What does “the customer’s in charge” really mean?

We hear those words constantly in conversations about customer engagement. There’s a broad perception that changes in technology, and buying patterns have upset any previous balance in brand loyalty.

Nowhere is this greater than in retail loyalty marketing, where an explosion of mobility and the growth of social media have blown away any short-lived loyalty equilibrium that might have formed between online and brick and mortar retail.

What Makes Mobile Different?

Mobility changes the dynamics of when and where a customer shops, and also how and why a brand would engage in ways that could deepen customer loyalty. While online retail changed the “where” of buying decisions, mobile devices change the entire engagement model by adding geolocation, events, proximity, accessibility, and a host of subtle changes.

Having more choices for engaging with a brand—including the choice to participate in loyalty programs while engaged in the store, on the mountain, or any other circumstance—means the customer chooses the moment. That moment may not coincide with the Weekend Sale, customer service hours, a new campaign, or any other timing the retailer attempts to establish and measure.

Mobile loyalty has become a key component of creating brand loyalty.

How social changes things

Social media also gives customers the benefit of mass communication and wrestles for control of brand image. Social media is now a channel for the customer to be the brands biggest critic or advocate. Brands need to find ways to execute social loyalty programs or face enormous perception risk or loss of customer advocacy. This is the meaning behind “always-on,” “omni-channel,” “customer first,” and other ways of describing that we’re in a new world. This new world heavily favors the brands that see loyalty programs as a holistic approach to understanding the customer characteristics in all of their environments and contexts, and across any engagement channel.

That’s a very tall order, especially for companies with existing programs that need to be recharged and remodeled. Most are finding that the way to manage characteristics, context, and channel is through a loyalty platform that provides the technical means to put the customer in charge, while also meeting the brand’s goals.

This post first appeared on the Loyalty Lab Blog and has been lightly edited.

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