Insights from Loyalty Expo 2016: Social Media Loyalty No Longer Optional

Thom Kozik, Vice President of Loyalty at Marriott, showing off how Marriott uses Chirpify

I spent last week at the 9th annual Loyalty Expo in Florida, where loyalty marketers came together to share best practices, new trends, and lessons learned. It’s a great forum for sharing and learning and between the many keynotes and expo floor discussions, a major theme crystallized: Social Media Loyalty is no longer optional.

Nearly every session I attended, including the keynote from Ken Thewes the CMO of Regal Entertainment Group, highlighted social media loyalty as an initiative, making it clear over the course of the show that social media loyalty is no longer a nice to have, but rather a business imperative. For instance, Thom Kozik, Vice President of Loyalty at Marriott (Chirpify customer), gave a great breakout session that highlighted how…

“Consumer expectations around being rewarded for dollars spent has shifted. Today’s consumers recognize there is greater value in their time, attention, and their social media footprint, and expect to be rewarded accordingly for that.”

I also held a session along with Lindsay McCann, our customer from Columbia Sportswear, about A Social Media Remote Control For Loyalty. Our presentation slides are available for download here.

Brands & the Industry Have Decided

This position has evolved from both brands and the industry coming to a similar conclusion. The traditional cornerstones of loyalty programs cannot continue to succeed – much less thrive – without social media as an integral component. Consider:

Data – It’s always been important to know who your loyalty members are in order to treat them appropriately. For example, when booking a hotel room, a Platinum Premiere might proactively identify themselves, but when tweeting about their experience on the property, they may not do so. Yet, being able to identify when your Platinum Premieres engage over social media and reward them for that behavior serves to further several loyalty strategies.

Moreover, collecting information about these communications regardless of channel is imperative to ensuring success – from future marketing segmentation and outreach to encouraging social advocacy and rewarding members appropriately to their relationship with your program. Behind all of these strategies is the ability to link social IDs to your membership database. It is simply not optional if you want to ensure you have the needed data to drive all these activities across channels.

Customer experience – Loyalty program members have come to expect personalized customer experiences with tailored processes based on their interaction. However, customers increasingly want to engage with brands over social media. In fact, a recent report by Influencer and Adweek found that 76% of US female social media users interact digitally with brands several times a week.

The majority of these social interactions occur over a mobile device, which has translated into consumers demanding the utility of a social media remote control for loyalty. Lindsay McCann, Marketing Analyst for the Columbia Sportswear Loyalty Program, who I had the pleasure of presenting with at the conference, rightly noted that once a member connects their social account to the Columbia Sportswear Greater Rewards program, they have a social media remote control with the ability to convert future calls to action from anywhere – whether that be email, their website or elsewhere. Because the program knows who they are, the reward for using this remote control can be tailored to them, to the conversion activity, and more.

Customer Relationship Management – Building strong and engaging relationships with customers whose value increases over time is a key tenet of loyalty marketing. Yet, as more and more people move their relationships to social media they also expect brands to interact with them there – in meaningful ways, with decent response times.

Technology like the Chirpify Platform allows marketers to drive timely, meaningful 1:1 engagement at scale. For example, if ten thousand people at the Super Bowl tweet a photo and say that they want a seat upgrade, Chirpify can automatically tweet back to those 10,000 people who shared a photo thanking them and inviting them to opt in. This type of automation of the message simply can’t be achieved without technology that monitors for consumer interaction and applies rules to engage and respond with them. The benefit brands get in addition to continuing to build the customer relationship is countless organic impressions and implicit social proof from those members sharing their brand moments with their networks.

Omni-Channel Loyalty – When all these elements unite, loyalty members begin to see no difference in the level of personalization and experience regardless of the media used to engage with the brand. By bringing customers a consistent, expected and optimized experience across all channels, brands are able to meet and exceed customer demands for utility and ease of interacting with the brand. When you factor in the amount of time people spend honing their social personas, and the degree to which they rely on social outreach, it’s easy to see why social media has become a business imperative in the loyalty marketing equation.

The overarching take-away from this year’s Loyalty Expo was that social media loyalty is a business imperative. With seeming consensus by brands and across the industry, it is increasingly clear that social media is integral to reaching member loyalty goals. As this theme begins to crystalize, social media and customer loyalty disciplines will need to learn how to establish automation and processes to bolster the four cornerstones of customer loyalty. Please contact us today if you’d like to explore how Chirpify can help you establish a social media loyalty program with lasting competitive advantage.