Offline strikes back!

By Dr. David Cox

It seems that the 2018 obituary for offline communications and tactics in loyalty and channel incentives programs has been premature. Indeed, we have seen an increase in program sponsors allocating budgets to offline executions during the first eight months of 2018, signaling a retreat from the sole reliance on digital communications.

Until now, the popularity of digital communications was hardly surprising given the ease and low cost of email, eDM’s, video, social media, microsites, and so on. Yet it seems that abuse and overuse of these tools have created digital fatigue resulting in many program managers looking for an alternative medium to achieve communication cut-through that results in a measurable call to action.  

Offline tactics have therefore witnessed a resurgence, particularly when fused with digital tracking. Offline executions pointing to a website, or using a promo code have proven to be highly effective – thus seeming to avoid the digital fatigue syndrome.

Our top 5 most popular offline communication tactics in B2B loyalty programs over the past eight months have included:

Scratch Cards 

These popular 1990’s icons have returned with a vengeance in 2018. We have seen program sponsors issuing Scratch Cards to their field sales team to distribute to program participants as part of their sales call cycle, to reward for steps to the sale and new product launches.

The Printed Rewards Catalogue

Once consigned to the dustbin, this motivating showpiece has returned. The rewards catalogue in 2018 is smaller and less detailed due to the constant changing of reward items but has reignited spouse encouragement factors as well as having a longer shelf life around the desk of the program participant.

Mailed letters

Direct mail has also increased in 2018. Some companies have now started to mail certificates (as opposed to using digital or print- at-home versions), as well as quarterly progress statements and tier recognition progression items.

Networking events

Whilst these events have always been an important factor in channel programs, we have seen a concerted effort in 2018 to host more networking events inviting key program participants to mingle with program sponsors. Program sponsors have indicated that message delivery and retention via this format have been particularly effective.

Launch Kits

Launch kits containing a membership pack and membership card have also seen a resurgence in 2018. Whilst not as expansive as those deployed before the days of the internet, these abbreviated versions have created focus on the program and created additional buzz and excitement amongst program participants.

Whilst the use of offline executions has increased in 2018, it certainly does not spell the death for digital communications. Rather when used tactically and integrated with digital, offline is creating cut through in a very noisy market.