Loyalty isn’t about points or miles or discounts. It means more than collecting an email address in exchange for a discount.

Today, loyalty is about the journey and the relationships that brands create with their customers.

That’s why loyalty programs take on added importance in the Age of the Customer. Because consumers have endless options at their fingertips due to innovative technology, the power has shifted to them. Brand officials need to acknowledge that fact above everything else.

Because of this shift toward consumer empowerment and rising expectations, the call to action for marketers is clear:

Loyalty matters now more than ever. Here’s why.

1. Consumers are More Empowered Than Ever

Consumers are empowered and their heightened expectations have brought the digital and physical worlds closer together.

The key for brands in the Age of the Customer might sound simple. But, effectively listening to customers is more important than ever due to this power shift.

Understanding consumer pain points and addressing them in a quick and seamless fashion will retain and attract customers. To achieve this, brands must engage and interact with their customers and leverage those insights correctly.

2. Emotional Connections Help Build Strong Customer Relationships

There’s no doubt that rational benefits are still needed. Consumers still like things like discounts and free shipping.

But given countless choices for consumers, these transaction-based benefits can be found anywhere. That’s not where the uniqueness lies. To create true loyalty today, brands need to take a more personalized approach that helps build emotional connections.

It is that crucial point around unlimited choices for consumers that should inspire brands to sit up, take notice, and build a loyalty offering that goes beyond accruing points and waiting for discounts.

Through regular interaction with your customers, you can develop an emotional relationship on some level. Customers that feel valued and included are likely to engage more and become brand advocates.

Try and understand emotional motivators behind your customers’ purchases. Attaching a worthy cause to your brand is another big way you can help create emotional relationships with customers.

Understanding customers’ emotional motivators reveals key reasons for purchases that are invaluable. Showing love and appreciation to your customers goes a long way toward building sustainable relationships.

Creating deep emotional bonds with customers is a great way for brands to extend far beyond transactional relationships. Emotional loyalty bridges the gap between transactional and true loyalty and inspires customers to become brand advocates.

3. Customers Need to Feel Valued

A loyalty program that combines experiential and emotional elements gives consumers a greater stake in the brand. It gives them a voice. The value that comes from a loyalty program like this acknowledges customers for being loyal and rewards them with relevant and timely benefits.

One of the main reasons that Prime is the premier premium loyalty program in the world is because customers feel valued. If customers don’t feel valued, they will look elsewhere until they find a brand that values them.

Material benefits are certainly important to customers, but they also want to receive special treatment.

Personalization has been a hot topic among loyalty marketers for quite some time, but the ones who execute around this concept better are the ones that will receive greater customer loyalty.

Customer experiences are becoming more personal, and the benefits of joining a loyalty program are evolving beyond discounts to provide additional value that helps establish an emotional connection between the customer and brand.

Loyalty Today and in the Future

Since the power has shifted from marketers to consumers, listening to and understanding your customers is the most important thing a brand can do to develop true and lasting loyalty.

In this age of unlimited choice, brands must work harder than ever before to retain customers. As loyalty programs become more effective and create more value, customers will expect that from all brands.

The best loyalty programs are not unlike human relationships. If you have personal relationships that are emotion-based and engaging, those are the memorable ones that you gravitate toward. It’s the same with relationships you have with retailers.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of NASDAQ, Inc.