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Loyalty trends and best practices

Loyalty Experience and Design for Globalized Brands

by Arif Damji
February 22, 2016
Loyalty Experience and Design for Globalized Brands

In today’s world of globalized brands and the aspirational 360 degree of customers, the question arises around how uniform a customer’s loyalty experience should be across countries. Undoubtedly, years ago when many large established globalized and brands moved into Europe and Asia, they wanted to create a differentiated image tailored to these geographies to help penetrate into those regions. However, as their presence expanded, their loyalty footprint has become equally regional with a differentiated program in each market. Recent trends of mobility across geographies, transparency of eCommerce, and a desire for a globalized brand image has helped to flag the need for a global customer experience for brands, inclusive of course of a consistent loyalty experience.

Why does a loyalty experience need to be consistent across geographies?

The question around global loyalty is whether a brand is better off being able to customize a customer’s loyalty interactions across geographies. Every customer is different and much of that is due to local influences such as culture, norms, and preferences.

In the end, it is a compromise. Allowing for a completely differentiated experience across geographies is going to optimize the regional experience, but may dilute the brand’s global image and attributes. The original mission statement may seem like just a fabricated list of words and both the staff and customers may become confused about the “raison d’etre” of the brand.

Accordingly, a brand that imposes a “one size fits all” approach to loyalty without any geographical nuances to loyalty is reliant on a homogenous population across geographies. What happens if members spend or interact differently across countries? The abundance of $1000+ a year spenders in China may not match up with the average $100 a year spenders in Spain. A tier aimed at rewarding best customers, which looks only at the global population is likely to have a disproportionate number of tier members in one country over the other. In the end, a customer in Spain may see very little value in the program!

How does this impact the design of your loyalty program?

It essentially means that you need a global framework for a loyalty program, whereby the quantitative metrics of customers (e.g. spend, visits, average check size, etc.) are combined with qualitative observations (from surveys and focus groups) to create a set of rules around loyalty program design in each country. If you find (as many do) major differences across geographies, you may need to start to think about tools in your arsenal to customize elements of the program. For example, you could have different tier thresholds across countries, or utilize the communication strategy of each country to tailor to the markets an offer.

In the end, the program needs to feel like it belongs to “one brand” with “one message,” and at the same time still remain relevant and tailored to the population of each geography. Not an easy feat, but I suppose that is why loyalty strategy has become a science.

If you’d like to learn more about how to walk the fine line when creating a global loyalty program, speak to our scientist Zach Woith at zwoith@merkleinc.com.


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