From inflation to recession worries, 2022 has certainly kept marketers on their toes trying to keep up with the mood of consumers. The past few years taught us that we can’t predict the future. However, we can make educated guesses about the trends that are most likely to affect loyalty and customer relationship management (CRM).
Companies like Ford, Enterprise Holdings, United, Dunkin’, and Marriott continue to invest in loyalty programs to build, maintain, and most importantly, strengthen customer relationships that can weather any storm.
As we head into a new year, the team at the Lacek Group has identified five macro trends that are sure to impact loyalty and CRM in the new year:
1. Consumers will be laser-focused on value. Many indicators suggest that we may be looking at a tough couple of years ahead. Loyalty programs have a proven track record of helping brands succeed despite economic challenges. Brands with loyalty programs will need to lean into them and look for creative ways to keep customers engaged. As discretionary income shrinks, many customers may purchase less frequently, but if positioned correctly, loyalty programs are a great way to keep your customers returning by creating and rewarding engagement in-between transactions to keep the brand front of mind. Leverage both rational and emotional benefits. Consider ways to deliver recognition, surprise & delight, conveniences and connections.
2. Brands will delight consumers with phygital experiences. The phygital experience, in which elements of technology and reality coexist, offers opportunities to fold your customers closer to your brand. This concept will be essential for all loyalty programs of the future because consumers no longer differentiate between a brand’s physical store and digital presence, with 61% of online shoppers consider their smartphone “very important” to in-store shopping. They want to interact with brands in store, online, and in app based on their own preferences and convenience, and they expect a consistent experience and uninterrupted service at every touch point.
To maximize this opportunity, brands should integrate app capabilities in the store experience. If brands are already in the metaverse, they should consider integrating Web3 and loyalty strategies by making elevating experiences for identified customers based on the data you’ve collected, or rewarding customers with exclusive access to Web3 assets.
3. Consumers will keep demanding social responsibility. It’s no longer a question of whether brands should engage, it’s a question of how. Brand purpose should be aligned with social purpose and should be clearly communicated to consumers. Brands are expected to embrace social consciousness and take a stand, not necessarily on every issue, but where there are opportunities to address specific pain points for their business. This is particularly important for the Gen Z audience, who are influencing their Gen X parents and Boomer grandparents. Consumers in general are focused on diversity, equity and inclusion; climate change and sustainability; controversial political issues; and fair employee policies. Brands can integrate philanthropic activities into their loyalty programs, and partner with companies that share similar values to increase customer engagement and make a greater impact.
4. Employee engagement will yield results. After 47.8 million resignations in 2021, organizations faced an ultra-competitive labor market and a talent retention crisis. This is likely to continue into 2023, despite economic uncertainty. Now is the time for employers to approach employee loyalty with a new lens. Organizations should engage, nurture and reward employees like they do their best customers. Retaining high-performing, valued employees can result in measurable savings in recruitment and training costs. Motivate employees through the four drivers of loyalty: financial, emotional recognition and surprise & delight, social (community and charity) and structural (reasons to stay).
5. Data privacy will get real. With new regulations going into effect in 2023, data privacy will take on a new urgency. By 2023, modern privacy regulations will cover the personal data of 65% of the global population—up from just 10% in 2020. Brands that are prepared for the new privacy environment will have an opening to build emotional connections with consumers by following through on their privacy pledges. Brands should establish and track metrics for brand trust—analyzing customer reviews, feedback, net promoter score, referrals and social listening. Trusted brands have loyal customers.
As you prepare for 2023 and navigate the rapid change we’ve all come to expect, keep these insights in mind. Understanding these trends and their potential impacts could give your loyalty and CRM efforts a strategic advantage.