Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The World's Most Powerful Loyalty Programme?

Have been searching the web, chasing acquaintances and reading tons of reviews to determine the ingredients of a successful, sustainable and scalable loyalty programme. Loyalty as we all know is what makes every business tick and clock in the revenues. Be it banking, soap or even socks.

The quest for exemplary loyalty programmes typically results in recounting leading hotel and airline programmes that result in points, freebies, upgrades, massages and lots more. This of course is possible in industries where there is a direct customer contact coupled with transaction, and fairly higher operating margins (in good times at least). The sustainability factor of course is rather questionable, with several airlines having collapsed on account of air mile point liabilities in the recent past.

Retailers have been prone to issuing loyalty cards as if there were no tomorrow, be it the local neighborhood grocery or the big brother hypermarket on the outskirts of town. Points, discounts, special offers galore are showered on hapless customers, who rarely seem to be able to differentiate a United loyalty programme from that of Best Buy!

Marketers have been struggling to ensure that their loyalty programmes and cards remain top of mind and wallet respectively for decades. But as luck would have it, with activation levels of most programmes barely crossing the teens, the quandry remains - How in god's name do we make our customers remember the core value proposition and purchase at their stores on a frequent basis?

Hence the question of the hour " Where lies the holy grail of Loyalty" - Is there a loyalty programme out there, that has withstood the sands of time, behavioral nuances of generations and continues to grow each day?...Phew....

I posted a question on Linkedin recently soliciting feedback on Loyalty programmes that have impressed them the most, and received a response that quite clearly showed that I need to shake off my MBA hallucinations.

And that response - Religion!

Proven sustainability, adaptability and spanning all economic groups and lots more.....

So what is the secret ingredient about Religion, that drives and binds people the world over on a consistent and frequent basis?

A clear value proposition, sense of identity and social recognition that is reinforced with every generation.

"The best Loyalty Program in the world is organized religion. Highest number of enrolled members. Maximum membership longevity (hooked for life & at times from the time of birth). Moreover, it is the essence of what all successful Loyalty Programs should be. The members should not for once realize that they are the one’s who are paying for the ‘benefits’ & perpetuating program."

And all this with no loyalty cards or airmiles...hmmmm...

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