In today's device-driven age of texts, tweets, and Snapchats, it's hard to grab consumers' attention. So brands looking to build customer loyalty should consider one of the most popular marketing trends: mobile.
Mobile strategies may include push notifications about in-store sales and mobile payments to deeply personalized content. And delivering value involves combining a variety of technologies to create a unique experience and value proposition, says Sih Lee, Synchrony Financial's SVP of payments technology and innovation.
Here are five mobile strategies and technologies that can enhance any customer-loyalty program.
1. Mobile-delivered services
Some of the biggest brands in the world — such as Taco Bell, Chipotle, Starbucks, and Domino's — are experimenting with mobile-delivered services through apps. This points to improving the customer experience by making ordering easier. Chipotle is targeting the student market, offering mobile delivery to busy college students on 40 campuses.
To integrate this offering with existing customer-loyalty programs, brands can experiment with promotions that leverage mobile devices.
2. SMS alerts about discounts, events, and more
Given that 98% of SMS messages are opened, SMS alerts are a good way for brands to reach engaged customers and create or enhance loyalty programs. Pizza Hut recently had a campaign that asked repeat customers to text the keyword "pizza" to join its loyalty program, and that made registration quick and easy.
SMS alerts with geolocation capabilities and authentication can be used to inform the customer, and collect relevant data for the brand to drive spending behavior.
But it's crucial for brands to engage with customers who have opted in and want to receive the messages, and to ensure the content of the message is valuable and relevant. "Brands need to watch out for privacy sensitivity and excessive communication," says Lee. "The last thing you want is for customers to feel intruded on, which would discount the value of the messages."
3. Mobile apps focused on rewarding loyal customers
Everyone knows customers love to be rewarded for their loyalty. That's why more brands are creating customized mobile apps with perks specifically for frequent customers. Starbucks offers Starbucks Rewards, a mobile app that provides free drinks and food rewards, early access to new products, and easy payment options. The benefits of creating mobile apps with perks can include an uptick in members, word-of-mouth promotion, and an increase in sales. Starbucks has 13 million customers using the app.
"The value of a loyalty program is visibly more important when it's mobile because it's real-time," says Mamta Rodrigues, SVP of network and strategy relationships for Synchrony Financial. "It can feel as real as shopping."
4. Mobile-app integration with the in-store experience
Mobile technology such as Square has undoubtedly improved in-store experience. To build off of this trend, brands can use mobile apps to enhance the in-store shopping experience and make it more efficient and enjoyable for both first-time and regular customers. Brands can have mobile apps provide instant, detailed product information to empower customers while they browse, and even allow customers to make purchases in the aisle and skip the cash register.
Using mobile to enhance the in-store experience could improve customers' perception of the brand, too. Walgreens' app allows customers to compare medications with in-store product searches, fill prescriptions with the click of a button, and even clip coupons — making their customers' lives easier. It's clearly useful, as the app consistently ranks among the top 10 lifestyle apps on iOS and Google Play.
"It comes down to ease of use in creating a frictionless experience," Rodrigues adds. "If it's easy for consumers to use, then they're going to use it again — and if it's not, then you've lost them."
5. Mobile payments
More brands are experimenting with mobile payments to make transactions easier and more secure, which encourages customers to shop more. Nordstrom experienced a 15.3% increase in sales since introducing a mobile-payment option.
Mobile payments are the future. For millennials, ease of use in mobile payments will override the plastic swipe.
"Mobile payments are the future," says Rodrigues. "One to two years from now mobile will be perceived as a secure payment form factor by the masses. For millennials, ease of use in mobile payments will override the plastic swipe."
Another part of the mobile payments space is mobile origination, or giving customers the ability to apply for and receive instant approval on a credit card they apply for on a mobile device. "This process will eliminate plastic production and, more importantly, the wait time between applying, approving, and shopping," says Lee.
Additionally, peer-to-peer or peer-to-business transactions — the type of crowdfunding that enables people to invest money in a business with the expectation of getting it back, as well as some interest — will change the payments landscape as customers begin to feel more comfortable paying electronically. Whether it's by making payments easier or providing rewards through an app, mobile is a strategy that every brand should consider leveraging to grow customer loyalty.
"Mobile is a platform through which a truly life-enhancing experience can be created and delivered," Lee says. "I can’t see a single other piece of technology that can act as the hub to connect multiple technologies and lead to better customer experience."
For additional insights from Synchrony Financial, click here.