Experiencing the Future @ CRMC 2016

Each June, members of rDialogue migrate to Chicago for three days of retail loyalty and relationship marketing discussions at the annual CRMC. This year, CRMC served up a great community of thought leaders (like Seth Godin), brands (like Dunkin’ Donuts and GameStop), practitioners, content and ideas. The conference enabled us to connect with existing and former clients, prospects and partners alike to question, explore, push and ideate about the future of loyalty. And, once again, we walked away with a renewed resolve and belief in rDialogue’s mission of making the world better for customers and the brands that care about them.

While many of CRMC’s themes this year were similar to previous years, there remains a common call for us to all push beyond the standard tools and tactics, to realize the full promise of personalization and the customer experience. To move beyond loyalty programs to build loyalty cultures. To create authentic brand relationships based on the customer’s perspective vs. a marketing calendar. To understand that true competitive differentiation doesn’t come from a better way to offer a discount, but from providing meaningful responses to customer needs and expectations.  Or as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said, “If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”

A few highlights from the conference:

Loyalty Culture vs. Loyalty Program. Mike Hogan, EVP Strategic Business with GameStop, walked us through its multi-year transformation that started with PowerUp Rewards, their loyalty program, long before they realized what they really needed was a loyalty culture. With members driving 71% of sales and $100MM in revenue, PowerUp Rewards is central to the organization’s success because its members and data shape the way GameStop makes decisions across the business.

Data as a navigator vs. a list parameter. Lowe’s Home Improvement has moved beyond optimized email to build analytical models and compelling, fresh content to navigate their brand experience. As Kerrie Adams, Director of Enterprise Analytics from Lowe’s stated, “We want to lead our customers down a project path, not just react to a path that they have chosen.” The 25 analysts on their team can identify when a customer’s project starts, as well as how committed the customer is to the project, how much they are likely to spend and when the project falters.

Deliver Personalization as Part of the Customer Experience.  While many retailers claim to use personalization, messaging that uses a customer’s first name in the salutation of an email is not the personalized experience customers want.  Brittany Williams of Etsy shared its evolution as a personalized website, learning (at times, the hard way) to adjust personalized content over time.  Tastes and needs change, and personalized recommendations must change, too.  They also feel strongly that data alone can’t give retailers the whole picture -- you must also speak with your customers.  In the end, the most important objective is to build a relationship with your customers.  You must advocate for them over their lifetime, not just one visit.

During his presentation to the CRMC attendees, Harvard professor John Deighton quoted Ana Andjelic: “Use data as a butler, not a stalker.” While retail is far ahead of many industries relative to published loyalty programs, there’s still a lot brands must learn in terms of scaling data to connect with their customers. If a Delta agent can warmly thank me for being a Diamond Medallion while I’m boarding a plane, why can’t a retailer recognize me when I spend 20 minutes in their store, but not buying? At rDialogue, we are excited to work with brands that stretch beyond their comfort zones to deliver the meaningful connections that customers want and are increasingly expecting.