Is SoLoMo the new loyalty card?

“Truth be told, I wouldn’t mind seeing our loyalty card program go away, but we’re not there yet.”
-
A retail CEO

I invite you to put on your consumer cap for a minute and answer these questions:

  • How many loyalty cards do you have and how many of those are you actively using?
  • What if your favorite loyalty card went away?
  • What impact has recent stories of data breaches and privacy infringement had on your willingness to share your personal information with companies?

If you think about it, there’s definitely a shift occurring in today’s consumer market. Face it, yesterday’s loyalty cards are losing their luster, and consumers are having to reconsider what information they’re willing to share with companies. The biggest shift, however, can be seen with today’s SoLoMo - social, local, mobile – consumers.

What does this new breed of consumer look like? You’ve seen them; in fact, you may very well be one of them. They are the ones who are expecting companies to (1) meet them wherever they’re at – offline or online - and (2) make themselves available through any and all channels. Not only that, with the always-on nature of social media and mobile technologies, these consumers are expecting more personalized experiences, tailored to their individual needs and wants, and based on the information they believe they are “freely” providing.

That’s a tall order to fill for marketers, and it is forcing B2C marketers, in particular, to look at their loyalty card programs and privacy policies through the eyes of these SoLoMo consumers. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges these marketers are facing.

Let’s start with the loyalty card programs. The fact is that many, if not most, retailers offer some sort of loyalty incentive these days. But consider this: If the loyalty card is mostly about discounts (which most are), isn’t it becoming increasingly difficult for a retailer to engender loyalty through their card? And how about this: If everyone has a loyalty card – or how about that kind cashier who swipes the loyalty card stashed in the register drawer for everyone who doesn’t have a card - then what’s the point and value in having a loyalty card at all? I could go on, but you get my point: The loyalty cards of yesterday are not keeping up with the demands of today’s SoLoMo consumer.

This past week, I had the opportunity to talk with Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief for AllAnalytics.com, about loyalty cards, SoLoMo, and consumer privacy in the context of big data. We were co-presenting a session at the Tech Marketing 360 conference in sunny Laguna Niguel, CA. It was a lot of fun. (Catch her version of the story here.)

In our discussion, I pointed out that as reports of data breaches, government snooping and identity theft continue to increase, so do consumers’ concerns about their own personal data. I shared the story of one California retailer, a grocery store chain, who had developed a company-wide SoLoMo initiative that was, in part, informed by their customers’ privacy concerns.

As the story goes, this grocer had literally put two-&-two together: Two of the stores’ largest demographics – Hispanics and senior citizens – were also the two fastest-growing demographics in California. Their internal data showed them that Hispanics lagged significantly in loyalty card adoption – even though they loved a good bargain. Why was this? Because, culturally, many of them were hesitant to share their personal information with companies for a multitude of reasons. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for one card to be used by multiple family members, friends and neighbors. And then there were the beloved senior citizens, who’d been laggards in sharing their personal information from day one.

This retailer’s CEO was motivated to respect their customers’ privacy – perhaps even do away with their loyalty card program down the road – yet provide all their customers with a fun, personalized experience every time they shopped. She was on a mission to take advantage of today’s SoLoMo technologies to better understand their customers and meet them where they’re at, every time.

Regardless of the industry you’re in, this retailer example demonstrates how data can, in fact, impact business direction. Cracking the nut of combining existing customer data with “big” social, location, and mobile data allows companies to provide a more personalized customer experience, thus increasing loyalty and satisfaction – and, in the end, increasing your company’s bottom line.

Before I end, remember me telling you that the conference was held in Laguna Niguel? In fact, it was held at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton, a hospitality organization with a well-earned reputation for meeting their customers where they’re at – SoLoMo style, of course. My colleague, Dave Accampo, experienced this great customer service firsthand that day.

Dave had driven down with me for this event to capture some video. While on break, he couldn’t help but snap a picture of the great ocean view and share it with his Twitter followers. And the Ritz couldn’t help but respond:

How fun is that?! Will Dave remember this cool day “at work” to shoot some video? Probably. And will Dave remember when the Ritz tweeted him back during his visit? Most definitely. The Ritz met Dave exactly where he was at…on his iPhone tweeting away. As a final touch, the Ritz sent us off that evening with our Ritz-branded bottled waters as we headed back to the jungle, otherwise known as L.A. traffic. Nicely played, Ritz-Carlton. Nicely played.

tags: AllAnalytics.com, big data, loyalty, privacy, retail, SoLoMo, strategy

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