in a post-CRM world



We’re in the era of fluidity. As the Experience Economy has exploded, there has been a seismic shift in the power base from brands to customers and, with that, a series of dramatic changes in how we enable brands to successfully bond with people. We must now meet emotional, tangible and functional needs seamlessly in every, and any touchpoint the customer desires.

Accompanying this change is a raft of continually emerging technology solutions that can be utilised to plan and deliver the highly connected and personalised ecosystems that are demanded. The true shift in fluidity stems from systems that can unify around individuals rather than channels, ideally a decoupled architecture that separates the interface layer from the platform to maximise touchpoint interaction.

The era of fluidity is powering a change in people’s needs

People are demanding greater knowledge, so they can make informed decisions. Brand belief is increasingly driven by provenance or recommendations. Convenience and immediacy are paramount. Involvement and personal satisfaction from experiences are more important than ownership.

These needs have triggered the growth of sectors that didn’t previously exist, such as food delivery services (Deliveroo), while creating an appetite for completely flexible transport services (Uber) and transparent banking providers (Starling and Monzo). People aren’t just a customer of one brand, but many. Making your brand the regular choice is the challenge.

To remain relevant – brands have to evolve to become truly customer-centric

CRM has died. Conversations tended to start only when people had bought a product or were coerced into a specific ‘reward’ programme. Rigid formats and defined rules of engagement ruled the day. Remember the enforced sign-ups, convoluted processes, waiting hours for confirmation? These were acceptable and effective when people didn’t know any better and were happy with a simple value exchange, typically a financially motivated incentive.

And, as a plethora of brands abused personal data – whether selling to third parties or email bombardment – trust in relationships faltered.

We’ve moved on significantly from ‘managing’ people, seeing a reduction in the value derived from these ‘loyalty programmes’. The importance of end-to-end Customer Experience (CX) has become paramount. Sustained customer growth is being driven by ‘fulfilling needs’; being an enabler and a companion to people’s lives.

Brands that deliver a great CX are increasingly benefiting as a multitude of stats demonstrate. Forrester research proves that making experience your business is good for business. Customer retention increases 1.8x, revenues grow 36% faster, and customer lifetime value grows 1.6x.

How we derive value for customers and brands

Let’s start at a place you’d not expect. A god. In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, transitions, doorways and endings. He looks to the future and the past, presiding over movement and change in what was a time of fluidity. And since movement and change are interconnected, he has a double nature, symbolised in his two headed image.

To succeed and drive business value we need to behave as Janus. One head must be firmly focused on the movement; understanding and fulfilling customer needs. Recognising where the beginning of their journey is, opening doorways to our brand with relevant content, or acknowledging they’ve bought the product they looked at earlier or utilising enhanced functionality best suited to device or platform i.e. voice activation or wearable integration.

Understanding behaviours and needs: There are three core needs we must understand and satisfy; emotional, functional and tangible.

  • Emotional needs are met by experiences that allow individuals to connect with brands – the door openers, either to a new relationship with a brand, or a new product or service from a brand they know. These are immersive experiences that facilitate self-discovery

  • Functional needs are met by experiences designed to make an individual’s life effortless – the transitions. Simpler, faster, easier to find, understand, select and buy

  • Tangible needs are met by touchpoint delivery that is aligned to platform or device expectation and can be digital or physical, resulting in them being much broader than traditional channels.

Acting as a companion on the journey: The Experience Economy is about proving value and justifying your place in an individual’s life. Empowering people with product and service utilities that bring them closer to the brand mean they are less likely to leave. Even in the world of energy you can engage people; remote energy control (heating/lighting etc.) effectively gamifies a previously dull task and gives the brand a sense of purpose on a regular basis.

Employing behavioural economic techniques: The growth of the Experience Economy has proven that people aren’t just rational, emotions play a large part in the decision-making process. Brand relationships – and the requisite value for brands – are formed through a series of complex mental models.

Experiences must be built on solid behavioural science techniques that use heuristics to aid easier decision-making. Placing greater emphasis on understanding how individuals feel at each experience stage drives value by increasing satisfaction. The correct framing of information, anchoring with metal reference points, or chunking content into bite-size chunks can all exponentially increase engagement.

Enabling the experience

The other head must concentrate on the change: deploying and leveraging systems that can unify around individuals rather than channels. Looking to the past to utilise all existing interaction knowledge, deploying bespoke experiences worthy of each touchpoint, or looking to the future to predict the next move to convert a sale without the need for constant redesign and bespoke deployment.

We’ve long talked to clients about the benefits of ‘plug and play’, and APIs have made this a reality. Using a centralised data architecture and utilising an application layer that forms part of the platform, we can integrate multiple technology providers into a single unified view of the data.

Using a big data technology stack, with a data lake storing the data, we can handle large numbers of simultaneous requests for data from multiple end user platforms. This allows for completely headless user interfaces by giving direct access to the data within the SCV.

Customers benefit from a richer experience provided by individual device ecosystems. Brand consistency is easier to achieve across touchpoints and with faster ‘connectivity’ on main platforms, due to considerable speed increases with less data to process, experiences can meet expectations.


In summary, two heads are required to meet the demands of today’s customers. Only businesses connecting both the customer and the infrastructure together will win; two heads are definitely better than one. There are five core tenets which, if met, enable us to derive value:

1. Understanding behaviours and needs

2. Acting as a companion on the journey

3. Employing behavioural economics techniques

4. Designing a flexible data architecture

5. Deploying a decoupled technology infrastructure

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CRM & Loyalty

If you want to start a loyalty program – avoid these six common mistakes



Starting a loyalty program can lend a major boost to your customer retention efforts — and your bottom line. But it’s a complex undertaking that demands time, strategic thinking and teamwork. To make sure your efforts pay off, get started on the right foot by avoiding these six common loyalty program mistakes.

Mistake 1: Thinking all loyalty technology providers are the same

When it comes to loyalty platform vendors, one size does not fit all. Besides basic differences like price and experience, every vendor likely has a particular specialty or area of expertise, as well as differing levels of customisation available. Understanding the over-arching differences between vendor categories can help you narrow down the vast list of possibilities to those that most closely align with your company’s needs.

Start by reviewing these five categories of providers:

  • Point-of-sale (POS) technology vendors provide a basic infrastructure for customer data collection with their POS technology. Some also offer CRM/loyalty modules, although most have limited program functionality
  • Database marketing solutions are focused on hosting marketing database platforms. Several also supply strategy, analytics and engagement tools. The functions available in these platforms are often customised, but few offer robust loyalty functionality
  • Enterprise resource planning vendors offer a broad range of capabilities for CRM and loyalty programs. They do it all and sell it all. But they may not always be nimble enough to respond to retailers’ fast-changing needs
  • Marketing services providers/service bureaus support a full suite of marketing solutions, including loyalty programs and customer data utilisation, and offer a broad range of services — with a corresponding price tag
  • Loyalty niche vendors are the newest players, some rapidly gaining in market share. But they often require clients to share technology — which means you may lose your competitive edge

Mistake 2: Not fully researching your customers

Most loyalty marketers incorporate periodic customer feedback into their plans. But when you’re trying to develop new benefits or program features, the traditional quantitative survey may be too limiting. Often, it’s an issue of simply not asking the right questions or inadvertently skewing response by providing limited answer options. And then there’s the fact that customers always want that 100 percent discount, which makes it difficult to get truly good feedback on value-oriented benefit suggestions.

How do you get around those barriers? Using the right research approach in the right sequence is key to developing new ideas. For instance, you may start with more qualitative approaches, such as focus groups, one-on-one interviews or bulletin boards to build a potential list of program enhancements.

You can then prioritise this list according to your own internal criteria. Then take your top priorities back to your members in a more traditional quantitative survey. Adding a chat feature so that online moderators can join the survey in progress and ask additional questions from a cross-section of your members can help you continue to drill down on ideas and even generate a few more.

Incorporating a multivariate aspect to your quantitative research can help you determine the nuances of value-oriented benefits. For example, you can test whether a 3% program funding rate will actually outperform a 5% program funding rate.

Mistake 3: Copying the competition

When establishing or revamping your loyalty program, you may be tempted to look at what your competition is doing and follow their lead. But that could set up your program for failure.

First, you can’t simply assume that what the competition is doing is working. For all you know, it’s a failing test program that they’re about to abandon. Or it could be a flawed program that continues to run — despite lackluster results — because it’s the CEO’s pet project. Maybe it’s a great program for the company, but simply the wrong type of program for your business — or, more importantly, for your customers.

Second, not investing the necessary time and research to custom design your loyalty program could derail your efforts. Here’s why:

  • A generic or “borrowed” program doesn’t respect your unique customers and what will resonate with them in regard to your brand
  • You miss an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and distinguish your brand by doing something different
  • You lose the opportunity to make your program an interpretation and amplification of your brand

The solution? Start with a clean slate. Do the homework. Listen to what your customers are saying and get insight from your frontline employees, like your store managers and customer service reps.

Whatever you do, always stay true to your brand. It’s the only way to form a solid foundation that accurately reflects your business and your customers — and successfully works to build real loyalty.

Mistake 4: Taking reward selection lightly

Like the structure of your loyalty program itself, your rewards shouldn’t just be hand-me-downs from the competition. Nor should they simply reflect your personal favorite perks. When you randomly choose incentives, you’re taking a shot in the dark that those rewards will motivate members to take action, keep coming back and stay passionate about your brand.

Here are a few methods you can use to uncover the rewards your members really want:

  • Employ statistical modeling. For instance, CCG’s Statistical Loyalty Program Optimization™ model quantifies the reach and desirability of existing and potential program benefits, using multivariate and Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency (TURF). With it, we can help you define the optimal mix of benefits for each of your key audiences, while factoring in ROI, operational efficiency, support of brand drivers, and aspirational impact for non-members and lower tiers
  • Ask your customers through surveys, focus groups, social media polls and other feedback forums
  • Learn from their behaviour by analysing customer data regarding their response to promotions, offers, rewards, messaging, channels and other variables to see what’s motivating customers to act and, just as importantly, what isn’t
  • Ask your team what they’re hearing when customers contact customer service and on-floor sales reps with questions, complaints and kudos

The bottom line: Knowing is better than guessing. And you’ll enjoy the payoff when you do the necessary homework to develop an effective incentive plan that will keep your customers coming back for more.

Mistake 5: Leaving operations out of the loop

Imagine this scenario: You’ve poured blood, sweat and tears into creating the most perfect loyalty program possible. Kick-off celebrations are planned, and you can’t wait to flip that final switch on implementation in a few short weeks. But then Operations raises a red flag, and suddenly your scheduled launch date is at risk.

Maybe you’ve planned for training that doesn’t fit the stores’ schedules. Maybe the customer handling procedure for enrollments is too lengthy and threatens throughput times. Or maybe you did everything right — except for ticking off Ops by excluding them from the planning and development process.

These are all real examples of issues that pop up when your Ops team isn’t looped into your loyalty program planning right from the start. And if you’ve already invited them to participate — say, in a best-practice, cross-departmental team — make sure they understand participation isn’t optional. Here are three reasons why:

  • Training isn’t just a once-and-done event. Partner with ops for ongoing training and store contests to keep program awareness and understanding high among existing and new employees. Make sure your efforts are reaching associates and incenting them based on your program KPIs
  • Ops knows the customer and directly influences the customer experience. Yes, everyone in the organisation shares in keeping customers satisfied. But ops gets more face time with customers than anyone. They can provide invaluable input on what’s likely to work (or not), from motivational benefits to enrollment ease
  • Ops always has an opinion. That input can be invaluable upfront — or a roadblock if it’s too late. Take time to understand ops’ concerns and address them head on. Probe into specifics and be willing to modify based on what you learn

One of the best ways to create a true partner is to ensure that ops has a stake in the program. For instance, make enrollments and capture rates part of the store ops compensation plan. By creating incentives for engagement, as well as the opportunity to be involved in planning and development, you stand to create a true advocate, as focused as you are on the success of your program.

Mistake 6: Overestimating your customers’ loyalty

When it comes to loyalty, best customers are more cat than dog. Think about it: A good dog is unabashedly loyal and wants nothing more than to spend all day, every day with you. Cats, on the other hand, tend to be a little stingier with their affection. Sure, they’re loyal and loving, but it’s on their terms, in their time.

In that very cat-like fashion, your best customers may love your brand, but that doesn’t mean they want to spend all their spare time with you. The reality is, even the most engaged customer only has a sliver of attention to spare for your brand. If you ask for too much of their time, you might just send them running the other way.

To hit the mark, take a step back and critically review your loyalty program from the customers’ perspective. Consider:

  • Is enrolment easy and quick?
  • Is your value proposition compelling — and can people “get it” in five seconds or less?
  • Are your communications useful and interesting — and can customers state their communication preferences?

When you’re respectful and courteous of your customers’ time and interests, you’re far more likely to enjoy a long-term love affair.

Enjoy your own rewards

When you bypass these mistakes, you’ll give your new loyalty program the best chance to win customers, maintain long-term relationships and build profits for your company.

What mistakes have you seen or experienced in developing and running a loyalty program that we haven’t mentioned? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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Transforming customer experience into an actionable marketing strategy: A guide



The workforce as we know it is changing and companies must be ready to adapt to fast change as we become ever more tech-centric. However, despite the digital noise there is one element that will always remain a constant requirement for success; delivering an excellent customer experience (CX) and maintaining a well-received brand image.

In our highly connected 'always on' digital world, CX combined with word of mouth is potentially one of the most powerful marketing tools for brands today, backed up by a study that shows 92% of consumers believe suggestions from people they know over any other form of advertising. Advancing technology is now allowing for these opinions to be voiced on a global scale across the likes of social media and review sites. With this opportunity to reach a wealth of potential new customers, brands which make themselves personable and their service customer-centric can work to set themselves apart from competitors, without the need for extremely elaborate marketing strategies.

CX at its best

Some successful brands are where they are today through the power of word of mouth alone, as opposed to costly advertising. One clear example is online clothing and shoe retailer, Zappos. The company has developed a reputation of having excellent service and with its ability to please customers achieved through first hand customer insights. The website has ensured that consumers are now loyal and return to buy products – ultimately driving customer retention and an increase in profit.

Ensuring customers enjoy experiences with a brand, the way businesses market themselves as well as the way they develop customer care campaigns can all help to create a sense of understanding and community amongst customers. For example, taking the time to make communication unintrusive, human and resonate more personally can be a key driver of quality CX. According to a survey on content marketing, the majority (80%) said delivering personalised content, for example personalised emails targeted to suit individual experiences is more effective than delivering ‘unpersonalised’ content to visitors. As a result of this, the customers that receive personalised content will most likely continue to use your product/service and endorse your business to others.

A great example of this executed effectively is Netflix’s email campaigns. Despite being one of the largest companies worldwide, Netflix has mastered the tactic of personal recommendations and suggests shows that are similar to what their customers have previously watched. As long as the brand has enough data to provide insights on this, this is a great way to be proactive in making the customer experience efficient, easy and seamless, which ultimately helps to nurture loyalty, as well as short-term sales.

Turning CX into actionable insights

Social media now also plays a particularly crucial role for brands looking to market themselves through good customer journeys. For many, it is now a core marketing channel with the potential to reach a wealth of new customers and can also be used as a research tool for understanding the problems in the customer journey and improving their experience. However, the solutions readily available to businesses now mean that these satisfied customer insights can now be taken one step further, to be measured and then developed into new ways to market their service.

The sheer volume of conversations taking place on platforms like Twitter and popular review sites make them an effective way for marketers to not only reach customers, but also enables for positive customer experiences to be published and interacted with. Integrating tools into these channels then also allows these insights to be turned into a research opportunity, highlighting customers pain points and allowing companies to improve overall experience.

The more customer insights a business receives about their product or service, the more you learn and understand your customers patterns and trends associated with your business. With customer insights coming through as data in a variety of forms – mainly structured and unstructured, businesses can put the insights together, whether it be big or small and gain a clearer picture of your customers’ way of thinking and how they can dramatically enhance and boost customer experience.

There are however, some challenges that brands can be faced with when it comes to using customer experience to inform their marketing strategy. Companies can often spend a lot of time gathering and measuring customer insight data they receive and meticulously mapping all customer pain points to try and tailor their marketing to overcome these customer perceptions. Using solutions to make this process as efficient as possible can help brands to maximise the opportunity to turn CX into new avenues for growth.

Through the likes of analytics tools, which offer insights into the sentiment of direct engagements with a brand from the public across various digital channels and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, companies can gather and measure their interactions with current and potential customers, understand them more effectively and ultimately use organic insights of endorsement and satisfaction to fuel their marketing approach.

With technological advancements increasing daily, it is becoming a lot easier for companies to weave in their customer insights and turn this into an intelligent marketing strategy. Brands must now realise the influence that customer experiences has on consumer decision-making today, if they are to succeed in using it to market themselves in our increasingly digital world.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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CRM & Loyalty

Accenture and WPP play nice as Shell brings the consultancy into CRM fold



Accenture Interactive has been added to Shell's CRM roster, tasked with working closely alongside the brand's lead digital agency Wunderman to deploy campaigns for the oil giant.

The Drum understands that Accenture was enlisted by Shell around eight months ago following a competitive pitch, but the appointment has been kept under wraps until now.

WPP-owned Wunderman remains Shell's lead digital agency, with a remit to provide "overall global strategic planning and creative direction for Shell’s CRM programmes globally".

​Accenture's customer experience arm, meanwhile, will be tasked with supporting and deploying CRM campaigns across Shell’s digital channels with the aim of boosting "one-to-one customer relationships" using Adobe software, as a managed service.

Wunderman has been the lead CRM account for Shell since 2013 when its loyalty budget was estimated to be worth £30m.

While Accenture has won only a small portion of the overall business it's a task that was previously handled by Wunderman, marking the latest instance of management consultancies edging closer to the budgets previously reserved for digital, media and creative agencies.

Ex-WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell has previously voiced scepticism about the likes of Accenture, KPMG and Deloitte trying to eat digital agencies' lunch.

Sorrell's successor and former Wunderman head Mark Read – who is currently working to simplify WPP's operations through a period of consolidation – said last month that the competition between agencies and consultancies has arisen "because the consultants are doing some of the things we historically did and in part because we are doing new things that we didn’t use to do that the consultants did".

"So I would look at it in both directions," he said during WPP's Q2 earnings call.

"And within that lies what we need to do to be successful. We have to understand how to implement the end marketing technology in our company and help to help clients develop programs that run through from strategy to creative to the execution of technology. That's where we were at successful Wunderman and where we can put big programs that are in place with clients."

Read said to compete with the consultancies WPP needs to hire "a somewhat different mix of talent", some of whom will be from the consulting firms themselves. The network has already done so in tapping former Accenture digital exec Shannon Dix to lead its Singapore office and Jason Warnes from Deloitte to lead Wunderman's pitch to get on Shell's wider 'agency of the future' roster earlier this year.

"Interestingly, [the people we've hired from consultancies] had agency backgrounds before so there is a sort of hybrid individual that we are heading towards.

"[We need] different types of talent to understand technology, but we also understand how agency businesses work," finished Read.

For its part, Shell said it wants to "drive deeper and more meaningful connections with customers across every touchpoint" with the Accenture appointment. The brief includes building a robust digital network for global and local campaigns.

Joy Bhattacharya, Accenture Interactive lead for UK and Ireland said this would be achieved through "the consolidation of systems and services, we aim to drive efficiencies and scale personalised marketing campaigns, creating greater experiences for Shell customers”.

The move bookends a year of change for Shell's agency roster for its retail and lubricants arms.

In July it was revealed that creative agency of record J Walter Thompson London was to split the account it held for two decades with Wunderman, Geometry Global, VCCP, Dentsu and a host of other agencies.

WPP-owned MediaCom held on to the global media account.

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