Don’t Call it a Loyalty Program

What’s in a name? The terms you use to describe important elements of your retail Customer Experience ecosystem may be holding back your strategy.

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There’s no doubt that business jargon can sometimes make its way into conversations with consumers, and in most cases it does not improve their perception or understanding of what your brand is trying to achieve. Terms like franchisee, concession, even ‘click-and-collect’ or ‘store-to-door’, were never destined to be consumer facing terms but I often see them popping up where they shouldn’t.

When it comes to a brand’s Customer Experience platform though, there are some real clangers that are used by nearly everyone — present company included.

So let’s fix that.

Let’s start with the big one. For decades brands created sub brands or completely new names to describe their known customer registration, tracking and incentive mechanics — their ‘Loyalty Program’. Many brands today still hold on to these today. Don’t get me wrong, some are considered very successful programs such as Virgin Australia’s ‘Velocity’ program, and Mecca’s ‘Beauty Loop’. We even played a part in naming some of them, like Mimco’s ‘Mimcollective’.

The downside of this that there is a perceived, or in the case of Velocity or Fly Buys, a very real separation of objectives and service between the program and the core brand. The program shouldn’t feel like an optional add on to the brand service — instead it should be an integral part of the brand itself.

We should move the conversation away from joining ‘Our Loyalty Program X’ to asking customers whether they have shopped with us before and if they already have an account or profile. This difference is subtle but important.

It feels like a different prospect for a customer to own their account with a brand than it is for the brand to own the customer’s details.

If the answer is ‘no I don’t have an account’, then its a simple conversation of ‘let’s fix that right now’.

‘But why should I do that?’ The customer may respond, at which point your carefully crafted script of convenience, experiential and financial benefits that they will be missing out by remaining as a ‘guest’ customer will induce solid FOMO and get the job done.

This is an obvious one, but I’m still amazed at the number of well meaning store staff that drop the ‘D’ word when trying to hit some arbitrary customer email address acquisition target set by the CRM Manager (Remember that gag about ‘ATM Machine’… I’ll get back to my feelings on CRM later).

With all the news about data breaches lately, I don’t need brands freaking me out by reminding me that all of my details are being stored in yet another database, so we should stop calling it that. It’s important that the customer has no thought of being one row in an excel file that just got emailed (unencrypted) by the brand’s communications agency. Let me believe that the account you just created is for me to use and benefit from.

We just can’t seem to shake this little pair of troublemakers. What the hell is a retail ‘Newsletter’ anyway? Even my kid’s primary school stopped calling them Newsletters and I just get updates as they happen through their mobile app. Why we still sit on news and then deliver it in some sort of publishing cycle just doesn’t fit with the way we consume information through virtually any other channel. Even if I pick up a copy of the local metro newspaper at a cafe at 8am I’ve already seen most of the main articles online or in my inbox the previous evening.

Brands that use the term Newsletter don’t even have a newsletter style format, email or otherwise. Rather it’s usually a stream of editorials, promos and other information trying to pop out of my filtered inbox and into my eyeballs.
Subscriber is equally as archaic and often confuses wider CX objectives. If I subscribe have I got an account? Likewise if I unsubscribe, what happens then? Why is the site asking me to create an account, I already get emails from you?

OK, so if you work for a B2B sales organisation, I’ll let you keep your CRM tools and terms, but keep them away from consumer retail efforts. We don’t often see this term showing up in consumer interactions thankfully, but I don’t think it belongs on people’s titles or on the tools we use to manage Customer Experience. Leads, deals, prospects, cases, opportunities — yuck.

If you’re working for a retail brand and have CRM in your job title or department name, lets get that fixed up on the next print run of business cards to CX.

This tricky one is in my crosshairs for 2018, and I get that it’s going to be a tough one to shake off. We’ve managed to do it for one brand and we have a ‘You Said Member’ jar that we donate to every time we relapse during planning meetings.

Logically though, once you make the call to get rid of your loyalty sub-brand, or the term ‘Loyalty Program’ you kinda have to be willing to let ‘Member’ go with it for all the same reasons I described earlier. So what are we supposed to call this group of customers who we know by name and have the ability to communicate with and influence directly?

The following short list of statements is the essence of a great CX strategy and allows you to address at the same time as avoiding all the words that are now off limits.

As a brand you simply have Known or Guest customers

Your known customers have an Account (or Profile) that they can own and manage themselves or via your staff

Known customers can set their own Communication Preferences

For their convenience, customers will track every Transaction and be identified during most Interactions with your stores, website and app, even if they don’t purchase.

It’s important that the banned words don’t creep into your internal discussions. This means retail, customer service and senior management can’t slip these words into training materials, KPI reports or board presentations.
Before long the ‘known customer’ is completely integrated into the operation of the business rather than tacked on the outside.

More sophisticated and valuable concepts such as satisfaction, retention, frequency, lifetime value, advocacy start bubbling up to the top. ‘Customer centricity’ is no longer the fodder of management retreats and trade conference keynotes, rather it’s something that your brand is living and breathing across all departments.

It just so happens that now is exactly the right time to do more with your retail CX ecosystem.

To find out more about our CX agency Arkade and the Omneo CX Suite call +61412258334 or email

Written by

Advocate for creating better customer experiences in Australian retail. Co-founder of Arkade CX Agency and the Omneo CX Suite.

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