Check out how the Top 10 customer engagement trends for 2015 are shaping up in this new series. If you missed #1, you can read it here!
After working with so many retailer marketers over the past decade, one facet of execution continues to pop out with regard to program success. The successful programs—both from the perspectives of the companies and their members—all have significant focus that integrates many groups within the company and are consistently championed from the highest points in the organization.
A couple of observations that illustrate this singular focus:
The first is the inclusion of key stakeholders in phases of program design and execution. While complex programs need dedicated leadership and core individuals to ensure programs get off the ground, they are only successful when they are able to build strong coalitions among marketing/brand leadership, operations, finance, and technology.
I was recently in London where I’m working closely with one of the largest UK retailers. The confidence level increases every time we bring on board a great team—in their case the combination of marketing, CRM, business intelligence, app/digital development, and brand marketing.
By contrast, programs that have failed typically do so not because of a poor program design, but the inability to embrace and leverage the strengths of their organization. For instance, branding that is inconsistent with the overall brand, digital assets that are not consistent with the typical user experiences, in-store experiences that do not reflect the focus on high-value customer care and appreciation that should be part of a great loyalty program.
In their report, “Three Must-Haves for Loyalty Strategy Success,” Forrester Research recommends that brands “establish a cross-functional and cross-divisional team… use the team to get departments on the same page, repair internal relationships, and foster internal collaboration. Start talking and open the door to allowing loyalty data to be used in multiple parts of the organization.”
This singular focus comes from the top—CEOs that report the success of their loyalty programs to the street enable their business and technology groups to succeed under that leadership. And of course, when a CEO sets an expectation for program success, the resources to deliver are made available, and the focus of core and adjacent team members soars.
Another benefit of top-down leadership that results in that singular focus can be seen in great air and hotel programs. Those of us who travel frequently see the notes of consistency—perhaps a reflection of our elite status if we’ve earned it—in digital assets, from call center reps, on printed tickets, priority boarding and rooms, and perhaps through surprises and delights that require coordination and operationalization of highly manual processes.
A final proof point comes when consumers/members/guests then begin to think in terms of singularity with the program. The ultimate test is when the branding of the loyalty program begins to overtake the core brand from an affinity standpoint with the member. How many American Express members think “Platinum” before Amex? How many frequent hotel guests think “SPG” before Starwood Hotels? This singular relationship between program and member represents the highest echelon of program branding and execution.
Integrated, supportive organizations; championing, top-down leadership; and program over brand clearly demonstrate success in singular organizational focus.