Reconsidering Loyalty: Tracking Post-Pandemic Attitudes

loyalty card

There is no “new normal” for retailing anymore. The pandemic has changed everything from digital shopping preferences to inventory to pricing. Loyalty programs are no exception. Here are three issues to consider when reconsidering post-pandemic loyalty.

Reconsider the members: This is no longer a list of a retailer’s loyalty program members or, for that matter, any non-retail program. The perspective has changed. Pre-pandemic, loyalty program members were a group of customers for whom a company wanted to increase spend frequency, size and recency. Post-pandemic the list has not changed but the perspective has. The loyalty program should now be seen as the ultimate focus group. Does a company know what is important now vs. January? Ask the loyalty program members. Send them an email. Get them involved in the future of the company. For a good example, look to a non-retailer. Choice Hotels has 45 million members in its loyalty program. Even though the pandemic was almost void of travel, they stayed in touch. The result of that contact was an expanded program with more time to redeem points, new elite status benefits and extra benefits for healthcare workers.

“Even during this crisis, our members found a number of ways to engage with us and make a difference,” said Jamie Russo, vice president, loyalty programs and customer engagement, Choice Hotels. “Some of them are essential and frontline workers who chose to stay in our small-business hotels, and others showed their generosity by donating their Choice Privileges points to aid recovery efforts. Our latest loyalty program changes tell our members that we appreciate their continued support and our hotels are here to welcome them whenever they feel safe traveling again.”

Reconsider the experience: It’s a good bet that in early January loyalty programs wanted what they always wanted, which was more points, more discounts, exclusive experiences and more rewards. Is that what they still want? Refer to point one and ask them. Then execute on the new information. It could be that appointment buying has replaced more points. “If you are a B2C company, your most important stakeholder right now is a human being who is craving comfort and connection, and suddenly needs a new customer experience (CX),” says Strategy + Business. “Your first question, therefore, shouldn’t be, “How can I grab market share?” or even, “How do I boost my top line to counteract the economic carnage I’m facing?” Your most pressing question should be, “How do I support my customers right now in a meaningful, human, and relevant way?”

Reconsider the rewards: One word: Sephora. The beauty retailer is arguably the best in the game at connecting the in-store experience to offline purchases and vice versa. It also has an award-winning loyalty program that it updates frequently. It was based heavily on samples, which is a game that isn’t as easily played post-pandemic. Its first post-pandemic adjustment reflects new values in its rewards. Among them: members-only discounts and point multiplier events, experiential rewards like meet-and-greets and facials, first access to certain product launches an expansion of birthday gift offerings, and more rewards in the “Rewards Bazaar,” including using points to donate to charities.

“Our goal is to create a multi-faceted and well-rounded program to cater to the changing needs of our clients,” Allegra Stanley Krishnan, Sephora vice president and general manager of loyalty, said in a statement. “We also know rewards that provide greater emotional and memorable experiences are the most meaningful for our clients, and we want to continue to deliver personalized experiences where our clients can choose what works best for their needs. The emotional component of loyalty is a vital driver of our loyalty program and what really matters most to our clients.”