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Loyalty as we know it is dead: Forrester analyst

NEW YORK ? An analyst at Forrester's Forum for Customer Experience Professionals East stressed that in the age of the consumer, relationships determine success, as they are the last remaining source of competitive advantage.

The ?always on? connectivity of customers means they have become empowered with control, voice and demand, as the unification of physical and digital allows for immediate price and offering comparisons. Because loyalty is mission critical, businesses must seek an evolved approach by means of loyalty programs to impact customer behavior.

?Your customers have fewer reasons to be loyal than ever before and are really less loyal than they?ve ever been before,? said Emily Collins, analyst at Forrester Research.

?This is because empowered customers are now in control. They want control over the interactions they have with brands. They have a voice that?s loud and far reaching and they have heightened expectations for the way companies interact with and serve them.?

The state of loyalty today
The explosive growth in connectivity and devices means customers have an all access pass to more information than they?ve ever had before at their fingertips.

During the Leverage Loyalty Beyond The Program segment, Forrester cited that over 50 percent of U.S. adult are now considered always accessible as they are accessing the Internet multiple times per day on multiple devices.

On average, customers are enrolled in 8 loyalty programs, making the number one challenge for marketers ensuring member awareness. Extending beyond the goal of winning wallets, marketers can model their culture after companies with cult loyalty that create brand experience and a strong influence on customers such as Apple, Mini Cooper and Harley Davidson, as their products have become lifestyle measurements.

Marketers should find out why their customers are loyal, map their journeys and be realistic about expectations in their approach.

Success starts with intelligence
Understanding sharpens execution ? data should be turned into insights which answer questions such as ?what are my customers? expectations? What will motivate them and make them feel more valued??

Loyalty transforms the experience that is able to be delivered. These strategies humanize a brand and help marketers create a cycle of customer engagement that yields interaction data when customers interact across channels and authenticate themselves within those channels. This supports the creation of customer insights that lead to increased customer engagement.

Sephora?s mobile app for example bridges the online to offline gap as its seamless in-app experience encompasses customer loyalty, ecommerce, online community presence and demos.

Users build their own beauty profile from which Sephora can deliver relevant recommendations based on features such as skin type or eye color. The app provides a multichannel shopping experience via digestible media content and the option to create a favorites list among others. Sephora?s omnichannel shopping experience makes it easier for customers to be customers.

Luxury hotel brand Starwood also shines on mobile. When accessing the homepage, guests are served information based on where they are in the stay cycle. An on-call personal ambassador is also available to top-tier guests, as the hotelier excels in anticipating customer needs and identifying and supporting brand advocates to capitalize on nontransactional engagements.

Loyalty matters more and more in the age of the consumer for deeper relationships and a means of guiding customer interactions. Collecting and analyzing customer data is a critical foundation for success as insights ignite brand versus customer marketing as unified by loyalty efforts.

?Companies that have an elevated loyalty strategy are able to know, recognize and be relevant to their customers wherever they choose to interact across the organization and not just within marketing,? Ms. Collins said.

?If you are the loyalty leader you will grow twice as fast as your market.?

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York