I am one of those annoying product managers.
Just ask anyone in my personal life. Every conversation is an excuse to conduct an impromptu user interview that will help me in my day job. My victims, typically friends and family, don’t even know it’s happening anymore. We’ll be catching up on what the kids are up to or getting the sound bites on the new job.
Before they know it, I am collecting intimate details of their last online purchase.
What inspired them to make the purchase? What kind of research did they do? Where were they when they decided to buy said item? How did they feel after they bought it?
The list goes on.
Occasionally, I get caught. A friend will say, “Are you using me as a lab rat again?” (Oops.) But, the risk of irritating my loved ones is well worth it.
During the work week, I’m constantly using data to make decisions about premium loyalty products. I reference these conversations frequently because they serve as an important reminder of who is behind those numbers: Human beings.
What Drives the Data?
Human beings have needs, desires, and complex emotions. Those emotions are what ultimately drive purchasing decisions, including what they buy and the brands they buy from.
In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, there are hundreds of “emotional motivators” that drive the decisions consumers make. For example, these desires might include protecting the environment or wanting to stand out.
Understanding these emotions is key to designing a loyalty program that not only delivers real value to its members, but also one that fosters lasting customer relationships.
Premium loyalty programs give brands an advantage in developing those emotional connections.
Here’s everything you need to know about premium loyalty at a high level.
Reveal Your Admirers
Today’s consumers are savvy and conduct diligent research.
While consumers are cost conscious, price is not the only driver of purchase decisions. They choose to buy products from brands based on various factors. These can include style or aesthetics, brand values and mission, recommendations from family and friends, and celebrities and influencers associated with that brand.
Consumers often buy from brands because the products are woven into their respective identities when they go out into the world.
When you have a customer that has enough love and passion for your brand that they are willing to pay to receive more value, they are identifying themselves as the customer you want to understand better. And it might not be based only on their transactional history with your brand.
See what makes customers willing to pay for loyalty program membership.
These are the customers that are talking about you to their friends. They’re regularly following your social channels and supporting your causes. They’re willing to pay higher prices for your products and unwilling to accept substitutes to your brand.
These are the customers you need to know deeply.
Identifying who they are is the hard part, but a premium loyalty program eliminates the cycles of analysis involved in defining and identifying your brand loyalists. It simply allows them to reveal themselves to you.
Now comes the fun part – getting to know them.
Get to Know Them, For Real
I am certainly not a pioneer in pointing out the importance of data to understanding and serving your customers, but where do you start?
There is so much to know and consumers’ time is limited. It’s a challenge just to figure out what to ask your customers that will result in the most impactful insights. Premium loyalty customers represent a rich source of data. Their enrollment in your program is a signal to you that they want you to know who they are and what motivates them.
They understand that by allowing you to know them, you will be able to offer and recommend products that match their style, offer experiences and advice that is personalized to their needs, and yes, offer deals and rewards that will empower them to buy even more from you.
Figure out your loyalty program benefits mix in 3 steps.
Use this opportunity and willingness from your customer to go deeper than just understanding transactional behavior and get at those emotional motivators. Understand the why behind those transactions.
What triggered that last purchase? Why has your customer chosen your brand to represent them? What is it about your brand that they love above and beyond your competitors? Most importantly, how does your brand make them feel?
Consider Brandless, a company whose mission is to distribute better quality products through a transparent and cost-effective distribution process.
With its premium loyalty program, not only do you get free shipping every time you shop, but you also feed two meals to a person in need.
That’s a brand that understands its customers’ emotional motivators and found a way to go beyond the transactional value of its program. The more orders a Brandless loyalty customer makes, the more good they do in the world. That just feels good. Everyone wins.
And everyone winning is what premium loyalty is all about.
Find out how other retailers are rethinking loyalty programs.
Love Them Back
Traditional loyalty programs make customers wait (and buy more) to earn rewards that can be used on future purchases. This is a lost opportunity.
Imagine this scenario for a second.
A customer has just had a positive enough experience with your brand that when asked to enroll in your loyalty program at the register, they say yes! Your store associate enrolls them in the program and encourages them to keep shopping with you to eventually take advantage of the benefits offered in the program.
So, in a traditional loyalty program, declaring your loyalty doesn’t net you any immediate rewards. They only arrive at some point in the future as long as you keep buying and proving your loyalty.
Conversely, the moment when a customer is connected enough to your brand to sign up for your program is precisely when you should be showing your appreciation back.
With a premium loyalty program, you are empowered to do just that by delivering true value immediately. Now the customer walks away from their experience feeling special and emotionally connected.
Premium loyalty programs also make it possible for brands to think beyond rewarding transactional behavior and invest in benefits that are more personal and relevant in a consumer’s life.
Once you know what emotions are motivating your most loyal customers to shop your brand, take the opportunity to brainstorm how you might grow that brand love even more by tapping into these emotions.
The answers don’t have to include cutting-edge technologies. If your brand caters to consumers with busy lifestyles who are stretched for time, you may consider a dedicated customer service line or concierge benefit that provides expedited or specialized service.
Giving your customer confidence that you’ll quickly resolve any issues they experience with you not only makes them feel special. It also appeals to the emotion of stress that results from a pile-on of time-consuming and inconvenient tasks.
Build Emotional Connections with Premium Loyalty Program Members
Premium loyalty allows you to appeal to the human/emotional side of your customers.
The beauty of a premium loyalty program is when a consumer enrolls, he or she is raising their hand and telling your brand that they want to have a personalized, ongoing relationship. And they are willing to pay for that upfront to receive those incredible and relevant benefits immediately.
By appealing to the emotional reasons why your customers love your brand, you’ll do a better job of retaining customers. Emotional connections are harder to break than transactional ones (think about relationships in your real life).
In today’s world, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of customer data and forget about the people behind that critical information.
Learning who they are and how they feel is critical to your success.