Magna Cum Loyalty

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How to graduate with honors to new levels of loyalty communications and testing

Who knew that social media would be sending marketers to graduate school? That’s what struck me when I saw a recent Facebook app so appealing in its simplicity and potential that I wish I’d thought of it myself. In the open classroom that is social media, we all have the opportunity to observe—and learn.

Citi recently unveiled the ThankYou Point-Sharing App that allows ThankYou Rewards members to pool their rewards points with their Face- book friends, and then redeem for group rewards. Members must link the Point-Sharing App to their personal Facebook page. They can then create a rewards goal (either for a group or an individual), invite others to join, and designate how many points to donate to that goal. Members can post public Facebook updates on goal progress.

In a move that is sure to be copied, Citi has created both a super-charged way to reach members and potential customers and a catalyst for learning about customer behavior. The app plugs into several social trends, each with a learning opportunity:

The medium is the message. Part of what’s going on here is platform testing. Citi recognizes the power of what COLLOQUY terms “the I-Network,” in which consumers decide who they connect with and when, what information they will accept and share, where they will engage, and how their relationships are managed. Testing various social media channels this way enables marketers to evaluate which plat- forms best give target customers the control they demand—while enabling marketers to observe, test and learn.

The cause is the catalyst. Citi’s initiative also reflects a shift from offering customers a traditional value proposition to serving up a “compelling cause.” Far meatier than cause marketing, this pooling option offers members a wide spectrum of team- work opportunities, and offers marketers a unique opportunity to learn more about what is important to their best customers. Which segments group together and which ignore the opportunity? Who turns toward altruism, pooling points to donate to needy causes? And which customers strive for big-screen TVs in time for the Super Bowl?

The enticement is the engagement.
Citi can also learn from who this program engages. Will it extend engagement with existing redeemers, shifting them to this new platform to redeem points for family-oriented rewards with extended relatives? Or will it entice primarily non- redeemers, attracting them for the first time through this first-of-its- kind channel? There’s one pre- diction that COLLOQUY knows is a pretty sure bet—the social media advocates COLLOQUY calls Word- of-Mouth Champions among the Citi faithful will surely be among the early adopters. This is a made- to-order chance to not only redeem for something intensely personal— but to also spread the word so friends and family may also benefit.

The demand may be the driver.
We must consider how a creative redemption option like this drives demand among rewards offerings. Citi is rolling out the Point-Sharing App with their fairly standard catalog of offerings. I wonder, will customers begin demanding more- creative and customizable rewards because they can achieve bigger aspirational rewards? This new pooling power could drive demand for more options along the lines of Citi’s Your Wish Fulfilled program, in which customers can request specific redemption options. For example, will they demand highly localized options—for, say, specialized camping equipment that the hometown Boy Scout troop wants to save for?

Citi shouldn’t be the only company working toward a graduate degree in meeting customers’ ever-growing expectations in the age of social media. Loyalty marketers can create similar learning and engagement opportunities by taking steps now:

1. Prepare for Consumer Power10 — in other words, what we term Consumer Power to the Power of 10. Evaluate what social media or tablet app opportunities let your customers have control while you test and learn.

2. Shift from “value proposition” to “compelling cause.” Think about how to entice customers to reveal more about what issues, causes and interests are most important to them.

3. Find ways to test householding options. How do consumers in today’s challenged “sandwich generation,” living with both children and parents, think about redemption? Do they find value in pooling points within the family, or with outside common- interest groups?

The classroom is open, and customers are waiting to write the curriculum. Listen to their lessons, respond with the innovative answers they seek—and show up to class every day—and you’ll graduate Magna Cum Loyalty.

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