Which ESP can best handle your loyalty program?

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Points, Bucks, Miles, Fuel, Discounts… With the many loyalty currencies out there today, companies need to know how to build a successful loyalty program that not only keeps customers coming back but also showcases their unique value proposition. Highly measurable and relevant, email communication is without a doubt an integral part of that successful program.

Once the winning program is set up, each segment perfectly defined and all the relevant touch points neatly mapped over a time graph, finding an ESP that can understand, integrate and execute the customer strategy can be challenging.

An ESP that can best mobilise your loyalty program must possess the following capabilities:

1. Data collection for your (email) loyalty program

Knowing your customer and continuously enhancing/ updating the existing data is key to a successful loyalty program. An ESP must have the ability to collect customer data. Easy to complete surveys and forms should be designed according to email best practise, be responsive to device type and result in confirmation email triggers.

Whether it be by progressive profiling functionality, SMS or a simple ‘update your detail’ email, ensure this process and your ESP seamlessly integrates with your business systems to allow the newly collected information to revise existing customer data.

2. Hygiene checks

It’s important to check the validity of contact details. An in-depth knowledge of your customer has no value if the data is of poor quality. An email address is like a customer’s “digital fingerprint” (David Daniels, CEO, The Relevancy Group). Email penetration and data integrity are key factors for any digital execution of your loyalty program.

It’s essential that an ESP has the ability to continuously improve the ‘hygiene’ of your customer database by using a Hygiene Application Tool. This includes the ability to, at the very least, correct common email address formatting issues and correct common mistakes made on entering/typing domain names.

3. Deliverability

What good is a Redemption Reminder if it’s not delivered to the customer’s inbox? Deliverability must be a key business focus for the ESP. A good ESP will provide advanced email deliverability services and strategies as an integral part of your loyalty program.

Deliverability is a complex environment that requires all the moving parts between technology, professional services, industry knowledge and processes to work together. The ESP you choose must put this all in place to ensure you achieve the best possible deliverability rate.

4. Fit to recognise different loyalty levels

Design is important due to the very nature of a loyalty program. Email communications to loyalty customers should always be highly relevant, personalised and customised. The main message will be the same, but John’s email for example, will include a different deal based on his high points balance, while Sarah’s email will include three extra lines of copy that acknowledge her latest store visit.

However, sending emails to five different segments doesn’t mean that a template must be designed and coded each time. In order to accommodate for the varying content of the email, look for an ESP whose design team is able to produce an easily scalable and flexible template, where content can easily be replaced, added or moved.

In today’s mobile world, it’s critical that all email communications forming part of your loyalty program is responsive. Most messages are triggered real time, based on an action your customer has taken and more often than not your customer will be on a mobile device.

5. Report back on your loyalty program and email results

In my opinion, this is the most important feature to look for in an ESP for your loyalty program. Email reporting features that seamlessly closes the loop with integration into your CRM system.

Two levels of reporting are essential from your ESP:

  • Detailed reporting at individual level based on activity in the email for each campaign. This detailed customer data can be imported into CRM and matched to sales data – which can help track the customer’s path to purchase and show the impact email has as a channel in the programme.
  • Overall high level reporting to identify trends, missing touch points, deliverability, hygiene and trends in engagement.

It’s necessary that the ESP also gives advice on how to turn raw data into insights for your loyalty email program, eventually resulting in better commercial solutions.

6. An involved Client Service Team

For me this is the second most important feature.

As much as Loyalty Programs promise to be simple and easy, most are not. They are often multilayered, triple tiered and complex. Will your ESP client service team sign up to the program so that they know it well? Insist on it.

Having a Customer Relationship Manager and Project Manager dedicated to your account, that understands your program is essential!

I know from experience that as the client service manager for a loyalty brand, you have to become immersed in the business of your client. It means that you have more than 4 contacts to deal with daily –
• Head of Marketing
• Campaign manager or CRM specialist
• The data guy
• Head of partner relations

But it has to go beyond that. The client service team must also forge relationships with the actual loyalty partners to make approval processes fast and fun.

At a strategy retreat with my client, many of the ‘top brass’ were shocked to find out that I was the service provider and didn’t actually work at their company – 10 years later and they are still a happy client.

To recap, an ESP must be a partner and not just an email service provider. An effective ESP will help you get to know your customers, enhance your existing data, get to the inbox, increase basket size/value and engagement and see that the detailed results are fed back into your business.

Email marketing is perfectly poised to mobilise your customer strategy, just ensure that your ESP can deliver.

Ready to take your loyalty program to the next level?

Sheryl-Lynn Omar

About Sheryl-Lynn Omar


Sheryl-Lynn is passionate about bridging the gap between physical and digital. Aware that as marketers in a digital world, where the consumer is constantly connected, she looks for opportunities to deliver a rich digital experience from any physical channel. As the eMarketing Customer Experience Manager at Striata SA, Sheryl-Lynn is fanatical about achieving both results and a good end user experience.Based on her intimate understanding of eMarketing best practise, she firmly advocates that insight from constant measurement, data and testing should inform these standards. She believes in relevant communication that creatively emphasises the message and not the channel.

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