Loyalty is not just about the data

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT DEL” comes out in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

Are the right people in the room when you talk about building loyalty?

After speaking at the 2012 Colloquy Loyalty Summit in California, I found myself wondering if brands aren’t shortchanging themselves on their loyalty programs, and where they reside within the organization. The majority of the attendees have titles that are slanted towards the CRM (Customer Relationship Management), data, and analytics divisions of a company.

Loyalty is not just about the data that one collects.

In fact, I would argue that loyalty isn’t even about the relevant programs that a brand puts out based on the data that they have collected. Why is loyalty so closely linked to data and, in many instances, so distanced from the greater marketing good? Rewards and redemption aren’t the be all and end all of loyalty anymore.

Bryan Pearson is President and CEO of Loyalty One (the company that owns Colloquy) and the author of the bestselling business book, The Loyalty Leap (more on that here: Building Loyalty Beyond Reason). The subtitle of his book hints at the new world of loyalty and how mal-aligned it is in most of the larger organizations. “Turning customer information into customer intimacy,” is not just a compelling subtitle for The Loyalty Leap, it speaks to the deep chasm that exists between our current definition of “loyalty” when it comes to brands today and the promise of what it can mean.

I am not a number. I am a human being.

Loyalty, in this day and age, is about a number. Brands collect your purchase information, turn you into a zero and a one, and spit out offers based on technical algorithms. Sexy, I know. Does that feel like loyalty? Does that feel like a real interaction between real human beings?

Whether or not you’re experiencing fatigue on the terms “social media” and “social business” is irrelevant, the fact remains that it’s going to be increasingly more difficult for brands to build true loyalty if they’re not looking at all of this fascinating information that we, the customers, are posting in the social channel. No, we don’t wants brands to creep on us and farm this data to hit us up with more inane offers, we’re talking about a new dawn in loyalty where we push beyond personalized offers into a place where context truly becomes king and queen.

What loyalty can mean.

We want to treat our best customers better. We want to treat other customers in a way that will make them better customers. We want those who are only considering our brand — or trying us out for the first time — to keep on coming back. Is loyalty only about signing customers up to a program? Turning customers into a number? Getting customers to gamify their shopping experience? The answers aren’t as clear as they once were, so I left the 2012 Colloguy Loyalty Summit wondering if we need to turn these loyalty professionals from customer relationship management and data jockeys into the very heart and soul of what the brand can (and should) be?

We need to get better at building loyalty. True loyalty. Not data pukes and customer segmentation Excel files, but the kind of stuff that moves us from selling more to being more valuable and appreciated in the consumer’s life.

About Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He is also a blogger, podcaster, journalist, speaker, and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" and "CTRL ALT Delete." Mitch is frequently called upon to be a subject matter expert for BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Marketing Magazine, Profit, Strategy, Money, The Globe & Mail, and many other media outlets.

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