Brand loyalty is the holy grail customer-facing companies strive for; the kind whereby customers come to perceive themselves being in a one-to-one relationship with the brand, and within a context that improves their lives.
For loyalty marketers, loyalty among customers equates to lifetime value and added amplitude, as brand fans share their experiences (via word of mouth and social media), literally growing your reach and reputation.
But there’s a rumour that brand loyalty is under threat, thanks to a low percentage of loyalty displayed by a particular demographic group of customers: Millennials.
Rather than debate the truth (or fallacy) of this rumour, I would rather address the topic from another angle. And state the case for why brands need to up their game to win over Millennials.
Consider some of the ways Millennials have turned the world on its head…
15 years ago, it was dangerous to speak to strangers. Today, Millennials happily hop into cars driven by strangers – aka Uber drivers - because it’s safe to do so. They also opt to sleep in strangers’ houses, thanks to another online marketplace Millennials frequent, called Airbnb!
15 years ago, people had to go to a library to gain knowledge. Today, Wikipedia is everyone’s go-to site for, well, everything.
15 years ago companies developed complex, rule-based loyalty and reward programs.
Today, it’s all about instant rewards.
Though the concept of instant rewards is not new; I mean, McDonald’s has been giving us toys with our Happy Meals for decades, there has never been a better time than now for your company to implement an instant rewards program.
Millennials came of age in a world that is hyper-connected 24/7; we call them the ‘plugged in’ generation, also ‘digital natives’.
What does this mean for loyalty marketers?
Never before has there been access to such a wealth of people data. If we are going to ever stand a chance of building true, lasting customer loyalty, we have to know what our customers really want.
Data access presents us with the unprecedented opportunity to learn what customers think and feel and desire. It enables us to establish trust and, over time, deeper relationships grounded in personalised loyalty.
But how do you gather this information?
Fear not; it doesn’t have to involve the gargantuan task of census proportions! With the right sample size, you can glean the information you need. Think Instagram polls or Google surveys.
But what’s the catch?
Accessibility is not unconditional for, with data, comes data protection. What this means, essentially, is that, first, we have to get permission to gather information.
This can be tricky because Millennials are savvy; they’re not willing to give up their personal information if they see no value in doing so. They want to know what’s in it for them.
That’s where instant rewards come into the picture.
Instant rewards and Millennials are made for each other. They would be, since we’re living in an age that demands – and gets – instant everything.
Instant rewards enable you to reward Millennials with a gift (of their choice) when they take a specific and desired action. These actions can range anywhere from giving an opinion on a specific topic, voting in a poll, offering suggestions, and responding to questions.
At a time when companies are still using monolithic, tier-based, slow-building loyalty programs, aiming for spontaneous loyalty should be your first point of departure.
In my opinion, it’s a more flexible, cost-effective and innovative way to engage Millennials.
So let’s unpack why this is so in three easy steps:
1. Instant rewards will help you overcome low commitment customers
When you ask for something from your customers, for many of them the cost of what you are asking for may simply be too high because they don’t see value in what they are getting back.
They think: “Why should I give you my email address if all you are going to do is spam me?”
Enter instant rewards, which provide a value proposition – anything from a gift card, to a voucher and even an appropriate experience. These can all help you overcome the barrier to information access.
Also, remember that almost everyone has been burnt (by spam overload) before. Not offering an instant reward of value is a surefire way to receive a blunt, “Nope. I’m not interested!”
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"
Sometimes trust is built up bit by bit. Instant rewards will help you deal with this segment of low commitment customers by rewarding them instantly for their actions. These customers will see more value in your immediate offer than they will in taking the time to fill out a form or giving you unconditional access to their information.
If you want to build a long-term relationship, there is no better starting place than this.
2. Instant rewards reduce the friction that naturally exists between taking action and doing nothing by leveraging instant gratification
It’s been proven that instant rewards contribute to building a strong and meaningful experience with a brand.
Often, a barrier to getting customers to act is not timing the outcome appropriately. An instant reward means that they don’t have to wait to see, and experience, the value you are offering.
Behaviour science shows us that the closer we are to receiving a reward for an action we perform, the more likely we are to perform that action.
Millennials are well aware of this. A ‘like’ on a picture posted ten minutes ago is more satisfying than receiving a ‘like’ from last week’s pic. Similarly, a gift received now will mean more than one that arrives by snail mail seven days later, when a person has already forgotten about the reward.
What’s the take out here? Customers who are rewarded immediately for an action are more likely to become engaged, and harbour positive sentiment for your brand.
3. Instant rewards provide more value to you than their cost
“Price is what you pay, value is what you get” - Warren Buffett
As humans, we are now deep into what has been termed ‘the giving economy’, whereby companies that succeed are the ones that are seen to be giving back to the communities in which they operate, the most.
Google essentially makes money by selling ads but their brand love is earned by giving us Gmail, Analytics, Drive and a whole suite of apps for free! Thanks Google. Yes, we do love you.
When you choose instant rewards, you are choosing to give more value to your customer than you’re getting… in the short term! Think of it as creating rewarding moments for your customers; ones they’ll remember, and even cherish.
When done right, customers will share their experience of your brand and refer their friends to you, too.
Best of all, instant rewards don’t have to be expensive, they must simply add value, provide information or solve a customer’s problem. What people enjoy, and even delight in, is being offered a little something special, like a free e-book.
What we’re talking about here is the experience, the reciprocity, the generosity, and the gesture.
Customer loyalty is not under threat due to the power and influence of Millennials. On the contrary, with instant rewards, it actually stands the chance to thrive.
Certainly, the access points to loyalty may have changed, but as human beings, we will always seek to belong to a community that appreciates our belonging, and that rewards our involvement.
Get rewards. Instantly.