I was dining with my wife at Carrabba’s recently and she asked me the BIG question, though it’s probably not one that you have in mind: “So, do a lot of businesses still do this loyalty stuff“?
I had just written a post about new execution formats that Loyalty Marketing programs were taking in the Big L and the Little L and I paused before answering her question.
That morning I had received a call at home from the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel informing me of “Subscriber Rewards“. An insider’s club that offers “reader benefits and special privileges”, it was an intriguing pitch from a newspaper and I asked for more information. I haven’t received anything yet and can’t find anything concrete about the program on the paper’s website, but it seems to consist of merchant discounts offered on some exclusive basis to home delivery subscribers.
Just before dinner, we had strolled through Steinmart (did I say it was date night?) and, as I noticed the quality merchandise from well known brands offered at prices that should make mainline retailers shiver, I realized that Steinmart’s business model was its loyalty program. I have written about this before and believe that a points based program is not always mandatory to secure my return visit and longer term brand loyalty.
Steinmart punctuated its customer shopping experience with a personal note from the Chairman thanking customers for their business. Stacked by the check out station, it was a nice touch and something I had not seen at other retailers.
With these two examples in mind, I started to answer my wife’s question with an emphatic “yes” when I was interrupted by our server, cheerily asking if we wanted to join the “Amici Club“. Carrabba’s had apparently launched a customer club and had trained the server thoroughly in how to properly present it table-side and explain the benefits. I have a habit of testing the proficiency of front line staff in these areas and our server passed with flying colors.
My wife’s question had clearly been answered: Loyalty is alive and well and in favor with CMO’s who recognize the power of data-driven measurable marketing.
Indicative of today’s market is that I had seen three examples of brands in different industries launching distinct models. Here are some implications to consider:
- The Sun Sentinel might be seeking to increase renewal rates among home subscribers and to sustain advertising rates for merchants with its discount oriented scheme. Will they take a second step to query subscriber preferences and tailor the offers to make them more appealing and relevant?
- Steinmart’s merchandising and service model can create repeat visits but aren’t they leaving something on the table by allowing their customers to remain “invisible”? Sure they have a cobranded credit card, but shouldn’t there be something more fundamental in place and with a lower enrollment hurdle?
- Carrabba’s was taking the first step with highest potential in my opinion, seeking to create a platform for learning about customer desires and preferences. I’ve just received my first email from Amici and they offered me a free appetizer on a return visit in exchange for registration online. Simple, but a good start to create engagement. I wonder if they tested different incentives?
My free lesson in Loyalty at dinner reminded me that every organization can benefit from a sound Customer Strategy and that program designs will be more tightly integrated into the customer experience and shaped to meet unique industry needs. Tremendous opportunity remains in helping business leaders get the model right and design strategy that is complementary to their core brand.
I was also reminded that it pays to keep date night with your spouse on the calendar. You never know what you might learn!