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What’s Next for the Loyalty Industry? Interview with Mark Johnson, Loyalty360

This interview is part of a series where we ask different thought leaders in the loyalty and retail space to get their perspectives on where we are, where things are headed, and what you should be thinking about next.

The purpose is to provide you with many different perspectives that can help you and your brand.

This episode features Mark Johnson, CEO & CMO of Loyalty360, a well-known trade association for customer loyalty.

Loyalty360 is known for its thought leadership in the loyalty space as well as its ability to bring brands and vendors together to help advance the entire industry.

Here are the top takeaways.

Get to Know Your Customers on a One-to-One Basis

Collecting data is obviously important, but how you use it is what matters.

There’s an implicit pact between your brand and your customers, especially members of your loyalty program.

They’re willing to provide you with valuable data about them, but they expect you to use it in ways that make their experience better and demonstrate you truly know them.

Take Advantage of the Direct Connection that Your Loyalty Program Provides

There has been a focus on deeper listening which is paramount.

One thing that is sometimes undervalued in loyalty programs from the brand side is the direct access to customers.

And they want to tell you what they’re thinking – Good and bad. Take it and run with it.

Talk Loyalty with Your Peers

Brands want to know what other brands are doing.

And this isn’t necessarily from a competitive perspective. Rather, non-competing brands can come together to discuss the industry, consumer behavior and expectations, and their loyalty efforts.

Loyalty360 has done a great job bringing all types of brands together at its expos and small-sided brand meetings.

Keep Your Loyalty Program Simple

How can you create more simplicity with your loyalty program?

In a world that keeps getting more complicated, sometimes people don’t join or engage in loyalty programs because they just don’t understand them.

Simplicity creates a better experience for your customers.

Be Fluid and Ready to Adapt to Change

You have to not only understand what your customers want but also how to adapt quickly to external changes.

During the pandemic, brands have had to deal with changing habits and regulations at what felt like a moment’s notice. Social distancing, new sanitizing protocols, and store closures forced brands to adapt quickly.

Now, things like contactless ordering and curbside pickup have become the norm what feels like overnight. You have to keep one step ahead of technology all while keeping your customers top of mind.

Be Ready for the Return to Retail Stores

As we hopefully return to some form of normalcy in the coming months, there’s a pent-up demand for consumers to get back out there and have that real-life engagement again. To see, feel and touch things.

We’ve had this huge push to digital, and many brands have adapted well, but what’s next?

As consumers return to stores, make sure you’re in good shape to meet their expectations. In-stock products, trained customer service representatives to answer questions, and clean spaces will help ensure you don’t get left behind.

Don’t View Loyalty as Just a Program

While it’s important to offer a loyalty program that your customers love, it’s only a piece of the loyalty puzzle.

Some brands think of loyalty as simply a tactic and not part of a larger strategy, but brands that are truly focused on their customers integrate loyalty into everything. It needs to be more than a programmatic approach, simply offering points and discounts.

From the overall mission to communication, loyalty is that holistic engagement with your customers from an entire brand perspective.

Think About a Brand Partnership

Brand partnerships are going to become more important, but how can you get one to work well?

Think about other non-competing brands that serve a similar customer base. For example, Sleep Number and Vitamin Shoppe both serve customers that are concerned about health. For people that work out regularly, getting proper sleep and nutrition are both important.

If your message can be integrated with that of another brand, in a manner that truly speaks to your customer base, you’ll be able to serve your best customers better than you could on your own.

You Don’t Have to Win Them All

The important thing to remember about improving your loyalty program over time is that you don’t have to hit a home run every time. What’s important is not to be afraid to take a swing.

Innovation is always important, but it’s been especially important over the past year when everything keeps changing. The worst thing to do when it comes to loyalty is “set it and forget it”.

So, try adding a new benefit to your program. Consider adding a premium tier. Get feedback from your members and use it to improve the experience. You might not win them all, but it’s critical to evolve and improve your program over time.

Your Customers are Changing, and You Have to Change with Them

If there’s one thing we took away from Mark, it’s that the only constant is change itself.

So, listen to your customers, act on their feedback, be willing to adapt quickly, and don’t be afraid to try something new in 2021.

Your customers will thank you for it.

If you’d like to learn more about loyalty, or simply want to run your ideas by one of our loyalty experts, feel free to chat with us anytime.

Paul Wolfer

Paul is our Senior Manager, B2B Marketing. He works closely with the leadership team on strategic positioning, messaging and branding. When he's not posting on LinkedIn or working on the newest data study, he can usually be found adventuring to breweries or attempting to learn a new song on his guitar.

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