Forrester held its Forum for Customer Experience East event on June 25 & 26 in New York City. I wish I had been in attendance, as Forrester Analyst Emily Collins shared some compelling thoughts on the future of customer loyalty.
In an article on Mobile Marketer by Michelle Saettle, Collins is quoted as saying “Your customers have fewer reasons to be loyal than ever before and are really less loyal than they’ve ever been before”, Ms. Collins added that building strong, bullet-proof relationships with customers is the “last remaining source of competitive advantage”.
The premise is not only a solid one upon which to build future customer strategies, but has apparently gained consensus among industry leaders. For example, global loyalty leader Aimia has been talking about the importance of creating “Real Relationships” on their Aimia Institute media property over the past year, as well as in conference venues.
Kobie Marketing has been speaking about Omni-Channel marketing for the past few years, and our publisher, Hanifin Loyalty, posted its Loyalty Manifesto 2013 in which a framework for making loyalty strategies “Contextual” is described for the first time.
One key takeaway from reading the Mobile Marketer article is this: no matter what the title of the conference, book, or webinar, it seems people can’t stop talking about customer loyalty. While some continue to bash loyalty programs for their first-generation flaws, the brightest minds continue to recognize that the effort to create customer loyalty by consumer facing brands should never cease.
Establishing customer “loyalty” has always been a challenging task, one that has been made more elusive due to the changing nature of the digitally connected consumer. As Ms. Collins notes, “empowered customers are now in control…..They have a voice that’s loud and far reaching and they have heightened expectations for the way companies interact with and serve them”.
The magnitude of the challenge should not dilute the importance of the goal. In fact, the size of the prize should create even more motivation to win at the loyalty game. As Ms. Collins concludes, “If you are the loyalty leader you will grow twice as fast as your market.”
Since I wasn’t able to attend the event, I’m assuming that Ms. Collins made this statement based on results of Forrester research. But whether loyalty causes 2X growth versus competition, or merely serves as a critical tie-breaker in consumer purchase decision making, the loyalty math adds up.
Positioning customer loyalty as one of the key objectives in your marketing strategy is still the right decision for most businesses. It’s the way we get there that is changing every day.