Ai Editorial: Managing a loyalty program calls for unremitting finesse

First Published on 28th February, 2017

Ai Editorial: If driving loyalty is about crafting experiential moments, then airlines need to dwell upon apt blend of content, design/ functionality of the interface, timing and technology right from data collection to acting on it, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta

 

Managing a loyalty program, right from enrolment to sustaining a bond, calls for unremitting finesse.

The circumstance or the outcome from a member’s perspective needs to offer some value – for instance, if you are collecting data for an unfinished profile, how about letting one indulge via apt mix of luring video, interface/ user experience that makes them participate, context that makes them feel “at-home”…so right from collecting data to analyzing it to coming up with a smart, targeted communication, what can sustain the efficacy of CRM is evolving.

So what can make the journey, including data collection, an experiential one for members?

Airlines need to look at how an interface, a piece of content or persona-based loyalty messaging can deliver.

Incomplete profiles can halt progress. So clearly airlines need to maximize 1st party data collection. Considering that airlines need to gain intelligence from both homogenous and heterogeneous data sources, the significance of 1st party data acquisition can’t be undermined.

In a recent webinar, Geoffrey Smalling, CTO, 500friends, a Merkle Company, mentioned that data needs to be collected “accurately, cleanly and at the right time”. He underlined the significance of garnering data from various sources – sales data, online, offline, CRM and social. “Collect as much data as you can – cheapest, since one doesn’t need to pay for it,” said Smalling. Airlines need to work on an enhanced customer view by linking multiple data capture methods. Identify high-value customers through attributes such as product purchases, preferences and demographics.  

Being creative, tech savvy 

Data collection can’t be mundane. The content, design/ functionality of the interface, timing, technology…can all of this captivate a user to take action? If we just talk of today’s smart devices, then one has to think of “glanceable” experiences, conversational interface, context of use etc. And how all of this can be used to improve profile of the member. So if a customer has enrolled, but not completed their details, how about looking at ways to reinforce  the perks throughout a traveller’s first few experiences. If a customer has enrolled outside the shopping cart funnel, incentivise them for completing the profile. For example, invite them to do a secondary action. Using APIs and data tools to present a questionnaire that’s not checkbox and typical Q&A, and find compelling ways to collect more data.

Smalling recommends that organizations can focus on channels easily accessible to members. This can pave way for pushing offers and act on persona-based messaging. This way one can connect at different times, and with limited friction for the member. Other than delivering real-time offers, this channel can be used for garnering engagement information on members. Retailers, airlines can make the most of queues, putting a spin around a mundane routine of shoppers/ passengers. A simple message to the shortcode, and chatbot comes into action. It could be about new enrolment or engaging a loyalty program member into an activity. “There are tools available for chatbots – not only work around the SMS channel, but also Facebook messenger, WeChat etc. This is a very low friction interaction, and apt way to drive the known customer rate as well as satisfaction,” shared Smalling, who highlighted that built-in artificial intelligence can understand data, parse user inputs etc. “It is about spending more personal time with them. It is about having a highly focused interaction.” Smalling also referred to the potential of mobile wallets – activating via email featuring a link or text message with a click button – as another option for low friction interaction. This platform can be used for personalisation – status update, a specific reward etc.

Airlines can also look at social activity, and work on profiles of socially connected loyalty members. For airlines, the opportunity here is to count on an environment that isn’t a brand’s store, digital property or a hotel’s lobby.  In order to make participants feel valued, companies can scrutinize social media posts using pre-defined criteria, and accordingly reward an individual. One can assess a person’s past interaction (for instance, activity on Twitter say hashtags, sharing of photo, joining of Instagram etc.), and accordingly work out customized message or even (via integration with CRM/ loyalty database) pave way for points or engagement rewards depending upon the status/ tier today. A brand of Marriott’s stature is looking at combination of “automation, moderation, and surprise and delight” when it comes to social content.

From avoiding to participating

With robust data collection and analysis, one can focus on persona-based loyalty messaging (with details such as income, average order size, lifetime value, motivation - what triggers loyalty, drives choice etc.). “One can target a profile differently. This would mean highly-targeted, persona-driven loyalty,” said Smalling. Organizations need to be capable of managing robust data sets and knowing how to effectively segment and personalize for customers, work on actionable customer segments based on both transactional and behavioral attributes and events, personalise communications and experiences across channels to drive improved in-program participation and engagement.

With highly-targeted, persona-driven loyalty, one can move on from being ignored or being marked as spam to being receptive to messages and notifications.

Airlines need to excel on one or many counts - being an ally, being part of the lifestyle of travellers, holding high aspirational value, offering opportunities to a loyal passenger to maximize their loyalty rewards…and in order to accomplish this, one has to get closer to making every experience an experiential moment.

 

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