The Importance of Loyalty Programs to Retail Omnichannel

Retailers are playing catch up to consumers with omnichannel.  Many shoppers are already behaving in a seamless manner across channels either through webrooming (research online and buy in store), showrooming (research in store and buy online) or using their mobile device to do both while in store.  In other words, consumers are already embracing omnichannel.

Loyalty Programs Role in Omnichannel

For retailers, data limitations and technology complexities have slowed their ability to execute omnichannel.  The single biggest challenge to implementation is building a customer centric view that associates all activities of a shopper (e.g., transactions, web searches, store visits, mobile app usage).

The data simply doesn't exist for most retailers to build this customer centric view and the challenge remains how to "mark" the shopper as he or she interacts with them.  This goes beyond a customer just leaving a footprint.  It requires identifying the shopper while he or she is interacting with the retailer in real time in order to achieve optimal impact of omnichannel.

Although there is hype about potential new technology innovations, for the foreseeable future, the best answer to build this customer centric view is through a loyalty program.  The loyalty program provides the unique identifier to link customer activity to a shopper.

Design of Loyalty Programs for Omnichannel

In order to best deliver omnichannel, a new way of thinking about loyalty program design is required.  Traditionally, loyalty programs reward shoppers for transactions - e.g., "buy 5 and get 1 free".  The reward motivates shoppers to purchase more than he or she would have done otherwise.  This is the traditional "value of loyalty" business case for loyalty programs.

With omnichannel, loyalty program design must reward shoppers for identifying themselves while interacting with the retailer (e.g., "checking in" when entering a store, saving online research to your cart).   Essentially, the retailer puts the burden of data capture on the shopper but if the loyalty rewards are designed appropriately, he or she will do so willingly.

The business case for the omnichannel loyalty program design is built upon optimizing customer engagement in real time.  Because the retailer knows who the shopper is and his or her prior interactions, the retailer will improve closing sales leads (e.g., webrooming, showrooming), more effectively cross / upsell and entice new transactions.

It's worth noting that traditional loyalty program design can work synergistically with an omnichannel focused program.  In fact, if a traditional loyalty program exists, it accelerates implementation of the omnichannel component because core loyalty infrastructure already exists.

However, in either case, new capabilities, especially technology related, are needed to enable an omnichannel focused loyalty program (e.g., rewarding geo-location).  As an alternative to building proprietary technology, companies like Bckstgr provide these capabilities in a turn key fashion for retailers.

Once the loyalty program in place, the retailer has the platform to effectively execute omnichannel.  This coupled with real time customer engagement capabilities provides the retailer the ability to achieve the full benefits associated with omnichannel - that is, improve closing sales leads, more effectively cross / upsell and entice new transactions.

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