TOP 10 PREDICTIONS FOR B2B LOYALTY PROGRAMS IN 2017
1. Augmented Reality Enhances Member Experience.
According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Augmented Reality (AR) allows for ‘a more productive conversation’. This is why the tech giant has labelled AR a ‘core technology’ and is pursuing a strategy of making AR-related acquisitions. AR enables customers to actively engage with goods and services; by moving a virtual IKEA sofa in their living room, by changing the Dulux colour of their wallpaper, or by virtually trying on the latest pair of Ray Ban sunglasses, a new tattoo or De Beers jewellery. AR will have real consequences for revamping loyalty program catalogues and drive a significant change with regards to the online and offline member experience.
2. Chatbots will drive engagement in loyalty programs.
Leading a revamp of member experience will be done with the help of interactive technologies. Chatbots will host enablement programs, advise channel partners how to claim loyalty points and answer all those frequently and not-so-frequently asked queries from program members. In real time, in real language, as if they are real. They will be endowed with a very precise memory of contact history and will take within program CRM to the next level. Chatbots use in-depth member knowledge and crunch data while they speak. They will form the first point of contact for many program members. And they do not need toilet or coffee breaks, allowing greatly improved customer service.
3. Cognitive computing lives up to its analytical promise.
Since IBM Watson landed its famous Jeopardy victory, it has been labelled a game changer. With parallel advancements in Big Data, social, cloud and mobile technologies, cognitive computing stands not only as the linchpin of a new technology eco-system, but also as a long-term commercial channel for companies like IBM, Google and HP. Cognitive computing will enter the loyalty program arena and enable companies to make better and more informed decisions based on predictive analytics. It will enable our clients to cater to the needs and demands of channel partners at an individual level with a responsiveness that has been unsurpassed.
4. Get Audio-visual with Podcasting, Live Streaming and Video.
While it has been around for years, podcasts have steadily been growing as an information channel. As with audio books and talk radio, there will be program members who prefer to learn about program content via the spoken word, especially when they are on the go. Along podcasts, brand thought leadership in the channel space will be driven by live streaming video. Both are effective information channels for product demonstrations, sales tutorials, Q&A sessions, business partner journeys and meet the Sales VP and behind-the-scenes clips.
5. Coalitions Between Brands Will Grow.
Coalition programs and strategic partnerships in channel marketing programs have grown exponentially in 2016 and will continue to be one of hot emerging trends for 2017. Coalition programs drive the return on program investment by jointly educating channel partners on the shared value propositions, new product offerings and co-selling strategies. Working closely together with vendors, channel partners will be better equipped to excite their customers. Strategic alliances are a very powerful way of building and maintaining channel relationships and create a port of entry into new markets.
6. The Return of Sales Incentives.
A very recent survey of vendors clearly demonstrates that over two-thirds of responding companies say that they plan to allocate their performance incentive budget to increasing share of channel partner. Channel reward programs are revisiting their roots, but they are finding that the game has changed. Rewarding for selling has reached new levels, as the name of the game now involves a focus on engagement through social, predictive analytics, gamification and targeting those channel partners that sell and learn.
7. The Mobile Member Experience will Top the Desk.
Channel programs need to be build and deployed across multiple platforms but with mobile at the forefront. Program members now do most of their searches and enquiries on mobile and has caused the rise of apps as major points of contact and entry. Mobile traffic will be growing exponentially and members are looking for a one-touch check-in and check-out. Program design will have to rapidly adapt to the new mobile reality and make the mobile experience effortless, seamless and engaging.
8. Data analytics will continue to rule.
Channel partner programs need to continue to capitalize on the capabilities of Big Data and explore behavioural segmentation that enables targeting with a strong bottom-line focus. Program campaigns and promotions need to be planned with such a focus in mind. A lot of the data is there and up for grabs, companies need to continue to explore the opportunities of data mining to obtain in-depth insights into the behavior of program participants, and use that information to segment audience to obtain a clear program ROI.
9. Social Loyalty and Social selling will replace social marketing.
Gradually channel programs are coming to the realization that we need to shift the focus on social media and integrate this into an overall Social Loyalty construct.. We need to start moving away from broadcasting generic content and creating brand and product awareness. These messages are increasingly being buried in the vast reservoirs of social media traffic. Instead vendors will work with channel partners to integrate social media as a central step in the selling process. By personalizing and customizing social content for program member engagement, by offering within channel point redemption and by engaging with prospects the connection of social will be more closely tied to bottom-line kpi’s.
10. Channel Programs will start to Embrace the IoT.
The Internet of Things has been in its initial hype cycle stage for far too long. With the new year around the corner, channel programs will start to experiment with leveraging the power of connected devices. This will take the use of Big Data and data analytics to a new level. Sales will be registered automatically, program point alerts will be generated through mobile logs and beacons and sensors will connect rewards with performance data. This will enable vendors to get closer to their channel partners and together they will coordinate and cooperate to get closer to the end-user.