‘Omnichannel’ and ’omnichannel loyalty programs’ have been buzzwords in the industry for years, but after the disruptive changes of the pandemic, simply having multiple marketing channels is no longer just an advantage, but instead it’s a must-have — especially for retailers. McKinsey underlines this trend in one of its researches, stating that more than one-third of Americans have made omnichannel features such as buying online for in-store pickup part of their regular shopping routine.
Now that being omnichannel is officially a necessity, what you should be asking is ‘How can I make sure that my loyalty program aligns with my company’s omnichannel marketing strategy?’ There are multiple answers: personalization, cross-channel gamification, smoother user experience, and many more!
In this guide, we will showcase how a truly next-gen loyalty program can go above and beyond the expected to change customer behavior and build brand love across all channels.
What Are the Omnichannel Loyalty Programs?
In essence, having an omnichannel loyalty program is all about setting up a holistic form of engagement, seamlessly engaging with customers across all marketing channels — offline, online and mobile. As such, omnichannel loyalty programs not only boost the number of touchpoints a business can have, but also make the overall reward experience more exciting and sophisticated.
For instance, having an omnichannel loyalty program means that customers can scan a QR code inside a store to enroll in the reward program while waiting in line, then receive a mobile pass alongside their welcome email, and then use the mobile pass to instantly redeem their welcome gift at the cashier.
Multi-Channel vs Omnichannel Loyalty Programs: They Aren’t the Same
Before diving deeper into the details and execution of omnichannel loyalty programs, it’s important to clarify that simply having a rewards program that has channel-specific elements, doesn’t make it omnichannel. For instance, simply having a loyalty app that does nothing more than the pre-existing online membership page, won’t satisfy the criteria of being omnichannel. Similarly, offering a loyalty card customers can use to identify themselves won’t automatically lead to a holistic customer profile: you need to lay down the foundation for a system (e.g. using a POS) where you sync up all the offline interactions of a customer (both transactional and non-transactional), into your database.
The Benefits of an Omnichannel Loyalty Program
Building an omnichannel loyalty program is a complex process that consists of multiple building blocks. But it’s worth it because reward programs improve your existing omnichannel strategy by providing new opportunities to communicate with customers and run events, making the experience more engaging for members.
Other benefits include:
- Incentivized data collection: Omnichannel loyalty programs encourage customers to share their data. For instance, shoppers are more likely to take the extra step and use their loyalty card at the store if they will receive loyalty points for doing so. Using their card means that they will identify themselves and their customer profile will be updated with info about their offline purchase.
- Seamless and rich customer journeys: Thanks to omnichannel loyalty programs, you can smoothen the customer journey via a series of interactions, using features such as card-linking technology, where the loyalty benefits are tied to the store and activated automatically during checkout, or beacon technology which sends push notifications about special offers to members near your store.
- Boosted brand awareness: Another way to capture the attention of customers with an omnichannel loyalty program is to use online and in-store gamification, as well as to organize hashtag or Instagram contests, where participants can win a large sum of loyalty points or even get access to high-tier benefits.
1st Channel of an Omnichannel Loyalty Program: eCommerce
Having a website, a loyalty program landing page, and a dedicated membership page where customers can review their progress is just one pillar of a strong online presence. What’s really important is to ensure that you establish a single customer view behind the scenes — a unified account that holds all information about a customer, no matter which channel they interact on.
Once you have that, all you need to do is sync up the data that’s coming from offline and online purchases, effectively getting a 360-degree view of a loyalty program member’s activity.
2nd Channel of an Omnichannel Loyalty Program: In-Store
In order to make your brick and mortars a part of your omnichannel loyalty program, you need two things: first, specialized software and hardware solutions that allow you to capture data about brick-and-mortar purchases and send them to the loyalty program’s database.
Second, and most importantly, you need to offer various forms of in-store engagements. For example, consider spicing up your omnichannel loyalty strategy with gamification elements. You can use features like:
- a Prize Wheel on your website that members can spin to win an exclusive prize
- an offline treasure hunt requiring customers to find a specific product in the store to get bonus loyalty points
- a series of badges and challenges prompting customers to download the mobile app and sign in a minimum amount of days each month
3rd Channel of an Omnichannel Loyalty Program: Mobile
Smartphones can also be the gateway between online and offline. The best way to establish a foothold for your omnichannel loyalty program is either through a dedicated app, or a mobile wallet solution.
A mobile app empowers users to claim and redeem rewards on-the-go, pull up the membership card, and even access exclusive member content. The only downside is that it requires serious development effort — though the process can be sped up to a degree with the right tools.
In comparison, introducing a mobile wallet solution is both quicker and easier. It relies on the built-in functionalities found in Android and Apple phones to issue digital loyalty cards, virtual coupons and event passes. Customers who have a digital pass on their phone can be targeted with push notifications and special offers, too.
Antavo’s Mobile Wallet solution puts a new spin on the concept of digital passes, unlocking even more creative scenarios for omnichannel companies.
4th (Unofficial) Channel in Omnichannel Loyalty Programs: Lifestyle and Core Values
There’s an emerging trend in next-gen loyalty programs that goes beyond the traditional, transactional relationship. This trend aims to forge long-term brand love by aligning the brand with the core values of shoppers. In terms of omnichannel marketing, this means that brands need to be present in their audience’s everyday lives, even when they aren’t making purchases at the moment.
This can be done by issuing bonus points or rewards to those who donate to charity or bring back old, unwanted clothes to the store for recycling. Brands can also make fitness trackers part of the loyalty experience, awarding points to members who have an active lifestyle.The purpose of lifestyle and value-driven relationships is to generate good faith towards the brand. Customers who are rewarded for positive actions through a loyalty program that focuses on lifestyle are more likely to increase their CLV, as well as become devoted brand advocates.
Creating an Omnichannel Loyalty Program
The main difference between a ‘standard’ and an ‘omnichannel’ loyalty program lies in their structure. During the concept phase, you need to factor in the ways the different channels would interact with each other, and what kind of cross-channel reward journeys you want to create. Also, constructing an omnichannel loyalty program comes with a checklist that you have to pay attention to:
- Identify the main shopping channels of your customers, and map out what kind of information each channel would provide
- Think about the omnichannel journeys you plan to create: are they making it easier for customers to engage with your loyalty program?
- Understand the ways you can reward customers for engaging with your loyalty program, such as giving bonus points for downloading the app
Choosing Between Plastic and Digital Cards
One big dilemma omnichannel loyalty program owners have to face is whether they wish to have traditional plastic cards that they can store in their real-life wallet, or have digital passes that are stored in an app or on the smartphone’s wallet.
The answer might seem obvious, but don’t rush the decision! Surprisingly, plastic cards are still a fan favorite: according to the For Love or Money 2022 loyalty report, 49% of loyalty program members in Australia in 2022 still prefer to use traditional plastic cards, this has decreased from 81% in 2017.
It’s mainly a generational divide: Gen Z and Gen X customers are more likely to adopt digital cards, while Baby Boomers especially prefer the oldschool cards. As such, industries that are targeting the elderly demographic, like pharmacies, should definitely stick to plastic cards, or at least have a hybrid system, offering both.
Start Building Your Strategy Today
Even though the process may not be that easy, a well-developed omnichannel loyalty program can provide plenty of opportunities and reward events to keep your brand relevant in the eyes of customers, and help you gather valuable insights about your customers’ shopping habits.
Interested in starting a discussion on how Antavo’s technology can help your business launch an innovative loyalty program? Our experts are always ready, so feel free to send us an RFP or book a demo directly.
And if you feel ready to start brainstorming, make sure to download our handy worksheet that will guide you through the key steps of building a sound loyalty concept.
Tamas is a Senior Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional - CLMP. Tamas is known for having a keen eye for loyalty and customer retention research and trends. Tamas is also a true gamer at heart and has an impressive collection of cyberpunk books.