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Top 12 Customer Loyalty Trends for 2012

Top 12 Customer Loyalty Trends for 2012

Take a look at how to engage and retain customers without wasting time and money

Thanks to the rise of the daily deal industry, it’s never been easier to attract new customers to your restaurant. Yet turning people who try your restaurant into repeat customers who pay full price remains the heart and soul of your business. Here’s what the experts at Loyalty 360 – The Loyalty Marketer’s Association say you should be thinking about as you develop your customer retention strategy. 

1. Customer engagement is the journey, loyalty is the destination. Loyalty is a much bigger, broader, richer and more complex idea than it has been in the past. Loyalty is no longer about points, discounts, miles, rewards; it is about the way the processes, technologies, ideas and interactions engage an individual with the brand. The only way to achieve loyalty is through deeper engagement.

2. There will be a renewed (and well-needed) focus on customer retention and loyalty versus customer acquisition. Customer loyalty has been identified as the top nonfinancial business challenge facing companies in 2012. While daily deals like Groupon and LivingSocial are generating lots of buzz, marketers are realizing that these price-based technologies have taken their focus away from the real prize: customer loyalty.

3. Brands need to recognize customers at all touch points, especially organizations that use call centers, to deliver a quality customer experience. A recent poll by Loyalty 360 found that 78 percent of respondents believe that having a great customer experience makes them loyal. Creating this type of customer experience involves delivering quality customer service across all touch points, and marketers are realizing that this means integrating the call center into the overall customer experience.

4. Marketers will work to glean intelligence from social media feedback. The vast majority of real-time data created today is unstructured data. Study after study is showing that marketers are struggling with mining this data and analyzing it in order to derive valuable insights and actionable intelligence from it. In fact, a just-released report by EMC found that only 38 percent of business intelligence analysts and data scientists strongly agree that their company uses data to learn more about customers.

5. A loyalty program is seen as a critical element of “life cycle management.” Engagement with customers over a life cycle is the new model for success. The only way to earn loyalty is through deeper customer engagement, and data gathered from loyalty programs can be used effectively to drive a quality experience across all touch points and at all stages of the customer life cycle.

6. Marketers will look at a mix of location-based behavioral data and attitudinal and preference data. This trend will have an especially important impact on the daily deal space. Brands will want to have this data and control the message rather than offering such huge discounts to anonymous individuals.

7. Mobile coupons will go mainstream. Juniper Research forecasts that the total redemption value of mobile coupons worldwide will be more than $43 billion by 2016, representing an eightfold increase from $5.4 billion this year. Cost-effective mobile coupon campaigns provide merchants with an easy way to build customer loyalty. 

8. We will see a focus on social media return on investment (ROI). While marketers believe that social media is worthwhile, most don’t know how worthwhile it is. As marketers become more sophisticated and skilled at navigating the social media channel, they will be more demanding of tools that track and improve ROI. In fact, the 2011 IBM Global CMO Study found that 63 percent of chief marketing officers believe ROI on marketing spend will be the most important measure of their success by 2015. However, only 44 percent feel fully prepared to be held accountable for marketing ROI.

9. Brands will increasingly use the rich information about customer buying patterns generated via loyalty programs to create more targeted marketing/messaging. Gathering and tracking data amassed in the loyalty program will be used to help marketers with segmentation and messaging and for acquisition and retention. The information on customer transactions, likes, dislikes and preferences gives brands the deep level of customer intelligence needed to deliver the most relevant, highest quality customer experience and drive long-term loyalty. 

10. Social personalization will increase. Marketers will harness the power of recommendations and referrals to persuade customers and prospects to follow their friends' leads. They will become more proactive in encouraging reviews, implementing refer-a-friend programs, etc. 

11. Mobile digital wallets will mark a big shift in retail payments. With the value of transactions made over mobile devices estimated to be $240 billion this year (Juniper Research) and predicted to triple that size over the next five years, it’s not surprising that the battle over mobile wallets will continue to intensify. And with analysts at Forrester predicting that by 2016 consumers may be able to leave their traditional leather wallet at home and pay for most of their shopping over their handset, retailers need to think about the impact of mobile wallets as they build out their loyalty programs. 

12. Worthy causes will continue to influence consumer brand loyalty. A study from Cone Communications found that consumers are more likely to pick a brand based on charities or causes it supports. A full 94 percent of responding consumers said they would abandon their typical brand for one of approximately equal quality and price if it backed a social issue.

Most restaurants organizations aren’t big enough to have call centers or chief marketing officers. But operators who self-manage their customer loyalty programs should be aware the time to refocus on customer retention is here.