ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The coronavirus pandemic has changed people’s habits, as customers have learned to shop differently and are sticking to trusted stores and brands. That means loyalty is more important than ever. “What has happened over the last 50 years is that programs have become very good on the transactional side,” said Paula Thomas, host of Let’s Talk Loyalty podcast on this week’s episode of Convenience Matters, “Loyalty Matters. A Lot.”
“We’ve all gotten very good at having a good value exchange for brands that we frequent,” she said. But in this changing world, “what [customers] want to know [is] who to trust and how they can be more loyal to the brand, but they expect the brand to first be loyal to them.”
The consumer is defining loyalty now, rather than the brand. “What has happened is [because of the pandemic], there are fewer customers, so loyalty as a discipline has really been elevated within many companies,” Thomas said. “People do want that opportunity to connect.”
Thomas sees brands using gamification as a loyalty strategy to connect with customers who might not be shopping as frequently as before. “It reminds them who you are and what your brand is all about,” she said.
Other recent changes include the way rewards are handled. “Couponing is increasingly feeling very transactional to customers,” she said, adding that there “can be some fun created around coupons. Now it’s much more to do with the recognition side of things, like easier access to higher tiers and … [making] rewards more accessible.”
More loyalty programs, especially in the United Kingdom, are allowing users to donate to the charity of their choice, rather than one selected by the brand. For more on changes in customer loyalty, listen to the podcast here.
Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 200 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than 130,000 times by listeners around the world.