Due to massive disruption, the loyalty industry will look very different in the next decade than it does today.
These disruptions won’t be faddish technologies like QR codes or blockchain that will be used in only a handful of applications, but game-changing trends that will drastically change the loyalty business.
#1: AI AND MACHINE LEARNING
The past two decades have seen artificial intelligence (AI) grow by leaps and bounds.
Five or 10 years ago, companies started applying AI to solve business challenges. With these tools and methods now readily available, companies across all sectors are implementing machine learning into their businesses.
The loyalty business is in the early stages of reaching the full potential of AI, but tasks historically performed by loyalty marketers such as analyzing customer data, determining breakage estimates and developing promotional campaigns will also be largely automated.
Ultimately, even highly complex and creative elements such as rewards management, points pricing and loyalty platform development will utilize machine learning.
#2: THE CHANGING OBJECTIVES OF LOYALTY
The reason companies seek out loyalty has changed – and continues to evolve.
Behavior Change: In the early stages, loyalty solutions were designed to create behavior change among customers. Whether the purpose was to increase spend, decrease attrition, acquire new customers or encourage more profitable consumer behavior, loyalty programs were effective tools to influence customer actions.
Modern loyalty programs have grown more sophisticated in incentivizing other types of profitable behavior, such as upsell and cross-sell. But they still center on changing customer behavior and that’s how brands justify the expense of giving out rewards.
Data Collection: The second phase of loyalty occurred when brands weren’t sure if the behavior changes they were creating offset the investment. Even if retailers couldn’t make a clear conclusion on ROI, their loyalty programs generated massive amounts of data that provided valuable insights from a commercial intelligence perspective.
Direct Communication: Traditionally, CPG companies in particular have lacked a clear line of communication as they don’t own the immediate relationship with their consumers. As a result, the loyalty program became a vehicle to create that line of communication in a more efficient and effective way.
For companies seeking an efficient way to personalize, a robust loyalty platform coupled with advanced analytics and machine learning tools centralizes data and builds out a complete, holistic view of the customer that lends itself to individualized customer journeys.
Monetization: Thinking of the loyalty program as a business and not just a marketing program creates a mindset that opens new possibilities and an increase in budget to allocate toward realizing those possibilities. Industry advancements will continue to come from loyalty programs that generate real cash and provide financial means to invest in future innovation.
As the industry continues to focus on increasing customer retention and generating profit from the loyalty product itself, further disruption will occur.
#3 LOYALTY INDUSTRY STRUCTURE
The loyalty industry’s current structure delivers the main components of its value chain, such as strategy, rewards, analytics, campaigns, creative, operations, platforms and more. There is stiff competition among providers including in-house departments, established players within the loyalty industry and through increasing encroachment from companies outside of loyalty, such as AI firms, engagement companies and more.
Analytics is another component changing the face of loyalty. Rewards are another element of the value chain that has undergone transformation over the years. They have moved from the historical warehousing of goods and merchandise to more digital virtual solutions enabled by different tech startups around the world.
These disruptions will occur alongside ever-increasing expectations from customers around personalization in their relationships with companies. While the industry may look very different than today, the disruptions will ultimately have a tremendous positive impact on the effectiveness of loyalty programs and will continue to drive adoption and investment for years to come.
As Aimia’s CEO, Jeremy Rabe is responsible for driving the business strategy and overall company performance.