Brand loyalty drives customer lifetime value (LTV). But the landscape for customer engagement has shifted, and reaching customers increasingly relies on establishing a cross-platform loyalty program.
Customers today interact with brands and products across multiple channels and in many ways that are not purely transactional. They often use unlinked digital identities and engage with a brand or community on distributed platforms that have no single “hub” for customer activity.
Traditional loyalty programs are flying blind in this multi-platform environment. Designed for the point-of-sale, they fail to capture important customer touchpoints. At the same time, they have no mechanism for deepening engagement by building community and lack the ability to provide customers with dynamic rewards, experiences, or collaborations.
Cross-platform loyalty programs are a necessity because brands can’t rely solely on the point-of-sale to reach customers and build relationships with them. Brand building today happens across many non-transactional touchpoints, including through communities on distributed platforms.
In the retail space, many brands have limited control over the customer interaction for the last mile of their product distribution. For example, most people purchase OXO kitchen accessories through a third-party like Macy’s, Amazon, or an independent kitchen supply store.
As a result, a brand like OXO can’t rely on the point-of-sale even just for onboarding a customer to their loyalty program. Instead, to build their brand they have to depend on alternate platforms like their Instagram or YouTube accounts, which deliver content relevant to home cooks. OXO can also reach across platforms to online communities focused on cooking where they can cultivate loyalty through reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations.
It’s not just consumer goods that demand a multi-platform approach. Music artists have wide-ranging touchpoints with their fans:
Even when a core “hub” exists for a brand’s customer activity, such as in online gaming, the full customer experience is spread out among distinct environments, such as:
Examples abound, and the common thread is that customer touchpoints span far beyond first-party interactions like purchases in a store or online.
Within this multi-platform environment, customers are looking for more than just financial perks from a loyalty program. Research by McKinsey and BCG highlights that customers today want a sense of belonging and community related to a brand, which falls far outside the scope of the traditional punch card loyalty model (“buy 10 coffees, get your next one free”).
As BCG notes, “personalization is a leading tool for success” because it draws customers into a more meaningful and lasting link with a loyalty program. Unique experiences, customized offers, and intriguing collaborations reinforce the connection between the brand and a customer’s individual identity, strengthening overall loyalty.
"True loyalty is gained when a person experiences a sense of belonging and shared purpose, a value exchange between them and the brand but also feeling like they are part of an exclusive club." - The Future of Web3 Loyalty Report by Reddit, SalesForce, Media.Monks, and Polygon Labs
By combining cross-platform engagement with non-transactional community building, brands can:
With these advantages, BCG found that effective loyalty programs can power up to a 35% increase in a brand’s share of customer spending and significantly grow LTV. Given what brands invest in customer acquisition, failing to leverage loyalty programs to incentivize valuable customer behavior across platforms is just leaving money on the table.
Existing loyalty programs are not equipped to meet this multi-platform moment. These programs have been designed around simple first-party interactions like purchases in a store or on a website. They don’t account for myriad non-transactional touchpoints and are not cut out for building community.
While brands are undoubtedly trying to adapt traditional loyalty programs to reach customers on multiple platforms, the underlying architecture of those programs — siloed and proprietary databases — is not well-suited to the task. Custom expansions and integrations are expensive and slow, so brands are constantly a step behind as customer behavior evolves and involves new platforms.
A compelling alternative is to use a more natively decentralized solution as the underlying framework for loyalty programs. Building on a foundation that is more flexible and geared toward distributed engagement, loyalty programs have the potential to:
In these ways, web3 loyalty programs allow brands to move beyond the limitations of traditional loyalty programs and build LTV through community-oriented engagement with their customers.
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