Audio Transcript

Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas. And if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

 

This episode is brought to you by Collinson, worldwide leaders in loyalty. Creating and orchestrating loyalty initiatives and programs for some of the world’s biggest brands in travel, retail and financial services, doing it globally for over 30 years, want to know more? Go to collinsongroup.com.

 

Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk loyalty featuring the key insights from the biggest and best-known research report that’s produced every year for the global loyalty industry by the team in Bond Brand Loyalty. This year, the loyalty report will include insights captured from more than 39,000 consumers in 11 markets, including, of course, North America and Europe. And it features over 750 consumer brand programs in 50 industries. I’m joined today by Research Director, Alie Donnelley and Sean Claessen from Bond Brand Loyalty who share the initial insights that have just been published in the first post-pandemic version of the loyalty report, which is called “Pathways to growth”. From the importance of how brands are addressing societal issues through to the ongoing fundamental shift in consumers, expectations of the loyalty programs they engage with, today’s conversation highlights the important issues, ideas, and innovations that are proving essential to drive consumer loyalty in 2022 and beyond. 

 

Paula: So Alie and Sean from Bond Brand Loyalty. Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

 

Sean: Thanks for having us, Paula. 

 

Alie: Thanks for having us yeah. Excited to be here. 

 

Paula: Yes, it’s great. It’s great. I feel like you guys, you know, you do such incredible work. Uh, obviously we, we talked about the loyalty report on the show last year, we got a super response from our global audience. So we’re here to talk about exactly what you’ve learned, uh, 12 months on. Um, I think we all know it’s a time of dramatic change, uh, coming out, please God of the pandemic. So lots of insights coming through in your research report. So to kick us off, as you know, we have a, a fixed opening question just to, uh, to get inside the minds of you guys and understand what you like about the loyalty industry. So Alie, maybe I’ll start with you. Can I ask you, what is your personal favorite loyalty program? 

 

Alie: Awesome. Thank you. So, uh, I would, uh, I’d like to talk a little bit about Adidas and their new, uh, new revamped program, uh, adiClub. So, um, this one’s interesting for us kind of both on the research side, as well as for me personally. So, um, they kind of emerged as a new industry leader in our report last year. Uh, and, and that, uh, performance in that stature has continued this year as well. And so it really stands out as a, a loyalty brand. So one that provides loyal customer experiences that feel more reciprocal, more familiar, and more rewarding. Um, and so when you look at, um, their company strategy, you can see their customers are really built at the center of that strategy. So it’s no surprise that we see them really stand out, uh, amongst their peers as a brand that makes their customers feel like they are loyal to them that really provides that reciprocity and that reciprocal relationship and so my personal experience is what I notice is, you know, in first joining into the program, um, without ever having to have made a transaction, I’m able to engage in the program. I get access to free workouts, free plans, um, access to their community. And so I’m able to start engaging with the brand, um, really early on and their new, uh, recent program changes. I’m actually able to earn points, um, in the program by just completing my everyday workouts. And so I’m, I’m building up status and I’m, I’m building up towards unlocking, um, benefits, um, just by simply doing my workouts. And so that, to me feels really reciprocal. So they’re, they’re kind of showing loyalty to me before, you know, I’m showing any kind of transactional loyalty, um, back to them and so when someone’s engaging in that program, uh, regularly through these, through these types of kind of, um, more experiential benefits. Um, first of all, they get to know me a little bit better and so they can kind of build up and, and create a more personalized experience for me and create personalized offers directly to me and then of course, you know when I get to the time where I’m ready to buy new gear, Adidas is, is top of mind for me as, as a brand, that’s really shown that loyalty to me. So then, um, you know, I’m, I’m going outta my way to show that loyalty now back. 

 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a wonderful example Alie, and I always find it particularly amazing you know, when, you know, there are so many extraordinary brands in that particular category and yet consistently, and I remember talking about this last year, you know, Adidas has managed to absolutely nail a proposition. That people really feel part of. Um, they feel seen, which I know is a key topic of the, uh, the research report this year. And I, I haven’t realized actually what you’d said about, um, getting points and earning, uh, the currency, uh, for non-transactional behavior by doing your workout. So to me, that’s something that I, I tend to think as consultants or as loyalty practitioners, there’s a big opportunity in that space because what I think it says very clearly to me and clearly to you as a consumer, Alie is actually, you don’t have to buy stuff to be known by this brand to be, um, you know, respected by this brand and really to be appreciated. So, uh, a wonderful example there. 

 

Sean: Yeah, Paula, I mean, Alie and I spend a lot of time talking about the significance of this change, this change in orientation. Yeah. To loyalty because you know, the classic system is buy 10, get one free. That’s sort of the birth of the, of the category. Sure. And this is, you know, a bit of a, a turning of the tables to say you heard her language. The brand is kind of leaning forward early in the relationship. It doesn’t start on a transactional foot. Pardon? Pardon? The Adidas partner. And I think that that’s a bigger signal than, than even frankly, some of our data would stay. I think consumers are walking around with a lot of choice. I’m just gonna keep the puns rolling here. Yeah.  um, they’re walking around with a lot of choice and either point, you know, it’s, it’s probably. Impossible to make a bad sneaker these days. So if Nike’s got a program of some sort and Adidas has got a program of some sort and New Balance has got a program of some sort. There needs to be differentiation between these things. Yeah. And you can see the way Nike’s membership. Is structured. What began as Nike Plus and has, has been evolving versus the way Adidas has been evolving their construct and the relationship that they’re growing with customers are distinct. And I think that’s an important thing to us in a, in a world where you can flick on a. POS module and count number of transactions or dollars spent in order to give a discount of some sort real loyalty, mechanics and differentiated loyalty experiences. Are the pursuit just coming to parody with what your competitor is doing is I think a silly endeavor.

 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And I know you guys used the words in this, uh, Pathways To Growth Report that we’re gonna discuss, you know, about this idea of the sea of sameness. And again, it’s probably one of the reasons that I have this podcast is exactly because I want to be inspired. I want to find out what are the really important and powerful things that everyone listening to this show can learn from. So clearly AdiClub is one that is demonstrating that. And I think coming from, from a place of integrity. Um, so definitely when we get into talking about values and what you’ve learned in this year’s research, it’s definitely to me coming from that overall sense of, you know, what, what is this company doing to value its, its customers. And, so thank you for that. And I do think the point about differentiation is absolutely key as well, Sean, because there are so many ways that you can actually, as you said, build, you know, a program. I see it all of the time. You know, my competitor has a program, therefore I should. Well, actually, no, that’s not a very good reason to build a loyalty program. So yeah, we need to be looking for differentiation and ways to be loyal to the customer. So Sean, we haven’t yet heard from you in terms of what is your personal favorite loyalty program then? 

 

Sean: I mean, it’s hard to choose just one. And, and, and so that’s a little bit of friction around this question for me in the first place. And the second thing is, I’m not sure. Anybody’s knocking it outta the park. I think a lot of brands are doing a lot of really good things. Um, when Alie talks about Adidas, you know, we spend a lot of time in, in retail and obviously in financial services and some of the industries that have been very heavily loyalty invested Patagonia is a brand that, that constantly sticks out to me, uh, while they have, uh, some formalized version of a loyalty program. they also have embedded loyalty mechanics, and some of the fundamentals of, of maybe free it from the idea of a, of a formalized program. And just think about it as a loyalty to your customer, and then presumably some kind of reciprocal loyalty back from the customer. I think Patagonia. Does some very interesting things. I think if you’ve, um, seen lately, one of the moves that they made, uh, and this will sort of be corroborated by some of the data that all and crew investigated this year, you know, Patagonia is a brand who has always lived true to its values. It is always seemingly sacrificed. You know, some of the typical business metrics in favor of demonstrating a commitment to customers, to the ideals that those customers are subscribing to when they buy a garment, when they buy an item. And, uh, the recent one that caught our attention, uh, in some of the market intelligence that we gather is. Their decision to, uh, remove as many hang tags as possible off of garments. You know, they, oh, they tally up the amount of cardboard that technically happens when they tell you like, oh, it’s got this inside of it. And it’s, you know, it’s this price and here’s where it was made. Yeah. And what they replaced that with is the single hang tag that has a QR code on it. Oh, I think the genius of that. Yeah. Uh, there’s a, there’s a Taste Good. And a Good For You. The Good For You is obviously less cardboard. Yeah. Living true to their values. Yeah. The taste good is a lot more data. And understanding about where the interest is in store. You know, we’ve all gotten used to yeah. In an online capacity. I can see browse behaviors. I can understand where people convert or don’t convert to sale. I get all of that sort of natural feedback via clicks and taps and swipes and things like that. I don’t get that in the real world as a brand and here they are now, uh, let’s say Sean lifts up his phone and, uh, taps that QR. Only silver lining. I’ve managed to identify from the pandemic. We all got very used to scanning QR codes.  Totally . And so I can find out, you know, what is the sort of environmental nutrition label of this, of this garment? Where was it made? What is it made of? What were the conditions potentially of the workers putting that garment together? Yeah. Uh, how far was it shipped from where it was made to me? And what’s the carbon footprint of that. Potentially, what’s the price of this. And let’s say let’s use Alie and I, Alie is a new customer, I’m a longtime customer. Hypothetically. Maybe the price is different for each of us. Dynamic pricing is something that, you know, there’s lots of ethical questions about but it is something that we’ve gotten used to in the travel industry where loyalty has always played. True. It is something we’ve gotten used to with Uber, whether we like it or not, search pricing has become a thing. Yeah. And a lot of loyalty programs have often done kind of a members price and things like that. Well, Once you take all of that information and you put it behind a QR code, you’ve got a lot more latitude in the way that you recognize Alie as a potentially brand new customer. Sean is a long-time committed customer. Uh, you can prioritize some of the information a little bit differently for each one of us to personalize that experience. So I think there’s an embedded set of loyalty mechanics under something that looks like them living true to their values by getting rid of the cardboard. I think it’s. It’s a, uh, you know, two trees with one seed, so to speak. 

 

Paula: Lovely, lovely. Well, again, Sean, it, it speaks to the innovation when a brand like Patagonia, you know, does the thinking to go? Absolutely. You know, there’s so many labels and actually sometimes I’m just like going, I can’t even find my size because the six labels on, on a garment, you know, I can, I can’t find the basic information. So, so the QR code definitely, um, gives extraordinary potential and one I wasn’t aware of. So again, hopefully very inspiring to the people listening. Um, and I know in the Pathways To Growth Report, uh, Patagonia is quoted as ticking, a lot of the boxes in terms of what direction, the loyalty industry’s going. So, so let’s get into the actual report. Um, I guess first and foremost, it’s, it’s kind of, um, scale and I suppose how it’s actually conducted, I think Alie, you are the research lead for the report. So would you talk us through exactly, uh, the work that you’ve done?

 

Alie: Yeah, I’d love to. So, um, we, this is the most comprehensive and longest standing, um, report of its kind on a known customer engagement and loyalty. And so we’ve been conducting studies like this for over the past decade. I think we’re in our, for entering our 12th or 13th year right now. Yeah. Um, and so, we’ve explored this research across the globe. So in over 34 countries over the past, um, the past year. So, um, the data that we’ll focus on today will be primarily, um, north American data side. So I’ll talk a little bit about that methodology and, and the approach that we take to collect those, those insights. So we, uh, reach an audience of over 25,000 consumers in North America. And we, uh, ask these folks to indicate all of the little, two programs and rewards credit cards that they’re a member of. And for one of the programs that they are indicating that they’re a member of, and that they’ve actively engaged with in the past year, we ask them to do a deep dive evaluation of that program on over 50 key attributes that we track in the study. And so what we’re able to do with these results is we can take a look at, um, the performance of a particular program and benchmark that against key competitors, as well as even just best in-class performers that are performing well, even outside of category to service inspiration for, you know, what are the best brands and best programs doing out there in, in the market.

 

Paula: Wonderful wonderful. 

 

Sean: One, one of the things that I would add, um, you know, Alie and crew have unearthed in, in the last year or two, some other wonderful byproducts out of that data. So as she said, you know, Paula, if you were going through the study, you, you know, you would signal I’m in all of these programs. And, and we would sort of, you know, randomly pick one of those that you said you were active and you would go deep on that program. But one of the byproducts of signaling all of the programs that you’re in yeah. Is that we also get a sense of. Where else your consumer loyalty attitudes are being shaped. So you might answer about a particular credit card or hotel program or something that you’ve, you’ve said you’re active in, but we then also get a pretty good sense of. Your, uh, over likelihood or under likelihood to be in other kind of adjacent brand programs. And so some of those can be competitive, some of them could be potential collaborators from a partnership perspective. as to loyalty landscape networks itself a little bit. I think that there’s a lot of other wonderful things in the data sets that, uh, that all and crew sift through. Uh, as they baseline all across the world at different points in the year, and then, you know, boost some of those results with, uh, individual brands.

 

Paula: Absolutely. Yeah, no, makes perfect sense. And I always love to explore both the fast facts. So I’m going to just, uh, comment on, you know, some of my favorites just, uh, reading through today. I always find it incredible. Just, I suppose, the sheer volume of loyalty programs that North American consumers are members of. So 16.6 is the number in this year’s report and engaged in 7.6. And I guess I always feel. Slightly disappointed when I see the disparity between the two of those. So I don’t know, Sean, if you have any thoughts on that, I feel it’s quite stable, um, from your previous, um, research, if I’m correct, but how do you think we should be feeling about the fact that literally only half the programs we build are, you know, ones that our, our members say they’re engaged in.

 

Sean: Yeah, look, this is the plight of most types of marketing. Yeah. Um, understanding that you, uh, are living in kind of the most crowded, densely populated time in loyalty history. If there is such a thing , um, You know, that, that stability around about seven, somewhere between seven and eight programs are about the tolerance that people have to continue to engage in and to actually invest sort of their, their time and, and extracurricular effort in. Yeah, I think as more programs flood in, maybe back to the original comments that I made about POS terminals and lookalike programs and total clones, you know, if there isn’t differentiation in the program you are putting into market. You are, uh, I think on a path to end up on the wrong side of that seven or eight in the Delta. Of that 16 where customers say and hand raise. Yep. I want in and then they kind of quietly just don’t participate. And so I think pretty consistently through the pandemic, we saw a lot more programs look, every database on the planet, swirl. Um, over the course of the pandemic. Yeah. And some of it got formalized in loyalty programs, lots of new programs launched into the market, but I think what, what remains true and, and Alie’s 50 some odd attributes and the driver model that they have built to understand what actually means something to customers and to those brands is one of the ways to sift through all the noise of an industry that has kind of blossomed and exploded over the last number of years.

 

Paula: So given all of this incredible scale and all of these topics, and as we’ve said, um, only half of the programs are engaging, but clearly there are some that are doing wonderful work. What would you guys say, um, is coming through as the most important thing for loyalty marketers to be thinking about? And Alie I might ask you to, to kind of come back on that first, because you’ve picked up in the introduction on a number of important things that are, are good topics. Um, I think they’ve been, you know, rearing their heads there, I say it, through the pandemic, but seem to be firmly ensconced out as things that are critical in terms of driving this level of engagement with our, with our members. 

 

Alie: Yeah, absolutely. Um, and so what I would say is this report, this year, we focus on, um, three key things to kind of chart that growth path and to really help, um, marketers understand how they can differentiate and fight, you know, fight for that spot in the act of seven to eight programs. Um, and so the key things that we’re focusing on are one is understanding your customers and your audience. And so we’ve talked about, you know, the dramatic change that has happened over the past couple years. So this year, yeah. Um, we’ve taken a look at, you know, how have the needs and the expectations of consumers changed and, and what, uh, cohorts of customers are emerging now that have different expectations for loyalty and different, um, value sets of different, um, you know, attitudes and behaviors. Um, the second is, um, you know, we’ve talked a little bit about values already. So it’s really about wearing your company’s values in a way, um, that people can engage with. And then the third, I would say, and of course, we’ve touched on this as well is reciprocity. So there’s higher expectations now, um, that you as a brand will showcase loyalty to your customers. Um, you know, before expecting that loyalty back. 

 

Paula: Wonderful. Yeah, no. And I know you used the term as well, uh, both this year and last year about flipping the construct. So it is exactly this idea. And again, for every loyalty marketer listening, to me that’s definitely music to my ears. I think we’ve all grown up in our loyalty careers, you know, uh, to your point earlier, Sean, you know, expecting, you know, the customer to be loyal, um, to us first and foremost by 10, get one free. Exactly this, um, classic, simple approach. Um, but actually now to be able to demonstrate that first and foremost, I think it’s something that senior management teams need to be. Um, Dare I say, educated on, um, and all of us actually, because it is this idea that, uh, yeah, customers, you know, have so much choice, have so many opportunities. So definitely we want to start demonstrating that to them. And I love the piece about all of the, um, the ESG coming through, for example. So definitely there’s a lot of, um, strong movement around that. But again, I suppose, coming from a place of authenticity that came through to me very clearly in the report that, you know, there is no point starting with the marketing communications and reassuring people about anything, unless you’ve done the work all the way back through the business to make sure that you are living and breathing that. Um, so that, that certainly seems to be something that customers just don’t trust what we say anymore as brands. And I think we trained them not to. Unfortunately it’s been done badly and, you know, uh, unfortunately, that’s the, uh, slightly cynical world that we’re in, but I think customers are looking for evidence, I guess, of exactly what is this company doing to, uh, to behave in this way? And the one that did strike me and I’ll ask both of you, what you think on this one, actually, one of the key drivers of loyalty that, um, I suppose I hadn’t really thought about as much, but it was literally, um, how you treat your employees and treating them fairly, because I wouldn’t have, have expected that that’s something that most of us, you know, would prioritize. Cause, I think sometimes, you know, when I go shopping, I’m probably quite selfish or I’m goal oriented, for example, and I’m looking for a particular product or service, but, um, to be thinking through how that employee is dealing with me and my perception on how they’re being treated by that company, that to me was quite interesting as well. Um, and again, quite a new idea in terms of how loyal our members might feel. 

 

Sean: Yeah. Paula, for years, Alie and team have actually been. Kind of investigating the role of representatives from a brand in the relationship, you know, how is that human interface, uh, making me feel valued or giving me a sense, of recognition? I think the, the last couple of years more pointedly we’ve focused. We, we talk about this idea of loyalty on both sides of the counter, you know, is the human who I am interacting with. Do they feel, a sense of loyalty and fidelity to the brand that they’re representing because when they do, I think we see in the data that there is a much better experience that ensues there and therefore, uh, a greater chance and likelihood that there’s going to be loyalty built in the relationship with the customer on the other side of the counter. And so, yeah, in, in a, uh, two-year span where we saw supply chain upsets, both, you know, in goods, uh, as well as in human beings, you know, there just isn’t as many people on the front line of each of these brands who are able to give the level of service that maybe some customers remember pre-pandemic. I think the companies who have had sensitivity towards that, the companies who have, uh, gone out of their way to make sure that their employees know that they’re important, that the conditions they’re working under, whether they’re actually building garments in a factory capacity, or they are on the floor of that retailer’s, uh, store location. I think there is a cohort of customers who have, who definitely come forward and, and we can see that in some of this year’s data and said, look, all of this matters to me, you know, I want more for my money than just the exchange for goods and services. I want this feeling that says, yeah, I’m supporting a brand who is supporting other human beings. I am. Yeah. You know, wedding myself to somebody who’s committed to all sides of the counter. Uh, and I think that that’s demonstrating more and more importance in, in the loyalty.

 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah, no, and it’s funny, actually, Sean, you’ve reminded me, you know, as, as my, you know, small business starts to grow, you know, I am creating jobs actually now, and that is a, is a source of pride for me, you know, because we’re not just going out to, you know, build the business so that, you know, you know, Let’s Talk Loyalty, um, thrives. It’s actually there’s other people benefiting along the way, of course, everybody, all of our sponsors and our partners, but also the team now. So yeah, I think it’s interesting to have that opportunity to play in the world. And I, you know, of course, would’ve been, you know, very aware, let’s say of, you know, both sides of the counter when I’m at that moment of truth. As I, I think it’s often referred to, where, you know, I’m engaging with an employee, but I tend to with my, I suppose professional hat on be evaluating how well they’ve been trained, how well educated they are in the program. And I guess, you know, what’s in it for me, you know, are they convincing me about the benefits of the program as I would want if I was the loyalty marketer behind them. But what I’m hearing coming through again, in your research and report, it’s, you know, how happy does that employee perhaps seemed to be, you know, was there genuine belief? Is there genuine, like a pride in who they work for? So I think that’s a big insight, uh, coming through from you guys. 

 

Sean: Yeah, Alie. I mean, I’m sure you’ve got some, um, stats sort of tip of your tongue around this, but the degree to which these topics, you know, trust reciprocity, uh, and adherence to values, you know, none of them are mutually exclusive, right? If those values are coming through in the transparent trustful way that Alie gets a sense of the treatment of those employees who are working for that brand or working in that business, etc. That is doing more to sort of create connection between those two humans between each of those two humans and the brand that they’re sort of involved with. And I think, you know, now we have some of the data to put business case to that, to be able to substantiate it, to be able to, uh, count and quantify the impact that it has. 

 

Alie: I would say that the human-to-human interaction is so important in the reciprocity construct and in that topic as we talk about it. Um, so this year, so last year as Paula, you mentioned, we, we flipped a loyalty construct on its head on me, um, we, Introduce this, this construct of reciprocity. And this year we, we doubled down and we tried to understand that a little bit deeper. And so in that we asked 25,000 consumers, you know, what, what is it that brands are doing to make that you feel that they are loyal to you? And I think overwhelmingly we, we see these responses that are, are around. You know, treating me and see me as an individual person and not just a number. Um, and so when you think about that, like that completely resonates with me. I wanna be seen as a human, I have my own unique set of challenges and needs and wants. Um, and so to be seen as such, um, I think really, really allows brand so open up and show that loyalty to customers and the, and the, the ways that we see that coming to light and what drives our reciprocity. Or a couple of things. So one being, knowing me and understanding me. So having that like personalized element, uh, in the relationship and the second being, providing great customer service. Um, and so the example that comes top of mind for me is I saw this, um, last month floating, uh, around Twitter was an example of a, a customer talking about her experience with Chewy. Um, so Chewy is an online, uh, Pet store retailer. And so she talked about how she reached out to Chewy to, um, to return a bag of unopened dog food that she had for her dog, when her dog passed away, she wanted to return it. And so their response was, um, you know, we’ll give you a full refund. We encourage you to donate that, that bag of food to, um, you know, to dogs in need. And then. Um, the third was, she actually got a personalized note from that person that she talked to, uh, and a, and a flowers delivered to her house to, um, you know, to, to send their, their empathy and their, um, you know, share in that grief with her. And so, um, you know, that’s an, that’s an example that utilizes both of those things, right? Like really knowing and understanding your customers, showing that empathy, and then like backing that up with great customer service. To bring that away. 

 

Paula: Absolutely. And if Chewy are listening, please come and talk to Let’s Talk Loyalty because honestly it’s an exceptional organization. So thank you for mentioning that one. Alie, I also saw it on LinkedIn, which proves as a human being and as a pet parent, that I’m also like blown away by, you know, just that attention to detail because, you know, it’s, it’s always been something that was possible to do. It’s not dependent on technology or, or, or anything super complicated. It’s actually a very simple idea. And I think that’s exactly what we learn coming through these kind of things, simple works super well. And that is what drives that human connection. So a very good, uh, example Alie, and just while we’re on trust Alie, um, it was quite shocking to me, you know, the, the, the difference between what consumers, um, consider in terms of the trustworthiness of brands versus marketers. And what, you know, we, as loyalty professionals are, are believing, we’re communicating and I guess we genuinely are well-intentioned and trying to build trust, but share with us would you just for a moment, those statistics and how, how different they are. 

 

Alie: Yeah, for sure. So, uh, we asked a group of marketers, the extent to which they agree that, uh, their brand is trustworthy and found that 61% of marketers agreed with that, or, sorry, strongly agreed with that fact. And we found that when we asked that same question to consumers, you know, is this brand trustworthy? We found only 34% strongly agree. Um, so a clear divide, um, in that trustworthiness and that perception of trust. And I think that comes from. You know, the past, um, few years there has been a lot of distrust in, um, you know, in our, our day-to-day lives. There’s been a lot of misinformation that has been, um, brought to the forefront in our lives in the past couple years. So, um, you know, we see this coming through with brands and I think, um, you know, it’s really about the genuine, um, the genuineness. And so when we talk about values is, um, you know, it has to start with, with, from within your brand. Um, so. the genuineness of your value shining through will help to kind of bridge that, that trust gap that we’re seeing. Um, you know, we see a lot of things, um, in the market around like greenwashing and rainbow washing and things like that, that really do just erode that trust people aren’t really, um, buy into some of the messages that marketers are, are putting out there if it’s not backed by a genuine, um, strategy around those initiatives and around those values. 

 

Sean: One of, one of the things Paula, maybe that I would, um, Uh, shed a little additional light on, you know, as some of the companion investigation that we do, uh, alongside the loyalty report. We will do kind of like a CRM dissection or a customer experience tear down, or we’ll do something to get underneath, how did the brand do that? So Alie’s example of Chewy or the way in which a brand shows up with that humanity, that empathy, that demonstration of their values, we’re often investigating, you know, uh, kind of on the other side of the counter, how does that enablement happen? How are people, coming to a level of commitment with a brand or not, you know, there, there are success stories there, there, there fails for sure. And so I think when, when we think about brands, like, uh, like a Sephora living, true to a sense of belonging and, and like ultimate inclusivity and whatnot, you know, there are really great demonstrations of brands wearing those values on their sleeves. Really committing to building trust with customers. Yeah. by creating more and more transparency and that transparency might have some rub. To it, there may not, may not always be amazing and awesome. I think, um, I think about some of the work that brands like Sephora have done to bring some of those things forward and say, look on behalf of the whole industry of which we are one, but, but a significant one. You know, we gotta do a better job of making people feel welcome. We gotta do a better job of having them feel that sense of belonging that we are trying to strive for as a brand. And yeah, and I have a lot of empathy almost the other way around to these brands. You can’t snap your fingers overnight and be a, you know, carbon neutral, uh, yeah. Pick, pick the topic. There’s always a journey to get there. Yeah. And I think what we’re seeing outta the data unequivocally is that when brands get on that journey, when they do those transformations, when they do the hard work yeah. They can build that trust, uh, and earn that relationship, earn that loyalty with customers.

 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. It’s the right word, Sean. Absolutely earnest. So, you know, I guess, Sean, what would you say was the most surprising to you then with all of this incredible work, as you said that all and her team have spent, uh, months, um, you know, researching and then analyzing, um, I really definitely wanna touch on, you know, the, um, I suppose information pre-pandemic and just maybe to touch on exactly where are we given the tumultuous times that we’ve been through. So I might ask you to comment on that, but just in general, Sean, you know, you’re on the strategic side of things. Um, this is obviously opening up wonderful conversations for you with all of, you know, Bonds, uh, clients directly. So, so what struck you, I suppose, coming through this year? 

 

Sean: I mean, I think, um, there’s maybe an, an answer to this first question that’s related to, uh, to some of the stuff that you just mentioned. I think marketers, um, the, the thing that is both surprising. And maybe I’m most pleased by is the degree to which there is an openness to, uh, you know, turning over these stones and figuring out kind of a new way forward with their, with their loyalty efforts, you know, be them formalized or be them more sort of underpinned in the, in the customer experience. You know, I think that, uh, as we talk to brands, uh, as we, you know, because we are also program operators on behalf of several brands yeah. As we do the work, uh, around this, the thing that is, um, I think really encouraging is that, you know, we’re facing. A lot of uncertainty, Alie said, you know, trust is eroded because of a lot of things. So supply chain is disrupted. And so that adds doubt, uh, misinformation seems to be a foot and so that creates doubt. And so in every walk of life, It’s hard for that, not to spill over into your commercial relationship with a brand. And I think, you know, some of the work that, uh, I’m encouraged by that brands are doing is really headed into a climate that may have inflationary pressures. You know, brands are coming maybe back around or doubling back down on the idea that loyalty to customers and customers who remain loyal to us is probably going to be bedrock of getting through this portion, this post-pandemic. Yeah. Economic sort of headwind. Yeah. Holding on to customers, doing right by customers, growing the relationship with customers, as opposed to sinking wild amounts of money into blind acquisition or yeah, know semi targeted acquisition, but I would, I would still contend 50% of that money is likely way wasted. Yeah. And here with existing customers, there’s a lot more security and sureness around the ROI and the investment. You know, putting that attention and energy and, and dollars back into the hands of your customers in order to grow the relationship in order to go from a couple of visits a year to one more in order to have them expand what they depend on you for. And I think. Know, a lot of the climate while it’s, it’s still got tons of insecurity. Uh I’m uh, more and more secure with the idea that marketers are coming around to shifting some of those investments out of, you know, maybe more traditional forms of acquisition into these kinds of. Returns on returning customers.

 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah, no, I, I totally agree, Sean. And I’ve said many times on the show that loyalty is countercyclical. Um, and it’s at times like this when the world is going through such upheaval that I think we get increasing respect for loyalty programs. I mean, I think loyalty professionals, of course, we believe it in our, in our blood and in our bones. I think, you know, it’s at the core of most people in our industry, I really believe, but I do think what happens is, you know, at a more senior level, then it is recognized it’s much more visible. Um, so at the C-suite level, I think there is this recognition that as you said, acquisition is, is a very expensive game. And, and I know attribution has always a problem for every form of marketing. Um, but I’ve often said like, I couldn’t sleep at night. If I was the one putting, you know, billboards out on roadsides, because I dunno how you measure that. Like.

 

Sean: And, there’s a little bit of, um, you know, maybe this is a little inside baseball. Having every customer sort of identifiable means that there’s far less question about whether or not something quote-unquote worked. Totally. And I think the security around that as, as Alie was talking about the Delta. Between, you know, the impression of the marketer about how trusted their brand is, the impression of customers. We’re often in the seat where we’re delivering that sort of gap, that sort of bad news that says, Hey, you’re walking around with a big head about how much trust you’ve got out there. Sorry to break it to you. Yeah. Um, tho those gaps to me, you know, usually end up being legs. And so my encouragement for a lot of brands is to say, Don’t wait for the, don’t wait for the turn to begin adjusting in the direction of loyalty, iit is not gonna steer you wrong in the, in the path ahead. 

 

Paula: Exactly. Exactly. Over the long term, you know, honestly, you know, we just have to be in it for the long term. And then Sean, just on the, you know, the, the loyalty influence compared to pre-pandemic levels. I know there was a year-on-year decrease, um, in terms of advocacy, retention, and spend, um, and how they were impacted by loyalty, but back to pre-pandemic levels, I guess, So, to me, that feels reassuring. I do think again, we saw spikes, which were just because of the sheer disruption at the unknown. So was that what you were maybe expecting to come through? Would you say? 

 

Sean: Yeah. I mean, I think we knew, um, Alie is, you know, probably smirking at me. Um, we knew, uh, a couple of the results in the study and the baseline that we collected mid-pandemic were gonna be skewed, right. We had a lot of telco brands and a lot of gaming brands and a lot of, a lot of brands who normally wouldn’t make a top 10 list or a top five list or something like that. Purely because we were held up in our basements and living rooms and using those services at far greater rates. I think the restoration of the norm back to that pre-pandemic baseline is a very encouraging yeah. Um, moment. And I expect again, because of the climate, we may be heading into. That we’re just gonna, we’re just gonna see that continue to, uh, to increase over time. So yeah, the satisfaction, the retention, the advocacy pick the KPI, that’s sort of most de jure inside your individual brand. Yeah, I think, um, I expect, you know, if we were sitting here 12 months from now, we will see increases in, in many of those things.

 

Sean: And also, yes, I’m all feeling a little prediction there. Um, I’m also struck by the fact that, um, I think, you know, if your, if your question is about sort of pre-pandemic to now. I think another thing that is really interesting to us in this industry. Yeah. There were so many customers who were license plated for, for lack of a better description in, in other ways. So loyalty has long been the dominant form of hand raising. Here’s my email address, now you can contact me. I can be identifiable at a cash register. Over the pandemic. Almost no one bought anything anonymously with cash. Yeah. And so you have actually a greater sense of identification of customers, whether inside or adjacent to a loyalty program. And, the thing I’m encouraged by is all of the techniques that have been the mainstay of loyalty marketing inside program, outside program in CRM, etc. Those can now be applied. Much larger swaths of customer bases. Yes. And I think that that is, that is also something that I find encouraging going into the sort of year, year or more ahead is that marketers have now caught up. They got the data in good shape. They bought on tools that maybe they didn’t have before the tech has gotten cheaper over the years, the techniques have gotten more sort of understood and, and pervasive. And I think we’re gonna see a lot more loyalty marketing. Yeah, whether or not that’s inside a formal program or adjacent to it with customers who can now be identified and, and treated according.

 

Paula: Yes for sure. And I did see mentioned in this particular report that there is, um, I suppose a part 2 coming, talking about some of the big trends and the, you know, the big ideas and I guess the disruptors. So tell us a bit about that because that’s, what’s coming to mind as you talk about that, Sean, because you know, things like card linking and of course, NFTs and crypto they’re big topics that everybody’s kind of like keen to understand, I would say maybe experiment if you’re lucky enough to have the bandwidth. Um, but at least let’s prepare, So, so tell us a bit about what’s the plan on other reports that are coming through from you guys. 

 

Sean: Yeah. I mean, I think you’ll see some other perspectives that will just continue to call on some of the baseline data. Some of the boosted data, and some of the adjacent data sources that we bring to the study. Um, where we’ll unpack some of that. And I think I, the schizophrenia of some brands will experiment and some brands will probably go into a bit of an innovation trough. Is true. Okay. There’s, there’s still, I think a lot of brands, particularly in retail who are fighting for survival, if you were a public company who did really well over the pandemic because of circumstances. Well, now you’re chasing those comps. Yeah. Um, and I think some brands are going to double down in the direction of. Web three NFT and all of the sort of marketing science fiction that maybe surrounds some of that. Yeah. But some brands are gonna have to go back to basics and get the fundamentals down, make sure that they can deliver that great customer service on the other side of the counter, you know, the airline industry is suffering. Yeah. Uh, they don’t have enough people to even give basic service. And so we’re back to yeah. Buses with wings, um, not the level of service that we were, you know, acclimatized to or used to. And so I really do think that there will continue to be a divide post-pandemic on these new topics. And so some of hopefully what we can bring to, to folks is just some practicality around that separate out. What’s really useful from what. Yeah. Got a lot of noise around it. Yeah. Um, but I do think that it’s really gonna depend on the industry that you’re in and the health of your brand, you know, did you mortgage the future through the pandemic? Sure. Do you have the bandwidth or the, the dollars to spend on this? Not all brands are gonna be able to say yes, even if they’re innovative brands. 

 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah, no, absolutely. And I guess the final piece I wanted to just, um, you know, touch on and to obviously encourage everybody listening to download, uh, the Pathways To Growth Guide. Um, and it’s always my favorite part and I’m sure most of your clients and all the big brands in the US are, you know, looking to see if they made the top three. And I think their survey question is here, you know, Asking those, um, you know, tens of thousands of people that you researched, you know, what programs are they loyal to? I think I have to pick out, I’m gonna pick two favorites actually. Uh, one is Tims Rewards. Um, firstly of course it’s a Canadian company, so very impressive and a very new loyalty program. If I’m right. It’s only about. Maybe two years in market. Um, so that jumped out and congratulations, therefore, to, uh, to Tims Rewards. And then in retail fuel and convenience, I saw ExxonMobil actually, um, celebrating on LinkedIn as well this week that ExxonMobil Rewards, um, was coming through as a leader. So, yeah, I just wanted to see any others that you were particularly pleased to see coming through in those, uh, top three rankings in each vertical.

 

Sean: I’m sure Alie’s got some favorites. I, uh, I, I think it’s interesting. You pulled those two out. I mean, the, the quick-serve retail sector, in particular, has been very interesting. Yeah. Uh, for at least the last two or three years, they’ve almost leapfrogged, I would say from a loyalty perspective, a lot of, a lot of brands and a lot of programs. Yeah. And we have noticed a lot of activity in kind of the energy space as fuel retailers put more emphasis on the retail portion of their business, maybe the convenience side, uh, and whatnot, and, or are starting to think about, you know, the endeavor into electric vehicles and, and around the planet that maturity is a little bit different market to market. Um, but I think we’re seeing a lot of activity where they’re having to contend with something new there. So I think you’ll, you’ll continue to see in, in that, uh, Fuel retail category. I think some juggling over the next few years as brands separate themselves with different experiences in what’s otherwise been considered kind of a commodity industry. Alie, do you have any favorites that, that stand out to you? 

 

Alie: Well, we already talked about my favorite, so I’m not surprising to see that Adidas, um, at the time, and we fielded was the Creators Club Program, um, stands out actually as a breakaway leader, uh, within the apparel category. Um, so performs, uh, at least 5% higher than the, the next best, um, performer. So I would say obviously that one, uh, stands out to me as a favorite. 

 

Paula: Brilliant. Brilliant. Absolutely. So, um, as I said, that’s all the questions I think we’re coming up on time now. Um, first of all, where’s the best place, I guess it’s bondbrandloyalty.com. Is that the, the best place to go and download the Pathways To Growth Report?

 

Sean: Yeah, you can find it there. Um, there is, uh, different aspects of the site that will unearth those data points. Okay. People can go download that there. 

 

Paula: Okay, fantastic. And of course, there is, um, you know, much greater, uh, reporting available. Um, so I guess, depending on people listening, I mean, can you give us a sense if somebody does want to get the full loyalty report from you guys, what kind of price range does the full report come through?

 

Sean: Yeah. I mean, it ranges, um, on a couple of things, uh, region to region, uh, where we’ve got baseline, uh, as, as Alie mentioned, you know, a lot of different markets around the planet. Sure. Um, so there’s some, some timing and availability around some of that stuff. And then from a cost perspective, You know, the investment can be as modest as, uh, you know, $30,000 to get a sense of how you did where your program stands a little bit in relation to the rest of its sector and whatnot, but there are a lot of new tools that Alie and team have come up with over the last few years. I like to call them Strat-tactical, uh, tools.  there’re ways that you can kinda weaponize some of these insights and, and turn them into tactical components in, in your, uh, in your planning and whatnot. And so that might, that might take you up to something like $150,000. But they’re, you’re actually putting, uh, you’re putting tactics into the market and there’s a lot more intricacy to that. So, uh, feel free to reach out. We’re happy to walk people through the options and, and give you a sense of, uh, kind of the different use cases for some of this data. 

 

Paula: Yeah. Perfect, great stuff. So of course, we’ll be linking to the research report in the show notes. We’ll be linking to both of you as well. So do either of you have any kind of final parting words just before we sign off?

 

Alie: Uh, I’ll just say I’m really excited to, um, be launching, uh, the study in, in additional markets this year. So we’re ramping up in Europe right now and we’re expecting to be in market in Latin America and in the Asia Pacific later this year. So, uh, really look forward to kind of bringing new and more insights to, uh, to the market this year.

 

Paula: Super exciting. And Sean? 

 

Sean: I mean, I’m, uh, I’m pretty, excited about the year or two in front of us. And while that might sound strange given, you know, some of the other uncertainties that are, that are facing the commercial world, the world at large, I’m, I’m really encouraged, frankly, by some of what’s coming through in the data from consumers about what they care about. Yeah. Where they wanna spend their energy and, and their dollars. And I think, you know, brands are maybe listening a little harder than we’ve necessarily seen in years past. 

 

Paula: Yeah, I totally agree, Sean, and it’s wonderful that you’re giving them so much to, um, to fuel that curiosity and that interest in taking care of their customers. So I want to acknowledge all of the incredible work that both of you are doing, creating and promoting, and sharing all this wonderful knowledge. So with that said, Alie Donnelly Research Director, and Sean Claessen, EVP of Innovation and Chief Strategy Officer at Bond Brand Loyalty. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

 

Sean: Thanks, Paula. 

 

Alie: Thanks, Paula. 

 

This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer. The world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which has already certified over 245 executives in 27 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals. For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com and loyaltyacademy.org

 

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