Traditional customer loyalty programmes are costing organisations significantly more and delivering significantly less than they used to. With 83% of UK consumers retracting loyalty at profit-crushing rates, and half (50%) switching providers in the past year alone, it’s time for organisations to take a fresh look at loyalty.
Investments in customer loyalty programmes are booming. More than 90% of companies currently employ some form of customer engagement or loyalty programme, and there are around 3.3 billion memberships in existence today.
But customer loyalty is costing more than many business leaders realise. Organisations spend billions each year on non-cash loyalty incentives. Once activated, they are difficult to shut down. Members of loyalty programmes typically generate between 12 and 18% incremental revenue growth per year compared to non-members.
However, there are several indications that loyalty investments, in their current form, are not generating all the value they could.
Today’s loyalty reality
Accenture Strategy’s latest Global Consumer Pulse Research – which surveyed 25,426 consumers globally, including 1,811 UK consumers – found that loyalty investments are simply missing the mark for many consumers today.
83% of UK consumers say they are quicker to retract loyalty today compared to three years ago. Another 50% have switched providers in the past year alone. Just over a third (34%) of UK consumers say their expectations around loyalty are completely the same today compared to three years ago, and only 57% are spending more with the brands they love. Furthermore, nearly a fifth (19%) say they have a negative or non-existent reaction to companies trying to earn their loyalty today.
These findings suggest that as loyalty investments have grown, our understanding of how customers behave and how they view loyalty have not kept pace. It’s time for organisations to rethink loyalty and maximise the value of today’s most loyal customers. Without a course correction, companies risk draining profitability and pushing customers away.
The new ‘languages of loyalty’
Accenture Strategy’s research highlighted the other factors, beyond traditional loyalty mechanics such as good price and reliable service, which are influencing customer relationships and brand loyalty in the digital age. These ‘languages of loyalty’ demonstrate the growing appetite among UK consumers for new product and service experiences, and the relationships they want and expect from brands and organisations today.
- ‘Tokens of affection’ – 54% of UK consumers feel loyal to brands that present them with small tokens of affection, such as personalised discounts, gift cards and special offers to reward their loyalty.
- ‘Get to know me’ – 34% of UK consumers are loyal to brands that offer them the opportunity to personalise products to create something that is bespoke to them. 44% are loyal to brands that interact with them through their preferred channels of communication. 81% feel loyal to brands that are there when they need them, but otherwise respect their time and leave them alone. Furthermore, 83% are loyal to brands that safeguard and protect the privacy of their personal information.
- ‘Thrill seeker’ – 37% of UK consumers are loyal to brands that actively engage them to help design or co-create products or services. Thirty-four percent are loyal to organisations that present them with new experiences, products or services. Furthermore, 27% are loyal to brands that engage them in ‘multi-sensory’ experiences, using new technologies such as virtual reality or augmented reality.
- ‘If you like it, I like it’ – 19% of UK consumers are loyal to brands that partner with celebrities, and another 18% feel loyal to organisations that partner with social influencers, such as bloggers and vloggers. 36% are loyal to brands that their family and friends do business with. Furthermore, 35% show loyalty to brands that actively support shared causes, such as charities or public campaigns.
- ‘Hook me up’ – 37% of UK consumers feel loyal to brands that connect them with other providers, giving them the ability to exchange loyalty points or rewards. Likewise, 43% are loyal to brands that keep them on the cutting edge by consistently offering the latest products and services.
It’s evident that brands need to start thinking differently about loyalty today, specifically about the types of experiences their most profitable customers desire, which can help drive advocacy, retention and growth.
Consumer appetite for extra-ordinary, multi-sensory experiences and hyper-personalisation and co-creation opportunities will force brands and organisations to shift their approach and programs. Doing so will ensure they achieve a new form of competitive advantage, and a stronger understanding of what inspires loyalty among their customers.