The now and next wave of loyalty is driven by “people, planet & sustainability.” 87% of customers feel good if the brand they prefer takes action about issues they care about, ranging from charitable causes, environment-friendly practices, or social equality.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts recently announced bonus points for their loyal customers. The extra points are meant to reward customer loyalty for the past few challenging years. Also, program members can use these points to donate to charitable causes and play a part in giving back to society.
Cashback and monetary offers have attracted customers in the past. A report from 2020 reflects that 50% of customers join loyalty programs because of rewards. But an average US customer is part of 14 loyalty programs suggesting that customers switch to brands offering better cashback deals. No brand wants customer loyalty built on just monetary value, as this only lasts for a while.
Nike, Apple, and American Airlines have inspired customer loyalty by focusing on empathy, emotions, and experiences.
Customer-centric brands can forge ever-lasting customer relationships with loyalty programs. These loyalty programs become crucial in building empathetic relations. 9 out of 10 gen-z customers believe brands have a responsibility to address social issues.
The right time to be empathetic is NOW:
- The past couple of years have been challenging for the world. Being empathetic in the recovery phase gives a chance for your brand to create memorable moments and build lasting relationships.
- The holiday season has arrived & people seek fun, excitement, and emotional connections. Loyalty programs make it easy for customers to help others by donating their loyalty points to a charitable cause.
Social value is a competitive differentiator and serving a more significant purpose outside transactions fuels emotional connection. Customers who feel emotionally connected return 306% higher lifetime (around 5.1 years) value than just satisfied customers. Below are the global brands that have prioritized being empathetic over transactional benefits.
MudLOVE started in 2009 and is known for bracelets and mugs, with a rewards program – Wishing Well Rewards.
It offers customers to donate their earned loyalty points to social causes.
- For every product purchased through MudLOVE by loyalty program members, someone in Central Africa gets one week of clean water. Till today, 1,358,330 weeks of clean water have been provided to African people.
- Members can donate their points (clay coins) by converting them into actual currency. More than $300k has been donated to clean water projects.
Every time a member makes a purchase, an email with details of the donation is sent to emphasize the emotional value of that purchase over the transactional cost.
American Express is a renowned integrated payments company that partnered with JustGiving to allow its members to play a part in charitable donations.
U.S. customers who are part of the American Express rewards program can donate through JustGiving.
Customers can find equal dollar value of their points and choose to donate the partial or complete amount to charities listed on the JustGiving website. Additionally, the points earned by rewards program members never expire giving them the flexibility to redeem the points.
Zinrelo is known for its loyalty management platform used by enterprises across the globe for their customer loyalty programs. With nearly 1 billion members on the loyalty platform built by Zinrelo, the brand decided to match 100% of contributions to charitable donations made by customers through its loyalty platform by 31st December 2022.
Zinrelo has been proactive in giving back to the community. Customers can choose from hundreds of registered charities like the American Red Cross, Save the Children, American Civil Liberties Union, and many more.
It creates a win-win scenario for brands using the Zinrelo platform and customers of the brands, as 80% of Americans are likely to switch to brands that support charitable causes. In addition, brands have an opportunity to connect with customers at the emotional level & establish strong relationships.
Starbucks has been a leader in customer loyalty. With the holiday season moving towards Christmas, the brand has launched “Starbucks for Life” as an extension of its loyalty program.
It allows members to donate loyalty points to “No Kid Hungry,” – an NGO that solves hunger problems across the United States.
Along with empathy & emotion, Starbucks is leveraging gamified experiences to nurture meaningful customer relationships.
- Empathetic approach: Members get 25 points when they donate loyalty points to the No Kid Hungry charity.
- Gamified approach: By playing a quiz and wheel game, customers can earn 6 months or a 1-month package from Starbucks.
This campaign allows the brand to tap into the emotional aspect of customer loyalty during this holiday season.
Brands leverage the holiday season and offer rewards beyond monetary benefits. For example, Delta airlines is another brand that offers experiential rewards, charitable donations, and bonus points to build customer loyalty through empathy and experiences.
Having social value in reward programs is no longer an option in today’s loyalty economy. According to a Neilson survey, 56% of participants said “a brand being known for its social value” was a top purchasing driver. And 53% of participants said “a brand with community commitment” was a leading purchasing driver. This highlights the importance of community commitment.
Emotions are the cornerstone of a multi-dimensional loyalty program.
Future belongs to empathy-driven customer relationships. It demands a deeper understanding of customers. Today, data-driven loyalty programs make it easy for marketers to understand customer behavior, preferences, and more.
Brands must adopt a holistic loyalty program approach to inspire emotionally strong relationships. Gen-Z customers make decisions considering omnichannel experience, real-time rewards and redemption, personalized communication, and social causes.
A holistic approach is the need of the hour. It’s essential to focus on data, technology, and strategy simultaneously to match customer expectations.
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