All brands want to foster more loyal relationships with their consumers. But when it comes to investing in a loyalty program, many experience what can best be described as a fear of commitment. Their reasons are completely rational; it’s a big step, and the concerns marketers grapple with are strikingly similar to what many people feel in their personal relationships. They range from the classic “I need my freedom” (the long-term commitment could limit future marketing options) to the historical “I’ve been burned before” (they’ve been scarred by a past loyalty program experience) to the worry that “Things will get complicated” (operational considerations, cross-functional inputs and added pressure).
While these are all valid concerns, there are now more options for loyalty-cautious brands. With advancements in technology and new marketing platforms, it’s possible to create cost-efficient and highly effective short-term loyalty programs. Such technological advancements have also led to an evolution in the ways that loyalty mechanics can be applied to motivate a wider range of behaviors.
So, is the prospect of a no-commitment loyalty program making you a little loyalty curious? Before you answer, consider a few ways new technology and platforms are being leveraged to help brands create their own uniquely compelling short-term loyalty programs.
Optical character recognition (OCR)
OCR is the electronic conversion of images such as paper documents, emails and digital photos into machine-encoded text that is both editable and searchable. This technology is used for a variety of purposes, ranging from processing employee expense reports to mobile check deposits. For many B2C marketing programs, it’s simply referred to as receipt recognition and is used to validate consumer purchases for rebates, purchase premiums, sweepstakes and loyalty programs.
Mountain Dew’s “Dew Nation Rewards” is a good example of a brand taking advantage of receipt recognition technology to overcome logistical challenges. Because Mountain Dew is sold at a wide range of customer-controlled grocery, club and convenience stores, a POS integration solution was impossible, and many CPG brands opt against using on-pack unique codes because of operational complexity and cost. Instead, Mountain Dew is using receipt recognition to reward shoppers who upload their receipts from qualifying purchases to the program website with between 25 to 300 points, redeemable for Mountain Dew-branded merchandise.
Partnering with an established mobile app
The cost of investing in a mobile app makes absolutely no sense for a short-term loyalty program. However, partnering with an established app allows brands to leverage existing technology and jumpstarts program participation by tapping into the app’s existing user base.
Barilla’s “Fuel Your Fitness With Mikaela Shiffrin Challenge” is a great example of a brand partnering with an established app to create an engagement-based loyalty program. The one-month program partnered with the MyFitnessPal app, which reportedly has over 150 million users, and was built around activating their sponsorship with world champion skier and pasta lover Mikaela Shiffrin to drive awareness of Barilla ProteinPLUS pasta. To complete the challenge, participants had to log 20 meals over the course of the 30-day program, which helped reinforce the brand’s positioning that with consistency, practice truly does make perfect.
Social media platforms
Social channels present a range of opportunities for brands to build a program around established platforms and audiences. By integrating loyalty mechanics, brands can increase the stickiness of their social media campaigns and motivate strategic behavior to increase engagement, drive awareness and turn followers into advocates.
For the last three years, Erie Insurance has run an eight-week campaign called “Join the Shift,” a teen driving safety program that combines interactive activities, social media platforms and points-earning mechanics to help educate teens about safe driving habits and help spread the word amongst their friends. Participants earn points for various social media activities, such as sharing the program on Twitter and submitting safe driving videos featured on YouTube. The contest-based incentive awards both top-performing students and their schools.
With competition for share of mind—and share of wallet—growing fiercer by the day, strategically driven short-term loyalty programs are a powerful new tool for marketers to capture consumer attention and motivate action. So, take heart, loyalty-cautious brands. The rewards of creating more loyal relationships with your consumers now far outweigh the risks. At least in the short-term.