Check out how the Top 10 customer engagement trends for 2015 are shaping up in this series. If you missed #9 last week, you can read it here!
In the past, companies felt they should take on the vast amount of the funding rate, cost, and liability burden of a customer loyalty program. But increasingly, there are creative ways to share that with partners perceived to be enhancing, not cannibalistic, of the program and wallet share of the members.
Through a combination of needs: cost, customer experience, creative program design—the traditional proprietary barriers are being eroded. This is both to the advantage of consumers and the companies that offer loyalty programs.
I’m not speaking of pure coalition programs—the traditionally shared merchant schemes so popular in Canada and later in the U.K. I’m speaking of proprietary programs that see the advantage of including complementary partners in both their earn scheme and in the range of member benefits and rewards.
Historically, airlines were the leaders in loyalty partner marketing. Initially, national hotel and car rental partners were part of the typical program structure. But airlines such as Virgin America have taken partners to a completely new level that includes boutique hotels, retail, and a series of highly digital experiences that really complement their youthful brand.
The North Face created incredible innovation with ski area partnerships that allowed them to offer highly valued lift tickets as reward currency at a fraction of the cost of the actual face value. It is clearly in the interest of ski areas to get tickets into the hands of skiers—especially those that bring friends, buy food, and purchase weekend lodging. This is a really unique loyalty vision: a retailer willing to reward with partner experiences rather than driving a repeat purchase through a traditional reward mechanism.
A new wave in loyalty is in sports—where professional teams across the globe are creating opt-in membership programs to create a tighter, better-monetized bond between fan and club. Each of the teams that I’ve been able to work with understands the strong demand for sponsorship alternatives. Inclusion in team loyalty is a perfect way to expand the breadth, sophistication, and value of their programs.
It’s still very early in the development of partner-enabled programs outside of travel. But it’s a trend worth watching and a move that will be very good for consumers and in return to the brands that enhance their programs.