Successful end-to-end customer loyalty programs check these 6 boxes

By: Max Kenkel
business person checking boxes from a list

You may already have an exciting SaaS solution from a loyalty technology provider. 

But to truly get the results you want, there are five other key loyalty program components you can’t afford to miss, like program strategy and design, program operations, creative services, award fulfillment, and program analytics and optimization. 

Outsourcing those five pieces to more partners or managing it yourself only adds administrative burden and complexity. 

Instead, an end-to-end loyalty partner gives you a single, trusted source to help reach customers at any point in their buying journey, strengthening the emotional connections customers have with your brand.  

Implementing an end-to-end solution ensures your loyalty programs evolve based on comprehensive data that helps you deliver a more compelling customer experience.

How do you assess whether your loyalty program vendor can fully deliver?

Check for a proven track record in these six elements of a successful end-to-end partner.

1. Program strategy and design rooted in research ✅

Gaps in your customer loyalty strategy can collapse your loyalty program. A strong loyalty partner will have a framework for understanding your brand goals and customer base, and proven methods to tailor a program to those insights. ITA Group uses a human-centered, proprietary approach that captures elements of: 

  • Empathy: Factors that drive behavior
  • Purpose: Signature elements aligned to brand goals
  • Impact: Desired business outcomes 
  • Context: Participant experience  

The partner you choose should be able to target customer segments with personalized motivators by leveraging quality customer data. This allows customers to build a stronger emotional connection with your brand, and it differentiates you from the competition. 

Related: Learn how a global media/technology corporation stepped up their game to motivate customers to action.

2. Configurable loyalty technology platform facilitates desired outcomes ✅

Technology platforms can make or break a customer loyalty program. At the bare minimum, a fully functional platform should allow for efficient promotions and effective reporting. But who wants the minimum? 

Ask your vendor about loyalty technology platform capabilities that drive customer results. 

  • Can your platform enable integrations and serve as a single source for all customer data and touchpoints? 
  • Does it use advanced tools, like AI and machine learning, to give you a leg up on industry competition? 
  • Is it flexible to run the kind of promotions and offers that your customers crave? 
  • Is it quick to configure or a manual nightmare?

A robust loyalty technology platform should enable: 

  • Loyalty management
    • Quickly create new promotions and offers targeted to specific customers
    • Manage earning and redemption methods
  • Segmentation and tiering 
    • Upload existing segmentations or create groups on the fly
    • Target people by geography, demographic data, etc. 
    • Intuitively manage simple and complex tier structures
  • Member profiling 
    • Append new customer data to records in real time
    • Collect first- and zero-party data from customers
  • Strategic communications 
    • Send messaging from within the platform 
    • Share seamlessly with your existing MarTech platform
    • Deploy a mix of digital and physical touch points
  • Awards and experiences 
    • Offer almost any award to any customer with ultimate flexibility
    • Pre-integrate with multiple award solutions for more choices
  • Reporting and measurement 
    • Manage budgets easier with built-in financial reporting
    • Convey at-a-glance program metrics in simple visuals

Related: Is your customer loyalty platform costing you customers? Learn the signs and how to upgrade your platform accordingly

Take Our Customer Experience Solution Assessment

3. Program operations remove administrative burden ✅

An end-to-end loyalty partner should make your job easier. So. Much. Easier. You’re still in charge of decision-making, but a strong partner can excel at the day-to-day nuances of managing a best-in-class program. 

Seek out a service provider than can help you collect, track and act on zero-party data; flag changes in customer sentiment; and address those changes with new promotions and offers tailored to the audience (or even down to the person). By outsourcing daily management to a trusted consultative partner, your team can invest more energy in high-level initiatives that drive your business.

4. Creative services personalize the customer experience ✅

In a perfect world, your brand is building customer loyalty with every point of contact. But in reality, digital saturation complicates efforts to stay in front of customers across channels. And increased competition makes retaining those loyal customers more challenging than ever. 

Look for a loyalty partner that can expand your team’s capacity to emotionally connect with audiences. That full-service support should start with overall messaging strategy and extend through execution, developing cross-media campaigns that encourage and sustain program participation.

Inundating your audience with promotional emails isn’t the best way to build trust—and it could get you blocked from their inbox for good. Breakthrough customer experiences that go beyond digital touchpoints can increase market share, ROI and customer loyalty.

These “surprise and delight” moments can be a proactive part of the customer’s onboarding journey or used in customer retention as a timely response to a service issue. Sending a creative, tangible gift (think: “We’re Sorry" and "Dinner’s on Us” packages) can recapture client’s accounts—and hearts. 

Related: Use breakthrough touchpoints to reach your customers at critical points in the journey.

5. Flexible award solution conveys customer appreciation ✅

Customers are searching for authentic brands they connect with. Brands that appreciate their business and share their values. An end-to-end loyalty partner should help you prove to customers your brand will meet their needs by offering a truly integrated and flexible award solution. 

You want a partner to tap into customer motivations to incent and reward behavior change. Program design should prioritize the customer experience and offer a seamless redemption process. Offer curated award options so customers can self-select what’s meaningful to them. Then sleep easy knowing that every time your customers use that cool award, they’re increasing their connection with your brand and positively reinforcing your desired loyalty outcomes.  

6. Real-time analytics and optimization offer insights into effectiveness ✅

The buyer’s journey is changing rapidly. You need real-time insights on your loyalty program performance to make informed decisions about budget allocation, future promotions and more. An end-to-end partner should offer both technological solutions and analytical expertise to continuously evolve your program. 

A well-aligned partner should have the skills to deliver data in a digestible format that allows your team to take timely action. Sometimes that's a good-looking dashboard. It could be a push report. Some situations might call for an ad hoc analysis or a series of promotion recaps. Ideally, that partner should also be able to act on behalf of you as an extension of your team.

Choosing a full-service customer loyalty program partner 

Is your organization outgrowing your current customer loyalty solution? Remember, there’s so much more to a successful customer loyalty program than most providers can offer.

A slick loyalty technology platform only checks one of the boxes. 

If your team has been feeling the burden of management, it’s likely because you’re missing: 

  1. Program strategy and design rooted in research ✅
  2. Operations support to remove administrative burden ✅
  3. Creative services that personalize the customer experience ✅
  4. A flexible award solution that conveys customer appreciation ✅
  5. Real-time analytics and optimization offer insights into effectiveness ✅

With all six elements and a solid collaborative relationship in place, your brand can begin to realize the benefits of end-to-end support. Read part one of our six-part series that explores each component more in depth.

Max Kenkel
Max Kenkel

As Customer Solutions Manager, Max leads our Customer Solutions line, ensuring all six components of a successful loyalty program deliver for our clients. With more than ten years of experience in strategy across customer, channel and employee loyalty programs, he’s seen a lot. You’ll often hear him talk about how important data is to brands. In his words, “It’s easy to make decisions on intuition, but it’s a lot easier to justify to shareholders when you can back it up with data.” Beyond his professional passions, Max plays bass in a pop punk band, visits as many national parks as he can and is an aspiring poet, publishing his first book in 2023.