“Loyalty that is bought with money, may be overcome by money,” Seneca is thought to have said, some 2,000 years ago.
The Roman philosopher likely didn’t know much about the online retail sector, but with that pithy quote, he unwittingly summed up a problem at the heart of the traditional loyalty program.
When you think of a loyalty program, you probably think of something akin to air miles, a points card at a supermarket, or even an old-school punch card for a cafe. These programs traditionally rewarded customers for spending habits and sales volume, which may have cut it back in the 90s, but modern consumers demand more from the companies they spend their hard-earned cash with. One study from Content Stack found that more than 60% of consumers said they would stop shopping with a company “after a single poor experience on their website, mobile app, or other platforms,” which goes some way to illustrating the high standards the modern consumer has.
Studies have even shown that the vast majority of customers pay as much attention to how brands treat them as they do to the products they sell, while almost three-quarters of consumers “say they are willing to pay more for a product if they love the brand,” according to Forbes.
So how can brands satisfy these increasingly demanding and savvy customers with their loyalty programs? As with many problems in modern retail, the solution lies in an omnichannel strategy.
Seneca may not have known the difference between an SKU and SEO, but he would have been familiar with the Latin prefix ‘omni’, meaning every or all. In the simplest terms, think of an omnichannel loyalty program as one that is available everywhere, a loyalty program that your customers can take advantage of via all of your brand’s touchpoints.
The best way to conceptualize an omnichannel loyalty program is by comparing it to a traditional loyalty program. A traditional loyalty program rewards a customer just for spending while going omnichannel means rewarding engagement as well. Traditional loyalty programs don’t offer real-time rewards, whereas their omnichannel cousins do. In addition, omnichannel rewards loyalty across channels (hence the name) rather than just one, like the traditional cafe punch card which customers can only avail of when they are physically in-store to have their card punched.
Omnichannel loyalty programs can include things like personalized offers, simplified purchases, or discounts via loyalty points similar to those offered in traditional loyalty programs, but above all the key is being seamless across channels. A customer should be able to earn loyalty points whether they purchase in-person, on your app, on your desktop website, or however else they purchase or interact with your brand.
Using QR codes can be part of an omnichannel strategy.
North Face has offered an omnichannel loyalty program for several years now, and the iconic clothing retailer’s XPLR Pass is a solid example of how to do it right.
While XPLR Pass does retain a feature of traditional loyalty programs by offering one point for every dollar spent, it goes above and beyond to provide value to customers. Members can avail of exclusive ranges of stock, a dedicated customer support channel, birthday gifts, the chance to try before they buy, and more.
Apart from purchasing products, customers can earn points for things like referring a friend to the program, downloading the North Face iOS mobile app, or checking in at a National Park in the US.
Most notably, points are available for shopping with a reusable bag and for shopping in the Renewed Collection which “refurbishes and repairs used North Face clothing”. This is a very savvy use of an omnichannel loyalty program as it indicates to customers that North Face cares about sustainability. A recent Deloitte survey found 32% of consumers were “highly engaged with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle” and that Gen Z were even more engaged with sustainability, so it’s a smart move from North Face.
Global giant Nike is another good example of an omnichannel loyalty program done well. Nike Membership puts “exclusivity, access, and innovation” at the core of shopping with the brand, according to this Forbes article written when it was still called NikePlus.
That means putting the focus on giving members exclusive access to new products rather than hammering consumers with discounts. This leans into the Nike brand very well, given that the sneaker culture the company played a large part in creating is all about seeking out and acquiring rare shoes as a status symbol.
This feeling of an intimate and exclusive relationship with customers is enhanced by Nike’s work to bring the offers and access offline as well as offline. “Nike brings membership to life in its stores as well with express checkout, special store hours for members, and a members-only floor at its flagship store in NYC,” wrote Forbes.
Mmm, yummy first-party data! As the likes of Apple and Google roll out more stringent privacy protections, it’s getting harder and harder for companies to garner data-driven insights into their customers. One solution is to have more of your own, first-party data, and an omnichannel loyalty program can help you do this.
As customers sign up to your program and use it across the various touchpoints it’s available on (which should be all of them), you’ll be able to gather information about their shopping habits, favorite channels, the most effective way to market to them, and more. What’s crucial is that your internal systems are robust enough to properly collect and sort all of this data in a centralized system, as it will be coming in from disparate sources.
An omnichannel loyalty program is great for data collection as it encourages customers to voluntarily share their data, and even better still, it rewards them for doing so. For example, if a North Face XPLR Pass user uses a reusable bag to earn loyalty points, North Face knows that sustainability matters to them. The customer is rewarded with loyalty for sharing the data and engaging with the brand and the company can better personalize how it interacts with this customer by focusing on sustainability.
A well-run omnichannel loyalty program should be encouraging your customers to engage more often and more deeply with your brand, so this should in turn boost your brand awareness. This can also be an opportunity to reinforce your brand’s values in the minds of your customers, as noted in the North Face example above.
The Starbucks Rewards program is a good example of an omnichannel loyalty program that boosts brand awareness, as if Starbucks needed any more of that. As well as giving members access to free in-store refills on coffee and tea and a free birthday drink, the program includes regular games which allow members to win prizes. The Starbucks Summer Game featured more than 2.2 million prizes and members could play each time they made a transaction by “using a Starbucks Card, a linked payment method, or by scanning the Starbucks app prior to checkout.”
While one undoubted benefit of this loyalty program was boosting sales, the enhanced brand awareness gained through consumers whiling away the hours on the Starbucks app will also have been beneficial.
The best thing about omnichannel eCommerce for customers is undoubtedly how much more convenient it makes interacting with a brand across channels. So it follows that an omnichannel loyalty program should also provide that seamless experience, from online to offline and across technology platforms.
This means you’ll need a robust POS system that is linked to your online offering, which should also make it easy for customers to make purchases.
A good POS system should make the purchasing process simple.
A few years ago, omnichannel retail company PayPorte found themselves stuck with a POS that was far from frictionless and with poor customer service to boot. They decided to work with ConnectPOS to end their POS nightmare, thanks to its robust functionality being perfect for their omnichannel business strategy.
The new system was user-friendly and allowed PayPorte to provide a seamless customer experience. Most importantly though, ConnectPOS’s customizable nature allowed for loyalty program integration with Miravist, ensuring both customers and employees could make use of the loyalty program across channels seamlessly.
What, you thought we’d just tell you how great these programs are without helping you get started?
This one may seem like a no-brainer but it’s still important to lay out how important it is to get your technological ducks in a row.
You’ll likely need things like point of sale integrations and in-store QR code scanning capability to make it easy for customers to sign up for and avail of your loyalty program.
As mentioned in the advantages above, a good omnichannel loyalty program will give you access to lots of first-party data. However, you will need a system in place to gather, clean and analyze all that data!
One way to do this is to integrate a customer data platform (CDP) into your tech stack. This will allow you to unify all the data you collect across channels to create a complete view of each customer, and therefore what’s working and what isn’t with your loyalty program.
Just because your omnichannel loyalty program is up and running doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on your laurels.
Using the data you’re gathering and by speaking to your customers, you can alter and tweak your program to ensure it’s running at maximum efficiency.
If you want to improve your loyalty program or any other part of your website, get in touch with one of our online business experts today.
Or if you’ve been inspired by ConnectPOS’s work with PayPorte, drop them a line for all your point of sale software needs.
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