Picking the wrong loyalty partners can’t be as bad as it sounds, right? It’s a win-win-win situation after all: your customers get more vendors to frequent, your partners get more leads, and you get more sales. Reality is a little more complicated. Selecting loyalty partners is like picking a spouse: the wrong choice can do more harm than good. There are partners who join loyalty programmes purely as a way to drive leads. Hence, they don’t commit to the same level as other partners.
These partners are also likely to offer poor customer service at the point of sales, which destroys customers’ perception of your loyalty programme. Not only will this then have a downstream effect on the rest of your partners, but it will also tarnish your company’s reputation. Every party ends up losing. To prevent such mishaps, follow the steps outlined below when reaching out to partners for your loyalty programme.
A key selection criterion to consider is the category that your loyalty programme is targeting. This is important for two reasons. From the partners’ point of view, there’s no way a luxury brand will want to be associated with an everyday spend partner. From the customer’s perspective, it makes it easier for you to come up with a targeted go-to-market strategy and bring the right target audience on board. Once you’ve established your programme’s category, woo the key leaders in each of the verticals.
In the case of the Plus! Programme, we were very clear that we wanted to target the everyday spend consumers and help alleviate their cost of living. Hence, we went after the key leaders in each of the verticals, such as FairPrice, the largest grocery partner in Singapore, and food courts like Kopitiam.
It’s very important to paint a vision of the programme with your partners before they come on board. This helps to avoid situations where the one party ends up getting disappointed. Together with your partner, outline what success looks like for the organisations involved. How can this programem help to drive your partner’s KPIs? What is the duration of the partnership? Shouldering the same KPIs as your partners helps to foster a closer working relationship. This goes a long way in ensuring the success of your loyalty programme.
If you’re looking at a long-term partnership, a recommended time frame of three years would be good. This is because you likely won’t see your programme succeed within the first three to six months. Think of it as cultivating a habit. It takes time for your customers to have the habit of whipping out your card to earn loyalty points, which requires both public education and establishing brand awareness.
You might’ve heard the phrase “data is the new oil.” Your partners may have joined the race of collecting as much data as possible, without actually thinking about how they are going to use it! They may also become overprotective of this data due to consumer privacy concerns.
Ask your partners to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Propose ways to combine your data with theirs to drive business to your partner’s organisation. Of course, seek the customer’s consent as well. Tap on the data in a way that will also bring about the maximum possible benefit for the customer.
Till today, the concept of loyalty comes across as foreign to many organisations. Senior leaders often pay lip service to the benefits of such programmes. But when it comes to actually paying for it, they end up gawking at the costs. It therefore helps to have the buy-in at the senior management level.
A tip is to first find out people in the organisation who are likely to champion your cause, such as the Head of Marketing. Get in touch with them. Seek their assistance to raise the agenda to the higher-ups.
Also, network to find out who your possible allies are. While I avoid going to conferences because of the fear of getting bombarded with emails thereafter, private networking events, such as a dinner hosted by Tigerhall, can be very beneficial. Get the word out there of the existence of your loyalty programme.
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Head of Business - GoTo Group Loyalty | Former SVP, Head of Loyalty & Marketing
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