This post was co-authored by Heather Rakauskas.
When asked to name their number-one challenge today, most retailers respond “improving customer loyalty”. At a time when online resources and ecommerce sites have placed shoppers firmly in control – able to find the best price, with SAP delivery, in seconds – having a long-term connection to consumers becomes invaluable. One of the few forces that can offset “lowest price wins” buying is consumer trust in and comfort with a brand.
The importance of customer loyalty programs
This makes retailer loyalty programs even more important. They come in many shapes and sizes – personalized coupons, fuel rewards, VIP offers, surprises at checkout, free shipping, and points tiers, to name a few; but they all serve to remind customers why they should return to the brands they already know. Loyalty programs can also provide essential customer data that gives additional insights into promotion use, product trial and repeat, the identities of best customers, and more.
And smart retailers assess the effectiveness of loyalty programs in a variety of ways – ongoing use of the offers, yearly value delivered by participants, and more. When launching a new loyalty effort, some retailers may even conduct a concept test, because this is a big investment with high expectations to meet. This due diligence often overlooks a key element of consumer satisfaction, though: the user experience.
Applying UX research to loyalty programs
Companies commonly apply “UX” principles and research to their websites and apps, closely observing and questioning users to find out what challenges and frustrations they might have experienced. By addressing the UX before launch, companies can head off major issues that could cripple acceptance and even create image problems for the brand.
Loyalty programs deserve the same careful scrutiny – especially since they become an important part of the omni-channel experience, affecting communication and access both online and in-store. Loyalty use is experiential, not just transactional, and we should be viewing our programs through that lens.
When assessing the user experience of a loyalty program, it is essential to look at both the offer and the interfaces (website, app and store), studying issues such as:
- communication effectiveness for both process (how it works) and benefits
- areas of confusion, irritation, inconveniences, and disconnection
- delivery against expectations
- drivers of and barriers to use — for both initial and return visits
- consistency and usability across all program touchpoints
One important tip for the work – include your front-line associates in this evaluation, if they are tasked with communicating or executing your program.
Enhancing the overall customer experience
When doing this work, you are determining how to optimize the program experience to encourage more sign-ups and, importantly, more active users. You are hoping this program experience not only drives purchases but enhances the overall customer experience, providing a halo effect on the overall brand and strengthening the relationships you have with your customers. With goals as lofty as these, it makes sense to employ UX research to make sure you are connecting with and satisfying users to the highest degree, with nothing left to chance.