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Mary EnglishGeneral Manager for Hong KongInternational Customer Loyalty Programmes (ICLP)
Without data, brands are blind to their customers’ preferences, and therefore bereft of the insights needed to create successful loyalty programs. eMarketer’s Dustin Sodano spoke with Mary English, general manager for Hong Kong at International Customer Loyalty Programmes (ICLP), a loyalty agency whose clients include Estée Lauder, Cathay Pacific and Mandarin Oriental, about the data and other factors that make or break loyalty programs.
eMarketer: How does ICLP approach customer loyalty in today’s connected world?
Mary English: To have a successful loyalty program, brands must have a clear understanding of the customer profile, their spending behavior and preferences, and the customer journey. We all know that “earn and burn” loyalty programs and plastic cards are going away. You need to have strategic partners to keep loyalty programs fresh and innovative.
It’s also not just about marketing channels, whether it’s social, mobile or email, but also your frontline staff. They are a brand’s one-to-one marketer. If they don’t understand the brand, the program and how to support customers’ needs, it will fail.
eMarketer: Is it important to use big data to better understand customers?
English: The only way to create a personalized and relevant experience is by understanding your customer. To do that, you need to capture data from wherever you can obtain it. In the past, it was all transactional data. But now with social media, you can capture what they’re doing socially, especially with other brands.
eMarketer: Is there such thing as too much data?
English: If you have a blueprint upfront to understand how you’re going to use the data, I don’t think you can have too much of it. But if you don’t have a plan in place to find what you’re looking for, you have to rethink how you’re using data. You also have to make sure that you manage data properly. It’s a living and breathing tool, and you need to continue to capture customer data to see how customers mature and change with the brand.
eMarketer: In addition to gathering data from social media, how can brands leverage it for loyalty programs?
English: In Hong Kong, over 70% of the population is active on social media, and they use Facebook as the main way to communicate. We need to get those users to share, “like” and rate products and monitor that activity. Our clients respond within 30 minutes to anything someone has put out there, because we want users to get into personal conversations with brands, especially when it’s a concern they have. Not only do we address it on the platform, but we also respond personally to the user.
eMarketer: What else makes for a successful omnichannel loyalty program in Hong Kong?
English: A lot of brands’ communication and engagement happens through social channels, but they are still involved in email and SMS, which won’t go away anytime soon. Mobile is also coming to the forefront as a way to push out messages using geolocation and geosensing. That’s especially important in Hong Kong, which is one big shopping mall. We want to make sure that customers not only know where the store is, but they also receive relevant offers, whether it’s an experiential component or a sale.
With all of the data available today, brands can manage their loyalty budgets based on customer profiles. Someone may join a loyalty program, but that doesn’t mean the brand has to spend their marketing dollars on members who aren’t valuable.
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