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Your company is beginning to realize that employing a loyalty program is important. But what are the best steps to take towards getting it all started? Take a peek into the world of loyalty marketing, and let those who have experience (us) be your guide to successfully launching your new loyalty program!

Your company has made the big decision to start a customer loyalty program. But where do you even begin? Reviewing today’s technology options, selecting the right solution for your customer marketing needs and establishing the framework to gain a green light from the C-level is a good place to start.

Building loyal customer relationships take more than just hardware and software. Yet every successful program needs a technology solution at its core. That’s why finding the right one for your company is critical to ensuring your program can deliver on promises to the C-levels and your customers.

The Industry Is Undergoing a Transformation

To pick an appropriate technology solution, it’s important to first understand how the loyalty and customer relationship marketing industry has evolved in recent years, including developments like these:

  • More multi-tender loyalty programs
  • Retailers demanding more from point-of-sale (POS) systems
  • An increasingly complex database needs causing more retailers to forgo in-house solutions
  • Retailers’ desire to access customer data once available only to credit-card processors

Options Are Growing

The industry evolution has fuelled the growth of technology solutions. Today, you have more choices than ever — which means you don’t have to settle for an old-fashioned platform that can’t meet today’s more stringent demands.

Platform structures and capabilities continue to expand, with exciting new ways for collecting, storing, analysing, manipulating and acting on customer data. Two key advancements:

  • Platform developers have been virtually forced to include more flexible points management platforms with deeper, broader functionality
  • A new kind of specialty niche vendor has emerged, offering a deep but narrow focus on loyalty program functions, such as robust offer management and reward fulfilment

The bottom line: Today, unlike just a few years ago, you should be able to find exactly the right technology solution to meet your program’s specific needs without a great deal of compromise. And that’s great news for loyalty marketers.

Select a Loyalty Solution

As loyalty platform options have grown, so has the challenge of finding the most appropriate one for your company’s needs. The choices today can be downright overwhelming. Following these four essential steps will help you get organized, narrow down the prospect list and zero in on the right solution for your business.

1. Develop detailed business requirements

Buying a loyalty solution before knowing how it will be used is a bit like buying a water heater and then building your home around it. Consider both current infrastructure needs and probable future needs.

2. Research vendors

At this point, you should be able to evaluate how different vendors compare to each other. And you should be able to map your needs against the available functionality to weigh the impact of any gaps. Review industry studies, like those from Forrester, and ask for recommendations from business partners and vendors.

3. Connect with vendors

Send an RFI to a short list of providers. Then pare those responses down to a group of finalists. Have each complete a detailed RFP that includes addressing your carefully crafted business requirements and providing an on-site demonstration.

4. Consider outside help

Purchasing a loyalty database solution is a high-stakes game. You’re likely investing a large amount of money and time in this decision, so consider working with a consultant who can help you sort out the options. CCG, for instance, has hands-on experience with a variety of retailers and loyalty technology solutions, plus evaluation tools.

Get the Green Light from the Powers that Be

Once you’ve identified a preferred loyalty solution, it’s time to get approval to move forward. To do that, you’ll need a solid plan with a compelling argument for your loyalty program.

Remember, your program is competing for funds against every other financial need corporation-wide. So go on the offensive, making sure everyone knows why your loyalty program is a must-have for corporate success, enabling you to launch it off the ground.

Here are some steps to take:

  • Make a personal effort to get C-level execs aligned with your program.
  • Ensure you have clearly defined and measurable business objectives for your program, including financial and strategic goals and expectations.
  • Be prepared to outline your program’s short- and long-term benefits and risks.
  • Spell out an understandable, singular vision for why your loyalty initiatives matter and what they can achieve.

If you previously created a business case to get the okay for your loyalty program, pull it out now, go over it again and make sure it provides a guideline to reinforce to stakeholders why they want to buy in, as well as data to support why they should lend their backing.

Once you get that green light, you’re ready to move forward and start designing the details of a loyalty program that will build long-term customer retention, devotion, and profitability!

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