Top 10 B2B Loyalty Marketing Trends for 2019

By Ko de Ruyter and Debbie Keeling

1 Programs get hyper personal

Loyalty programs are getting serious about getting personal. An important strategy is the use of personas. Personas are semi-fictional representations of your members based on primary research (surveys, interviews and focus groups) and behavioural program data. There are several reasons why persona development for your loyalty programs is important. Well-crafted personas depict your members in a way that no other representation of user data can. They improve program comms enabling your team to ‘connect’ with members and operate more efficiently. They ease the process of making member-related decisions. They lead to program efficiency improvement and help design better rewards and finally they assist with bringing your members in focus.

2. Programs become intelligent

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Making the most of loyalty program data remains a pertinent challenge to many program managers. The question that will be on everybody’s mind is how to extract insights to assist with capacity building. A key challenge will be to enrich existing program data with richer (psychographic) data and explore the finer details of persona development. Fortunately, state-of-the-art, high end cognitive computing services, such as IBM Watson Personality Highlights can help your with the process of getting hyper personal in a very intelligent way. As a result, it will become increasingly possible to integrate your set of personas with your program tier structure, enabling you to make more effective targeting decisions and generate finer-grained returns on (intelligent) investment.

3. Unifying your member journey and experience

Loyalty programs are increasingly becoming omni-channels as our research shows that omni-channel members are more profitable than single-channel users. Members expect a consistent experience every time. Whether members access your program on their laptop, tablet or mobile they expect a unified and consistent journey. And when your members go physical (for instance during a recognition event), this needs to align with your digital presence and successful programs will need to offer a seamless experience throughout. This means a laser focus on your members’ journey, charting all moments of truth. This takes the notion of an omni-channel program to the next level. Through a unified member journey your members will get a sense of your brand with every encounter they have with your program. Why not engage in cross-platform storytelling to drive home the core values of your program and brand?

4. AI: no longer a pain in the bot


Understanding the loyalty marketing potential in chatbots, programs are starting to experiment with building bots on popular messaging apps, including Messenger, Viber, Kik, Telegram and others. The chatbot landscape is growing rapidly and the shift to assistive technologies (which also include in-home assistants) has a lot to do with the speed and direct correspondence customers have become used to due to social media platforms and messaging apps. In turn, customers can now contact programs directly and demand immediate responses that come with a white glove approach. Chatbots are now able to perform a concierge role, not only by answering complex questions or pointing out attractive incentives for point investment, but also by coaching and motivating members in their online learning journey.

5. Gamified online events


Recognition events are at the heart of B2B loyalty programs. They work, no doubt. But they are also time-consuming, demanding on the work-life balance and, no, they are not cheap. At the same time, new generations of members have been growing up, spending their teenage years playing online games. It is now time to sync with your millennial sales associates and re-sellers by organizing online events around games. Why not design a sales or recognition contest based on Fortnight or Call of Duty. Your members will be able to sharpen their selling skills, learn how to cope with competitive pressure and get recognized and rewarded individually or within their teams. Separate the farmers from the hunters in your own loyalty Hunger games!

6. Learning analytics are driving ROI

It has proved a challenge to provide a business case for many learning and enablement components in B2B loyalty programs. Part of the Big Issue is that most of the program learning that we offer is voluntary self-paced and self-directed. Often program members make less than ideal choices when it comes to selecting learning modules from a large smorgasbord of education. Learner’s need a roadmap, or even better, a satnav that guides them on their learning journey and suggests alternative routes. Learning analytics will feature as the cornerstone of intelligent enablement in the year to come. Using Automatic Interaction Detection modelling we are now able to track different enablement pathways to the (non-)achievement of targets in real-time. This will enable you to get a sense of your return on learning and design more effective certification trajectories among your inhouse sales teams and your re-sellers.

7. Raise your voice

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Assistive technology is all around us and in fact has been for a while on mobile phones and since then we have adopted Alexa (or Google Assistant or Siri) as part of our extended families. Voice has the potential to smooth out your member journeys. We know that typing our Netflix password on a remote control is a very annoying experience and Samsung’s 2018 TV line addresses this inconvenience with enhanced voice control. You may want to start thinking about adding voice to your program as it is predicted that 50% of searches will be done by voice by 2020. Here are a number of pressing reasons. Voice will affect the way program content is developed and it is well-positioned to redefine the customer experience.

For re-sellers with a lot of windshield time it will become important to take short learning modules in an Audible format, reviewing pain points en route to a customer’s site, without taking their hands of the wheel. Brands and programs will need to engage in voice branding. Will your brand and program be in the evoked set of voice-recommended brands? How will you handle voice-based data input and analysis? Will there be blind auditions for recruiting marketing voice talent?

8. The new STP: Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning

Since the last 100 years, Marketing has relied on three letters, STP or segmentation, targeting, and positioning, to seek out new opportunities in the marketplace, but with the advances in technology and regulation, customer data brings different opportunities and challenges. Therefore, there is an emerging complementary imperative for loyalty program managers to consider how this new STP can drive competitive advantage. In other words, programs are recommended to explore and provide insights into how security, transparency, and privacy strategies can be used to create compelling member experiences while driving ROI. For example, re-engaging your members by enticing them to re-opt in offers an opportunity to re-affirm the terms of endearment and bring your program benefits to the fore.

9. Go-to Mobile-first

The mobile-first program is rapidly becoming a reality. This is not surprising as over half of all customer interactions are based on mobile devices and Google has announced that it will be prioritizing mobile-optimized websites in its search results.

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As more re-sellers and their clients are using mobile devices to conduct business, having a mobile-first program offers convenience and ease-of-use, helps increase program engagement, decrease attrition and complacency rates and make communication and enablement content more readily available.

Here’s a couple of pointers that are useful when you decide to make mobile-first your go-to.

  1. Use HTML frameworks that are based on a grid-based content structure with columns and rows for designing app interfaces. Let the member experience be leading on every major design decision.

  2. Fulfil and optimize the need for speed. KISS your navigation by Keeping it Simple Stupid! And, growth hack and implement a continuous improvement cycle.

10. Conversion Rate Optimisation will be core

Many B2B programs suffer from program zombies, i.e., members who are not engaged, who do not redeem and who do not learn and participate and react to promotional content. An increasingly important challenge is to mobilize these zombies by converting them into active and engaged members again. Conversion Rate Optimization strategies help you boost your program ROI and increase revenue. There are several ways in which you can do this. Improve your reward catalogue by offering compelling and detailed descriptions, using video-streaming that show the so-called ‘value-in-use’ (i.e., so that members ‘see’ themselves enjoying the hard and soft benefits of your incentives).

Also, make sure the call-to-action (e.g., by introducing a "spoil-me-spending" button) is easy to locate. Behind the scenes use heatmaps to analyze users' interaction with your program site in order to maximize member experience. Make it easy for members to redeem points, offer suggestions, reviews and bring back memories of past experiences. Increase your average redeem value proposition by streamlining your flow to reduce member inertia and improve engagement. Offer a variety of redeem options (e.g., ‘points and pay’). In short, create buzz that will keep members coming back.