After recently introducing loyalty veteran Jillian Dimoff to our team, we’re thrilled to announce the addition of another well-respected loyalty authority, Carlos Dunlap-Beard.
Carlos is a Marketing and Business Development Professional with more than 25 years of experience. His background includes consumer marketing, customer experience, public relations, and employee/channel incentive accomplishments in multiple industries.
He’s worked at loyalty companies such as Maritz Loyalty Marketing, Kobie Marketing, CrowdTwist, and Snipp Interactive. Most recently, Dunlap-Beard served as VP, Loyalty Solutions & Business Development at Snipp.
Carlos has a true passion for loyalty marketing and believes that it’s the key to future success for retailers.
We caught up with him last week to talk about his love of loyalty and why he’s excited about his new role as VP of Business Development at Clarus. Here are his thoughts.
Jim Tierney: Can you talk about what drew you to Clarus Commerce and your thoughts on the company’s outlook on premium loyalty?
Carlos Dunlap-Beard: What initially attracted me to Clarus is its refreshing take on loyalty marketing with a focus on premium loyalty programs.
It’s very much an untapped area in customer loyalty and engagement strategies because most brands that offer loyalty programs focus more on “me too” for all consumers and not substantial differentiation that captures the attention of their most valuable customers.
So, nets are cast too wide and all consumers are viewed the same.
What made me commit to Clarus is its leadership team. They have a vision for the future and they want to do it the right way. Richard Branson (Virgin) is known for saying if you look after your staff well, they will look after your customers. I believe that approach is part of the living culture of Clarus and a catalyst to its impressive growth.
The organization feels it and, in turn, transmits that positive energy and care to our clients.
Jim: Clarus Commerce specializes in premium loyalty. What are your thoughts on premium loyalty in the current marketplace and where it might be headed in the future?
Carlos: Premium loyalty is a wide-open field because 95 percent of loyalty programs are free and the same for all levels of customers.
Premium loyalty allows brands to provide a superior experience for customers who want more. More benefits. More rewards. More opportunities. More closeness with the brand. More overall value. With the current marketplace of ‘me too’ loyalty programs, premium loyalty is the required evolution and differentiation. Brands need it. Consumers crave it.
Jim: What do you think retailers are doing well connected to loyalty and where do the challenges lie?
Carlos: Over the past 10 years, retailers have gotten better at collecting customer information and even tracking individual transactions/baskets to specific consumers. This process provides retailers with a great deal of information.
Most retailers, however, have come up short as it relates to mining the data, segmenting customers, and providing unique experiences based on customer value and desires.
Most times, messages and offers are the same for all customers.
If you’re a frequent shopper and valuable customer, it can’t feel good when you receive generic, irrelevant communications from a brand you love and a brand you’ve allowed to track your purchases and other behaviors over the years. It’s time for retailers to do better. It’s time for all of us to do better.
Jim: Can you talk about the role of technology and the future of customer loyalty?
Carlos: Technology is the great enabler. It’s foundational to today and to a more connected future. The great thing about today’s IT is it allows us to do almost anything we want.
In addition to tracking transactions in-store and online, we can also track social behaviors such as: YouTube video views, referrals, location, product reviews, exercise activity, and much more, and all to the individual.
All through a common platform. This ability is foundational to the future of customer loyalty. The ability to truly understand customers, support their lifestyles, and provide them with access to their preferred brands. And from the consumers’ perspective, it must be easy, engaging and timely.
Jim: How can brands create emotional engagement that fosters brand loyalty?
Carlos: The key to creating emotional loyalty is through brand experiences and desired access (behind the scenes, sneak peaks, member-only events, etc.) However, the engagement must not be about the brand.
Ensure that the focus is from the customer’s point of view. How they perceive their experience with the brand is more important than how the brand believes it’s delivering the experience.
Another key to creating emotional engagement is for the brand to show interest and support the consumer in other endeavors that have nothing to do with their patronage of the brand. In fact, it’s also good for the brand to demonstrate its philanthropy in a sharing, but not boastful way.
Today’s consumers believe most corporations are rich enough and they want to see how those organizations make themselves part of their communities. How they engage with the greater world.
Jim: What are your goals as you begin your new position at Clarus Commerce?
Carlos: Wow! That’s a big question that can go off into so many directions. As a believer in having priorities, I’ll focus on things like: Taking the time to ensure I completely understand and absorb the Clarus culture because there has been a tremendous amount of successes that have occurred long before I arrived.
Selectively introducing the premium loyalty solution to the most appropriate brands who are ready to evolve into the next stage of customer loyalty and engagement.
Working with my teammates across Clarus to design and deliver measurable and financially positive premium loyalty solutions for our clients.
Making a meaningful difference within the organization and to our clients. I like winning.
Jim: How do you see a paid/premium tier co-existing with a free loyalty program?
Carlos: This question requires an “it depends” answer. Just as the question suggests, a premium tier can be added onto an existing program as an elite level of benefits, earnings, rewards, and overall experiences for the top 10-20 percent of a brand’s customers.
And as a subscriber to the 80/20 rule, providing a differentiated experience for elite customers is the right thing for most brands. Another benefit of the Clarus model is our ability to integrate with the existing “free” platform, as well as manage the communications, membership fees, and customer care for the premium tier–all at no cost to the brand.
Plus, the Premium Loyalty solutions deliver incremental top-line revenues and impressive net earnings for the clients we work with. Although it may sound too good to be true, it’s very real.