Today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty celebrates Epsilon’s success as a Leader in The Forrester Wave (TM) Loyalty Technology Solutions for Q1 2023.
This is one of the industry’s most respected reports, designed to help marketers around the world assess loyalty technology providers.
To help share this success story, I’m joined today by two senior executives from Epsilon based in the UK.
In today’s conversation, we discuss key global challenges for loyalty professionals, including the all-important topic of measurability for loyalty investments, as well as the importance of managing expectations with internal stakeholders on what a loyalty program can deliver and when!
Listen also to hear details of your FINAL opportunity to enter our “Loyalty Lab competition” for the chance to win a complimentary workshop with Epsilon’s loyalty experts.
2) Dave Allen
Paula: 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 sponsored by Epsilon. Today I’m delighted to announce a unique opportunity for one lucky listener of Let’s Talk Loyalty to enjoy a complimentary workshop with the loyalty experts at Epsilon. One brand every month will have the chance for a unique, independent loyalty lab, a review of your loyalty program, where Epsilon will share their expert idea how to drive your program’s performance to a whole new level.
This workshop is a powerful way for you to measure and then increase the return on your investment in your loyalty program. So to apply, head over to letstalkloyalty.com/epsilon and enter your details.
Hello and welcome to this episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty featuring two senior executives from Epsilon based in the UK. Valerie Popeck is Epsilon’s Senior Director of Strategy and Insights for EMEA, and we’re also joined for this conversation by Dave Allen Epsilon’s Group Commercial Director for EMEA. I invited Val and Dave on the show today following their recent success being recognized as a leader in the Forrester Wave Loyalty Technology Solutions for Quarter 1 2023.
Perhaps the industry’s most respected report designed to help marketers assess loyalty technology providers. In today’s conversation, we discuss key global challenges for loyalty professionals, including the all important topic of measurability for loyalty investments, as well as the importance of managing expectations with internal stakeholders on what a loyalty program can deliver and when.
Finally, we also highlight the last opportunity for any loyalty program owner listening anywhere in the world who wants to enter our Loyalty Lab competition. One lucky brand will be chosen in May as the winner of a complimentary workshop with Epsilon’s loyalty experts.
So please do make sure you enter before the 10th of May. I’ve had really superb feedback from previous winners who found these loyalty workshops incredibly valuable. Now, please do enjoy my conversation with Valerie Popeck and Dave Allen from Epsilon EMEA.
So Dave and Val, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty.
David: Thank you very much.
Valerie: Excited to be here.
Paula: I am excited for today’s conversation because I know you guys are coming from both sides of what Epsilon does best, both from the technology side and the loyalty strategy side. So we’re gonna get a super interesting perspective in terms of what you guys are hearing and seeing and thinking about predominantly from a UK perspective.
So yes, before we get stuck into all of these fascinating topics that we’re gonna talk about, as you know, our audience always loves to know what our favorite loyalty programs are, particularly from experts in the industry. So, Val, first and foremost, they’re gonna come to you. Please tell me what is your favorite loyalty program?
Valerie: Sure. So, well I’m a part of a lot of loyalty programs in the UK, all of which I enjoy and appreciate. But I’m, I’m gonna go back a few years, to when I was traveling quite a bit and, I was part of the Starwood Preferred Guest Program, which has since you know, been rolled into Marriott. But at the time, again, I was traveling and I, I really felt recognized as a kind of a frequent traveler and I would, arrive at a set of hotels that I would, generally stay at.
And, you know, they, they recognized me. I started to get room upgrades and, I really felt kind of an emotional connection with, with the program and, it actually allowed me to build up points to be able to redeem for an amazing trip. I was able to go to Hawaii and use those points towards, really, really nice, places there.
Valerie: And so just overall, I had like a really strong connection with that program. So I, I, I, I really appreciated it. And I know it’s part of Marriott now, and I, and I know they’re, they’re an Epsilon client and, from just from talking with customers, I know that they still are carrying that through in terms of like a really personalized experience and just positive, feeling towards that program. So…
Valerie: That’s nice.
Paula: Wow. You know, Val, I often think there aren’t enough of the opportunities to share the redemption stories that you just shared. Because for me, when I actually do get that, you know, total proof that actually my loyalty has now been rewarded in a way that I will talk about for years to come, I honestly think that that’s just such an exceptional experience.
And we talk about it in, in theory all of the time as loyalty professionals, but I don’t think anyone’s come on and told me they’ve managed to get themselves to Hawaii, thanks to a brand like Starwood. So, so congrats on that. And I do, you know, really admire, you know, and so many people I think, really miss that Starwood program as well.
It’s a, it’s a shame we didn’t get a chance to ever interview them before it got rolled into Marriott, but, please God, we’ll have the, the Bonvoy program on the show at some point. So thank you for sharing that. And again, in a minute, we’ll, we’ll go through your incredible background actually, in terms of loyalty strategy. So it’s always good to hear what industry professionals are admiring as a, as personal program. So, so that’s amazing.
So, Dave, coming over to your side, I know you’re coming more from a technology perspective within Epsilon. But again, there’s there’s lots of things that, that as human beings we just love to admire. So tell me, what is your favorite loyalty program?
David: Yes. Thank you Paula. So I, I’m gonna go for the, Adidas, adiClub and, and there’s a, there’s a few reasons for that. So, firstly, I’m a massive advocate of looking at loyalty through the lens of, of personal relationships. And, I think if we’re thinking about like the, the five love languages, I think you’ve got, you know, a lot of programs sort of with the, you know, the, the, the points take care of that, you know, affirmation, you are, you know, you’re doing a good job, you’re going the right way until you get a gift. I think it also has those other aspects to it of the, you know, the touch, the tangible, engagement with the app experience.
You’ve got the time spent cause it gets you out. Doing your walks, you know, your steps. As well as the other things like, early access. I feel like it covers the, the breadth of those. Another reason I particularly like it is, the, I feel like there’s a good connection with the brand values cause it’s not just sort of, you know, added us as fast as fashion.
It’s, it’s going back to that, sporting element, you know, get out, running and, and doing these steps. I also feel like it’s, doing something good and I think programs where you’ve got something that’s, supportive of sustainability or, physical and mental health. I think, you know, it’s something that lots of people can get on bored with.
David: And then, and then, and then finally, would be because of my son. He’s a, he’s gonna be 16 this year. It was actually him who first showed it to me. And although, you know, it’s a, see a sample of one, I think it’s, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s see somebody I’m very close to. And it’s an emotional connection, which I think really is, is what it’s all about.
Paula: Yeah. Wow. Honestly, Dave, the amount of times that adiClub is being mentioned right now all around me, I mean, I’m, I’m guessing it’s all around you as well, obviously both at home and I’m guessing professionally as well. Would I be right in guessing that your son is not a member of a lot of loyalty programs outside of adiClub?
David: That is absolutely right. No, he’s not, a member of very many.
Paula: Yeah. Well, you know, even that alone, Dave, again, you know, this show was all about education and inspiration and you know, one thing I’ve heard coming through an awful lot of industry research is the disconnect, particularly with, you know, younger generations.
And whether we call them millennials or Gen Z or whatever, you know, there’s, there’s lots of different ways that loyalty programs can prove to be valuable, you know, for certain segments of society. Like maybe, you know, when Val was traveling frequently or if we’re spending a lot on grocery. But, as a 16 year old or about to be 16 year old, your son is now taking something, to heart by the sounds of it, building an emotional connection with something way beyond the product, connecting to his behavior, connecting to, you know, something like sustainability, which I’m guessing is something that again, appeals to, you know, him on a, a very emotional level, but it’s very hard for brands to ever deliver on that. But from what I’m hearing, adiClub is absolutely delivering properly on its sustainability proposition and people like your son are, are actually aware of that.
David: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think as well, the, taking it out when he goes running the, the being there with him, that, that time spent aspect I think is really important. And, and that, that’s why I quite like to go back to the, you know, the, the love languages team because I think it’s so easy for me to think, oh, you know, maybe I show him my love him bye and him and present and maybe it actually matters to him is, is spending time together.
And I think that particularly the younger generation, that long-term investment of, of, you know, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll get this thing further down the line when a lot of their like social interactions and brand interactions are, are driving, fueling this immediate satisfaction. Perhaps other things like, you know, rewarding other behaviors are more short term or spending time or, or other things are just, connecting better than, than the long term I’ll spend something in the future.
Paula: Absolutely. Yes. And I remember last time we met as well, Dave, I’m, I’m gonna guess it’s the same son who you mentioned is beginning to, to look at investing, for example, in the stock market with, you know, maybe pocket money or, you know, would it be fair to say that he’s starting to think about, I suppose, longer term behaviors that are likely to, to stay with him, for, for months and years to come?
David: Yeah, absolutely. He’s, he’s, he’s thinking about it. I do think there is still some conflict there.
David: So, so yeah, as you say, so he, he brought this, plans me, he’s like, right Dad, I’m gonna put a thousand pounds into this, in, into this investment with, with Vanguard. I’m gonna look at this, you know, how, how this projects in 20 years time.
I’m gonna look at this long, this long-term plan.And, and I said to him at the time, this is great. This is brilliant, but don’t, don’t look at it next week because
David: That’s not what you’re trying to. And he is like, nope, I’m completely committed to this. I know in this many years it’s gonna be between this amount and that amount.
And I know sometimes things happen and maybe, you know, the economy might have some issues. And he talked to my sister about it a little bit. He’s like, you know, I, I know it’ll be somewhere between there and here, but I’m gonna keep faith with it and I’m gonna put it in and I’m gonna put this money in every month.
A week later, he is downloaded the app. He said, dad, it’s 20 pound down. Do I pull it out now?
Paula: You know what, Dave? This sounds like so many, loyalty professionals that, really we, we struggle unfortunately to, you know, to always have, I suppose, that long-term commitment and bring our whole businesses along this journey of the importance of how long it takes, I suppose, to make loyalty really become, you know, part of the ethos I’m gonna say of a business.
And I know Val, you kind of referred to that as well when we met the last time. So maybe actually if you start Val by telling us your kind of career background and then the role you play in Epsilon, which is sharing these kind of insights. Because I know the audience is definitely feeling it, cause I definitely did when I was running program.
Valerie: Sure. Yeah. Thanks Paula. Yeah, so I have a long history in, loyalty strategy consulting, customer journeys, customer experience. So I’m obviously currently at Epsilon, been here about seven years, working with Epsilon, both in the US and, and now I’m based in the UK. And then before that, again, history of consulting related to loyalty.
I’ve worked at Dunnhumby before this, and then previous to that, Peppers & Rogers Group, focused on again, customer strategies. So, so yeah, kind of, worked with a lot of different type, types of companies across different industries, you know, different, global brands and really helped them with, developing their strategies around loyalty, whether it’s developing a brand new loyalty program or evolving and, and enhancing existing programs.
So I’ve, I’ve definitely worked with, lots of different companies and, yeah, this, this whole kind of long-term focus is really important, and really making loyalty part of the, the fabric of the organization and, and making it a, a real focus. So that it, it can be felt by customers kind of across every touchpoint.
And, and loyalty just becomes part of the organization. It’s not just something that’s, you know, a, a small project living in, in marketing, but it really has to be, embraced across, you know, different parts whether it’s sales, customer service, you know, again, all the, all the touch points so that it, it becomes, again, more of a part of the full customer experience.
Paula: I love that you used the word felt, Val, because to me that’s always something that I found it hard to articulate as a program owner, you know? But I was lucky enough to work on an amazing program, which I know still exists in the UK, the O2 Priority program.
So I was running that in the Irish market. But I always felt so proud that actually we were doing something that consumers and members really did feel, and, and again, what, what I was, you know, so excited about. And that’s what literally got me to, to, to stay with the loyalty industry because, the level of integrity around working for a brand that has that mindset is extremely rewarding.
And I guess over the years, that was about 15 years ago, which you believe at this stage, like over the years, what to me has happened is, what I’ve seen is there’s an awful lot of brands that perhaps there’s, you know, a number of individuals either, you know, within marketing, maybe on the leadership team, that have that depth of intention, integrity and, and really wanting to take care of the customer.
But then there’s often conflicting agendas, you know, from other parts of the business where they mightn’t have that. So I’m guessing because you are coming in from the strategy side on behalf of Epsilon, you have a big job of work to do to make sure that that whole business is fully aligned almost before you go to Dave and his team to say, you know, we’re gonna build something.
So, so what is that like, in, you know, 2023 as you know, I suppose economically the UK is probably struggling in lots of different ways, so budgets are under increasing pressure, again, both personally and professionally. Where would you say that the, industry is at in terms of its belief in loyalty as a, as a worthwhile investment?
Valerie: I would say that the, the belief is strong, but then again, there, there’s a lot around the, the expectation management and and you know, we do have a lot of, companies, like you said, you’ve got people that are understanding that it’s a long-term investment and and so on, but then you’ve got other people within the organization, like you said, it takes, a good amount of convincing as far as, you know, they’re looking for that short term. Kind of like what Dave was saying about his son. You know, they’re looking at, you know, more of like the short term or, you know, kind of reducing cost, but not necessarily looking at it as kind of this long-term in investment.
So, so yeah. We at Epsilon we have to work, work very closely with our clients to, from the outset to really understand the company’s objectives, to bring people on board. You know, there’s, there’s kind a whole cult, you know, cultural and organizational aspect about it. And, you know, making sure that there’s alignment across different parts of the organization and that there’s, you know, buy-in and, and people feel part of the, the process.
And, and we go through a process, at Epsilon call it our, our lead process, which, we take companies through say we’re developing a brand new loyalty program. Kind of a dis, discovery and understanding, you know, what their company culture is like, what the competition is doing, what, what the customers are saying.
You know, doing some customer research, kind of really understanding that, that lay of the land and making sure there’s clear objectives and then moving from the discovery phase into kind of the evaluation and the, and the planning and design phase, phases and, you know, more towards moving towards, launching the program.
But it, but it’s, it’s a real process to make sure that the, that all those elements are in place, you know, kind of the people, the process, the technology. The, the data, you know, being able to manage the data that, that will come out of the program. So there’s, there’s all these different elements and, and it is really important that, that it’s a cross-functional, initiative. And, and again, it’s not living in, in a, a, you know, a small part of marketing or, or you know, just with a few people. It really has to be embraced by the organization.
Paula: Totally. Yeah. And again, like I’m smiling here to myself Val, because when I was in that role, you know, having come in from a different discipline within marketing, which I really think is exactly what happens, a lot of people, you know what I always felt was you know, loyalty is quite a lonely business.
You know, if you are the, the, the, the sole kind of driver of particularly a program and if it’s seen as a program, again, rather than a, a company-wide initiative. So, you know, I only wish that I had access to, to someone like you guys. You know, at the time to kind of, first of all, bring that external, you know, many, many years of Triton tested expertise to kind of validate what you know, many of us, you know, again, well-intentioned marketers, believe is needed.
But sometimes you just need somebody who’s been there and done that to say, yeah. First of all, let’s not go anywhere until we do have that kind of consensus across the business. So, yeah. So that sounds like a, a big job of work on the services side before you get Dave and his colleagues involved in terms of, as you said, launching a program.
And I know in many cases you guys operate independently. Depending on what a client might need, as you said, maybe launching a new program, reviewing an existing program. And I guess, obviously Dave, from your perspective, where would you say you typically get involved with Epsilon clients?
David: So I, I, I actually think it’s really important for us to be involved together. Both from a technology and strategy perspective, as soon as possible, because I think depending on where you look, some places will say Epsilon’s a technology business. Some people, some places will say Epsilon is, is a loyalty business. But I think really what what we are is a, is a business that, is good at understanding and facilitating relationships. Like we’ve, we’ve bought and built tech as an enabler to do that.
Paula: Nice. Yeah.
David: But it’s, it’s re relationships with customers, but it’s also those internal relationships as well. So as Val said about, you know, expectation management. I think all, all expectations can be problematic and, and we want to get everybody, I think, into a room together and understand all of the stakeholders in the process.
Like, what’s everybody’s priorities and, and can we get everybody in the business forging an agreement about what the end goals are and, and, and how loyalty is going to help them achieve them. So that it doesn’t feel like a, a lonely place. And I, I think part of that is also understanding what’s, what’s really possible, like if this is a long-term thing that we are all on board with.
How does that grow over time? What, what else is possible from a technology perspective? What else is on the horizon? What are the current gaps? If, if, if it, you know, we, we look at the, the power of data for being able to personalize it or, or monetize it. What, what are the gaps in, in the the possibilities you’ve already got with existing data that sits in all these different places.
Let say, let alone what, what else you can be, you can be doing in two or three years time. I think if we’re part of those same conversations upfront, we’ve got everybody together and we understand what the lay of the land is now, and we all agree where we’re going, then things tend to be a lot better.
And that’s why I think we always try and have strategy and technology working together side by side, hand in glove to to get to where we all wanna get to together.
Paula: Got it. Yeah, and as you were saying that, I was thinking maybe the five love languages should be required reading before. Honestly, if anyone hasn’t read it, it’s an amazing book, and I think what it does is transform our understanding as human beings.
That, as you said earlier, Dave, you know how I show love. Or how I experience it. You know, receiving it can be two very different things and translating that from, you know, the personal, you know, version, maybe you should write the book, Dave, on how that works in the loyalty business. Cause there’s definitely parallels that I, I can, I can totally see being drawn.
But where did you come from previous to, to your Epsilon days, Dave? In terms of like, how did you get to this kind of role and this perspective in terms of your expertise?
David: So I, I started out in media and marketing about 15 years ago and, and then via, it’s Amazon to a business called ValueClick sort of looked a bit more of the technology side. ValueClick Beca was acquired by Conversant.
Which became Epsilon, which was acquired by Publicis. So there’s been a few changes throughout that time and, and lots of developments are part of it. But yeah, so my role’s changed quite a little bit over that, over that time.
Paula: Wow. Amazing brands. Amazon is always one that I’m particularly fascinated by. Was that, what was that like as an experience?
David: Yeah, it was a really interesting experience and, something that was very eye-opening I think in terms of understanding the, the, the power of data and the importance of understanding a customer to be able to personalize and, and, and deliver something of relevance.
Paula: Yeah. Yeah. I remember like when, when Amazon first emerged, I think we were all totally, I suppose shell shocked, you know, as consumers to kind of go, if you like this, you might like that. And the instant recognition of feeling seen, I think is something that Amazon totally nailed. And again, I know Val kind of already mentioned Peppers & Rogers as, as someone you worked for.
And I think they probably invented that concept of the whole kind of, you know, one-to-one marketing, the whole CRM industry. And I know they’re incredible kind of thought leaders. And again, that’s kind of informing, I guess, where we’re at now. And I suppose the other piece then, you know, given that kind of background, Dave, from your side, I often feel that, you know, what technology’s expectations are.
Again, to go back to, you know, programs that Epsilon is involved with. How do you see differences or similarities between the two main functions, I guess, that you guys are interfacing with on the, maybe the CTO versus the CMO? What are you hearing and seeing across those kind of different, sets of KPIs that clients have you know, again, early in 2023, what are you hearing?
David: Yeah. So, I actually had a very interesting conversation with her, a very nice, very small CMO not too long ago who, who actually sort of shared that a, a a lot of CMOs have been feeling a bit of pressure and, and have been sort of moving away from LinkedIn and they’ve got their own WhatsApp group set up and, sort of feeling a bit of a disconnect with some of the rest of the C-suite where, kind of going back to that long term versus, sort of the short term where perhaps other parts of the business look at things as a, as a snapshot.
You know, like you can see what your margin looks like for your product in an isolated moment in time. But if you are, if you are investing in your customers, similar to my son with his, his, his long-term Vanguard investment, right? It’s, it’s something that you don’t see how that materializes in, in the short term.
It’s a, it’s a, a long-term place. So when they’re going to board meetings and they’re being asked, what’s our ROI in the last three months? Or what’s our, what’s our CPA? It’s not, it’s not really the right question. And it, and, and it’s creating a bit of a bit of a problem for them of this, let’s say, this sort of short term, this where yeah, there’s this pressure on on immediacy of results.
Paula: And I think what it also does as well, Dave, is it also puts pressure on decision making around levels of investment in capabilities to take care of customers. Would that be fair to say?
David: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. One of the things actually that, when I, when I’d actually moved over from, from Amazon to sort of ValueClick, Conversant and Epsilon was the working in the media space at the time, the, the, the product that was, I think really exciting for me at the time was this personalization engine it was built on.
How do we really understand a customer and do these, the, you know, things that are, are relevant and are, and are, are creating this, value exchange in, in the, in the digital media space rather than just, you know, handing people and delivering impressions and retargeting with something they’ve already seen or bought.
And, and I thought, you know, this is, this is fantastic. This is brilliant. But one of the, the things that you see a lot in that space is pressure being put on, marketers to deliver quick short-term results instead of technology starts to optimize to the KPI rather than the, the, the goal.
And you, you start fixing the numbers instead of fixing the problem. And you know, we see people delivering impressions on somebody before they’re about to buy something. You know, re classic retargeting, someone’s really close to buying this, let’s drop an impression so we can claim attribution and it’s correlation rather than causation.
And, and, and it’s something that I, I think there are ways of, of doing things like pushing discounts, for example, to try and drive the numbers or enabling or facilitating breakage cause then you’ve got an immediate kickback of 10, 15%. But, If you believe in the principle of what you’re doing and the ROI that comes from it, then you know you are, you are invested in that rather than having this pressure to try and drive something short term.
Paula: Totally. And I will come to you, Val now and talk about causation correlation because I definitely, again, when I was running programs, I always felt so defensive, when these kind of conversations came up. So I do wanna, pick your brains, I suppose, in terms of how you manage that, for clients, you know, at various stages in their, their, their loyalty journey.
But also, actually, just to pick up finally on that one that you mentioned, Dave, in terms of the CMOs with their own WhatsApp group, what I really find also is there is, you know, this, you know, again, I suppose need to be connected with like-minded people. So it’s the first time I’ve heard anyone say that, you know, industry professionals are not necessarily getting what they need, for example, on LinkedIn.
But that’s something that I do think is becoming perhaps an issue. And I’m a huge fan of WhatsApp. We’ve talked about it on this show many times, and that’s both personally and professionally. So even here, for example, I’m a member of a WhatsApp group with the Marketing Society in the UAE, and it’s absolutely incredible to me the conversations professionally that are happening within a WhatsApp format.
So I think it really, emphasizes the need for, as a community that we continue to share, which is obviously what you guys are doing here today, and to do it in a way where, I mean, our learning is never gonna be done. So for me, you know, I’m, I’m love it when people do actually have a WhatsApp group that’s relevant.
So maybe there’s more need and opportunity to do that within the loyalty world. I know my co-host, Amanda does one down in South Africa. Which is again, extremely useful. So thanks for flagging that. It’s a big insight actually, that they’re feeling that and feeling the need to, to step into a place where they feel safer perhaps, to have private conversations and support each other.
And again, the community that listens to this show. We’re starting to do kind of live conversations that are never recorded, where we’re starting to say, let’s talk about the things that you can’t really talk about, either with your colleagues or you don’t know who to talk to. So, so thanks for that insight. So, Val, over to you. Again, on the idea of, you know, correlation doesn’t, mean causation. Always the biggest single problem I believe that loyalty professionals are, are feeling and experiencing, and you’re nodding your head there.
Tell me, how does Epsilon, think about, or let’s say even defend loyalty spend? Because it is significant, we know, the whole kind of, whether it’s the services or the tech or the rewards, there’s so many different areas of investment.
How do you tend to think about defending loyalty investment improving its ROI?
Valerie: Well, I, I think again, it goes back to thinking about it in the long term and ma and managing those expectations for the short term.
So, you know, it is a big investment. But I think, you know, over time and again, across different programs and just through our experiences, we’ve seen that, you know, time and time again tho those members that are engaged, that are redeeming, you know, that they are, they do, you know, spend more than than your non-members.
And, and yes, you know, the people that are more likely to become more me members are, you know, more likely your, your loyal customers. So, so there is a bit of, you know, that correlation there, but, but at the same time, I mean, having something in place that facilitates these connections, these relationships, and can maintain them on an ongoing basis.
I mean, we see time and time again. You know, we, we really do see increases in retention, increases in incremental spend. And, you know, we put in place different tests and different, measures, you know, pilots and to, to really try to see that incremental. Of course, you know, once a program rolls out, it’s hard to see you know, it’s hard to have a pilot because the program is, is out there.
But, but you can have, you know, tests within, within the program and, you know, continue, continue to test and learn over time. So that’s, that’s something that we at Epsilon, you know, talk about all the time. You know, you need to evolve the program and, and see what’s working, see what’s not working, and, and see what is driving the, the metrics and the, the measures that you’re looking for and, and not just the, the, you know, the sales and, and transactions, but also changes in, you know, NPS and, you know, customer sentiment and emotional connection and, you know, response and, and even, you know, engagement, their willingness to, you know, provide you with their opinions and help shape your, your products and your services.
And, you know, once you have, you know, really strong, loyalty member base, I mean, those, you can tap into those customers and, and they, they do, they want to, to be a part of your, your brand. They’re, they’re really, you know, when it is a, a strong program, there is that emotional connection and, you know, the, you can see tho those long-term benefits both through the, the financials and the numbers, but also through that, that sentiment and the advocacy and the, the willingness to, to participate and, and be, you know, advocates and, you know, ambassadors for your brand.
So, so I, I think just time and time again, we, we have seen the benefits of loyalty and they, they’ve proven themselves over time and, you know, companies do recognize that. And, and that’s why there is such a strong interest in, in loyalty right now.
I think it’s just managing that again, along with those, with those short-term expectations. But, but you know, but those companies that do get it and do see it as a long-term investment. They are seeing the, the benefits from it. I mean, you see companies, like some of the ones we work with, like Marriott, like Walgreens, you know, as, as well, some, you know, others that we don’t work with. But the, the they have, you know, these programs in place for a long time and, and there’s reasons for that because it is helping to drive their business.
Paula: Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s really refreshing to hear that they are accepting this idea of the, the softer benefits as well as the, the hardcore commercial ones, Val, because absolutely at the end of the day, you know, you know, I think in the past the business cases have been built on the upsell, the cross-sell, and the, you know, very traditional metrics, and that’s critical. But, the fact that we feel better about a brand like a Marriott Bonvoy or a Walgreens, like that’s absolutely exceptional.
And I think what I’m hearing as well from my side is you know that they do realize that the fact that you have permission from somebody to, to communicate with them, ideally, of course, in both directions, not just one way, but you know, where you can communicate with somebody probably on a mobile device.
In the palm of their hands, particularly with things like, you know, as Dave was referring to, things like, cookies are going to disappear, so we won’t even have the attribution, opportunities in the future that the retargeting industry loves so much. So to have that direct access to a consumer to have them willing and able and excited about receiving your communications.
Again, to go back to somebody like Dave’s son, for example, who’s obviously fully happy to communicate with adiClub because it’s something that he believes in, like that’s wonderful to hear that the industry is keeping up with that evaluation rather than just being single-minded. So yeah, it sounds like great progress all around.
Valerie: Definitely. Yeah. The, the, again, the companies that get it, they, they definitely see it as a, you know, an all-encompassing, you know, initiative or strategy across the organization and yeah so, so we definitely, definitely see that.
Paula: Amazing. Well, listen, the final topic I wanted to go through was, one of my favorites, from an Epsilon perspective, and that’s the idea of workshops and loyalty labs. And I suppose really getting access to experts like you guys to understand first and foremost, you know, what we’re trying to achieve. Whether it’s possible, whether it’s realistic. I know we talked last time that we met that, you know, some brands want a loyalty initiative, in a month’s time.
Some brands think about it for 10 years and there’s everything in between. So, so I do think that there’s lots of different ways to approach this, but from my side, again, I suppose everybody wants to have the access to, to people like you guys to, to give them a bit of perspective whether they are doing a good job, you know, and what is realistic.
So give us a sense, maybe Dave, I’ll come to you first. From a, a workshop perspective, is this something that you’re hearing that brands are, are getting value from or how are they thinking about, the idea of, of a loyalty lab?
David: Yep. Absolutely. I think they’re getting a lot of value from, from these a a as you said, you know, there are some businesses who they, they come to us and they’re like, right, we wanna go with loyalty in the next couple of months.
It’s like, okay, well should we think about it? Or, or some who are like, like you said, you know, there are lots of, I think, growing retailers who’ve been thinking about it for so long. But it’s, you know, how do you build that business case to move forward and get everybody on the same page? And I think for, from my perspective as well, it’s something that we, we really want to do too, because we wanna understand, you know, what, how, what is the brand really trying to achieve?
Who are the customers? What are the, the, the values here that, that, that are important? and how do we know that we can, we can support ’em as best as we can. I think when we, when we get invited to a, a technology RFP, for example, and we haven’t been in the conversation earlier. Straight away I think there’s a bit of a flag there, particularly where there are, you know, lots of other consultancies out there who might have preferred partnerships or we just, we just haven’t already had that conversation to understand what’s really important and is everybody on the same page with, with this.
So it gives us that really good opportunity to, to, to, to do that, to pull all, you know, all these people together who are part of this and, and create those, going back to what Val said lots of times about, you know, the, the issues with expectations and manage them. Avoid, avoid the pressure of expectations and get to the much nicer place of, of agreements of, of what people wanna achieve.
So from, from the ones that we’ve done so far, I think, well we’ve, we’ve had feedback, they’ve been very valuable, and have moved on to, program design that we feel really confident about. That it’s, you know, that it’s going you know, in the right direction for that business long term.
Paula: Amazing. Yeah. And as you both know, we’ve been running this initiative from a Let’s Talk Loyalty perspective as well for coming up on a year. And we’re literally actually coming to the end of it. So as we go to air with this recording and there is just under two weeks. If anybody is listening and does want an opportunity to apply for a loyalty lab with Epsilon, which is totally free of charge, a half day workshop, we are running this competition on letstalk loyalty.com/epsilon.
So this would give you the opportunity to work with the likes of Dave and Val to get some external expertise. So I definitely want to encourage everybody to sign up for that. So, so that’s all the real questions I had. I did want to do one final, I suppose, acknowledgement in terms of, you know, Epsilon got some incredible results with the Forrester Wave Loyalty Technology Solutions just here in Quarter 1 2023.
So, Val, I think from your perspective, you know, it is more of a technology of course, review, but I know services has also been rated, of course, in the Forrester, reports over the years. So tell us, is that something that, clients are aware of? Do they, you know, celebrate that success with Epsilon? Do they know, you know, how, how much you guys have achieved in terms of that ranking?
Valerie: I think they do. I mean, Forrester is really well recognized. So, and we’ve, you know, for many, many years we’ve been at the top of the Forrester wave again, both for technology, loyalty technology and, and for loyalty services, strategy and, and other services.
So, so yeah, I think clients do take, you know, do look at that and do recognize, our leadership in that area. And, you know, we have, you know, as we’ve been talking about extensive experience across both B2B and B2C. So I think also hearing some of the stories of, of the. The clients that we work with also, you know, it helps, you know, depending on what industry the the company’s coming from, they can kind of see some similarities in, in other clients that we’ve worked with. But, but Dave, did you wanna add anything on the, on the Forrester?
David: Yeah. I mean, I, I, I think one of the things that I’m particularly proud of with it, I think we, we always tend to, to sort of feature. At, at the top in terms of the, the technology capabilities, and obviously that’s, that’s really important.
But it’s the, the, the leading on loyalty strategy as well. Because of, I think that importance of the two of them working together. You know, if, if the, if the foundation of a successful long-term approach to loyalty is, well, let’s, let’s all get together and figure out where we’re going and, and make an agreement on it, then having technology and strategy work together from the start in understanding what that is, I think is, is really important. So I think that’s, that’s probably the, I think our, our biggest thing to, to point out from it.
Paula: Amazing. And exactly the reason that I wanted both of you on the conversation today so we could make sure we have this, you know, amazing conversation to, to bring it all together for the audience.
So that is all from my side guys, in terms of the questions I wanted to cover off today. Any other kind of final parting words of wisdom that you guys wanted to share before we wrap?
Valerie: I mean, I think, I think we’ve covered a lot, but, again, I would just, again, emphasize the loyalties for the long term. And, you know, there is a lot involved as far as data, people, process, technology, getting the different elements in place and, and keeping that, those eyes on, on the objectives and, and not getting distracted by kind of the, the short term.
But, but yeah, I mean, we’ve talked about that, and I, I think, companies that do take that view, you know, have, have a good way forward. So…
Paula: Amazing. Yes. And Dave, any final words?
David: I, I think for me, just always remembering the human element in, in everything that we do, whether it’s external for customers or internal for, for our colleagues. And, and, and focusing on making those agreements rather than projected expectations.
Paula: Very wise words indeed. So Dave Allen, Group Commercial Director, and Valerie Popeck, Senior Director of Strategy and Insights, both from Epsilon. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.
Valerie: Thank you.
David: Thank you.
Paula: This show was 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 is already certified over 500 executives in 38 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals.
For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com at loyaltyacademy.org.
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