In consumerism today, we’re dealing with generations built on distraction. When everyone turned from printed media to online, everything became noisier. Whereas before you had one newspaper with multiple pages, now you have 10 apps, five social media channels, three email accounts, two Slack conversations… and a thousand notifications you couldn’t possibly read.
Or so it seems.
With so much information available, how can anyone show brand loyalty? You can’t be loyal to anything when you have multiple ads, notifications and messages constantly pulling on your attention.
Disruption has become the name of the game, if only to garner attention for a second or two.
Of course, brands have tried to combat this by hunkering down on brand loyalty programmes to keep people’s attention. These are based on rationality: buy five coffees, get one free; or build up X amount of points and get a money-off voucher.
Which are all nice to have, but are they truly building brand loyalty? Our mantra is that we exist to make shoppers’ lives easier, and this is what makes our clients successful.
Yet most brand loyalty programmes are increasingly complex.
As a result, loyalty has dropped.
Recent findings by the Bond Brand Loyalty report suggest that the average person is engaged in just over 14 loyalty programmes. Perhaps “engaged” is the wrong word, however, as fewer than half are redeeming points, and another study by Mintel shows that a third of customers use multiple loyalty schemes simultaneously to get the best deal whenever it suits.
At the same time, acquiring new customers is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining new ones.
So what to do?
Randomness vs regularity
Perhaps the key lies in the type of loyalty programme rather than whether or not to have one.
I used to go into my local coffee shop each morning and 99% of the time I’d pay for my coffee like everyone else. But occasionally I’d get a “this one’s on me” or “don’t worry about it today”.
The randomness of this occurrence was what led to a feeling of surprise and delight.
If you’re waiting for loyalty vouchers to come through, when they arrive, you’re nonplussed. But when it comes to a random free coffee, that you don’t expect in the first place, there’s a certain joy in that. The time between each occurrence and the situation was random, so there was no expectation.
The idea was simple, yet effective.
It saved me less than £2.50 and probably cost the coffee shop in question even less but the simpleness and randomness combined was what kept me coming back.
Now, how many retailers can say they’re building loyalty based on that margin?
So perhaps the future of the brand loyalty programme is not so much building regularity, but in building simple, random acts of kindness.
In a world where everything is increasingly automated, complex and where bad news is almost more predictable than good, a simple surprise could go a long way.
By Ray Kieser, Managing Director.