Loyalty marketing is not about loyalty programs, as some believe it is. Rather, it’s about driving true brand advocacy and customer loyalty based on a set of experiences that an individual has with that brand.

Defining loyalty

The biggest challenge on the loyalty marketing landscape is the use — and sometimes, overuse — of more and more terms that lack definition, structure and an explicit understanding of what these words and nomenclatures mean.

As we talk to brands on a daily basis, we ask them about how they define customer loyalty, how they socialize customer loyalty and how customer loyalty can impact their organization.

There appears to be a divide between those who talk customer loyalty and those who talk about loyalty programs. A loyalty program is but a piece of a comprehensive strategy that brands should enable to create total and comprehensive loyalty.

“Terms such as ‘frictionless loyalty’ and ‘empowered engagement’ are often heard but don’t necessarily help brands in their customer journey.”

There is also a growing complexity and increasing number of technology platforms that are intended to create simplicity, but have done the exact opposite. Terms such as “frictionless loyalty” and “empowered engagement” are often heard but don’t necessarily help brands in their customer journey. In fact, they tend to do the opposite, often creating confusion.

Getting the big picture

It all consistently breaks down into an 85 to 15 ratio where 15 percent of the brands have created the culture, technology, process and alignment with the organizational mission to truly put the customer first.

The other 85 percent, though, continue to struggle, whether it’s due to the lack of understanding of where they are in their customer journey, where they are in their ability to execute, or most importantly in their ability to truly hear and understand their customers.

It’s a unique time in our industry to help those who are struggling and coalesce thought around the big picture idea of customer loyalty.

Over the next year, we must work to create a series of certifications and standards, as well as continuing education resources, that will help create simplicity and bring unity to the industry while coalescing thought around customer loyalty.