Your Checklist for Creating Moments of Magic in Retail

“We’ve been living on tribal knowledge for a long time” – Bill Hanifin 

We recently hosted a webinar on how to implement psychological principles in loyalty campaigns for retail brands. The event boasted some industry standouts such as Bill Hanifin of The Wise Marketer, Phil Rubin, founder of Grey Space Matters, Chris Sandstrom, Director of Strategy and Growth at Comarch Americas, and the esteemed Director of Loyalty Science Lab Yuping Liu-Thompkins. 

From beginning to end, the webinar was a nonstop conversation about: 

  • The current state of loyalty in the retail space
  • How data has defined the loyalty landscape
  • Utilizing human behavior to shape loyalty programs

Let’s dive in with this simple checklist that you can keep in your back pocket (but we’d recommend just bookmarking it). 

The Current State of Customer Loyalty: A Decision to Make 

In the webinar, Bill laid out a fantastic analogy, one that addresses the speed and trajectory of the elusive customer. He explained that in a cross-country race, when the leader in front of you disappears, that’s when they make their move, that’s when a 100-yard lead can suddenly turn into a 200-yard disparity.  

At its core, the customer is always moving forward, progressing – evolving and changing. For loyalty programs and strategies to survive, let alone thrive – they must keep pace. 

Bill continued down his analogical path, explaining that brands have a decision to make. Either they can take the red pill – exploring a harsh, unpredictable, and challenging future, with unknown rewards and possibilities in front of them. Or, they can take the blue pill, and stay confined in contentedness, operating within the boundaries of safety and familiarity.  

Unfortunately, the superspeed of technological evolution combined with overwhelming data accessibility has culminated in stagnancy or a general lack of creative bravery. Most loyalty strategies in retail are swallowing the blue pill on a daily basis. After all, we’ve been taught that data is both monarch and deity, governing marketing decisions and deciding the fate of nearly all loyalty endeavors. 

This is where Bill found himself enthralled in the connection between behavioral psychology and customer loyalty…an opportunity to take the red pill. 

 “We’ve got to know why people buy, what makes them tick, what gets people interested enough in your brand to make that visit to a website, to walk into your store, to visit your e-commerce site.” – Bill Hanifin 

Use Human Behavior to Drive Loyalty Programs

Humans are simple – loyalty is not. Self-determination theory defines three basic needs that all humans seek. Are you hitting the mark? 

1) Are You Fostering Autonomy?

Autonomy is all about the need for growth, discovery, and forging your own path. This is especially crucial when looking at purpose-driven marketing examples, with brands like TOMS and Patagonia. Also known as “cause-related marketing,” this strategy focuses on building equity with the customer based on alignment. Whether that’s harmonizing a cause, a vision, or a value – it provides the opportunity for customers to choose your brand based on factors beyond the price tag. 

Is your brand allowing customers to choose you – based on their unique values? 

Do your customers align with and believe in what you stand for? 

Are you building long-lasting loyalty through purpose-driven strategies? 

2) Are You Building Competence?

Competence requires some reward…whether that’s in the form of competition, achievement, or mastery. Gamification is the perfect example of how loyalty programs can leverage this intrinsic need. Everyone likes to play games – and everyone likes to be rewarded. Lots of brands put together the foundations of competence-based strategies, but aren’t looking quite deep enough. Creating memorable and exciting moments takes a more meaningful approach.

Are you building gamification choices that matter…that have consequences?

Do your gamification features build interest – enough to be repeated?

Are you implementing time pressures that amplify the gamification experience? 

3) Are you building community? 

Social relatedness comes into play when we look at our relationship to others, and how we value these connections and communities. We’ve all heard the term emotional marketing, but is that just an overly-used buzzword? People buy from their wallets, that’s no secret. But customers stay because of something deeper. Bridging the gap between building an emotional connection and a community is a sweet spot for this intrinsic need, allowing brands to create invaluable customer experiences that also bring people together.

Are you creating emotional connections, experiences, and environments that lead to action?

Are you listening to your existing customers and building creative opportunities accordingly? 

Are you creating indirect ways for customers to emotionally connect with your brand? 

Retail Loyalty: A Never-Ending Story

Loyalty in the retail arena is a living entity. It’s something that will continue to grow, evolve, and change. As new technologies emerge and novel social trends permeate the zeitgeist – there’s no telling what tomorrow holds. There is, however, a constant. 

Humans have innate triggers, emotional needs, and behavioral strings that loyalty marketers can grab onto. 

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