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Four things COVID19 taught us about consumer loyalty programs

The past year has tested consumer loyalty. Many brands faced store closings and delayed order delivery, and an economic crunch forced consumers to be more intentional about where they spend. Since the onset of the pandemic, 33% of consumers have strayed from their respective brands for new offerings.

Brands are fighting for consumer attention by investing in loyalty programs, but the programs and brands that will win look different today. If consumer behavior in 2020 taught us one thing, it’s that you need to meet shoppers where they are (mobile), with a flow of information that’s relevant and timely (personalized), and driven by experiences that enable them to buy with as little effort as possible (automation).

If you’re doing all of these things already, well, you can check off  your loyalty OKRs right now. However, if your program isn’t doing the things you want it to, you’ve come to the right place. With over 20 years of experience, Vibes helps brands across retail, restaurants, financial services, automotive and more retain 97% of their mobile audience and drive $3 billion in incremental mobile attributed revenue annually. In other words, Vibes helps brands connect with consumers through personalized, automated mobile messaging to deliver ROI on loyalty program investments.

With that in mind, here are four lessons defining the most effective consumer loyalty programs in 2021 and beyond.

Automatic Loyalty Enrollment enables one-tap, multichannel loyalty acquisition.


Make loyalty acquisition a catapult, not a barrier

Consumers are currently navigating a landscape riddled with new rules, restrictions, and methods of purchasing; a challenge for both brands and shoppers alike when it comes to joining a program or collecting incentives. Though we live in a time of change, let’s hold to what we know is true: making consumer shopping experiences easy leads to a 16% increase in spend.

Here’s how to optimize your loyalty acquisition among shopping experiences to meet 2021’s requirements:

  • QR codes have become more valuable as they offer a contactless method to access a website destination. QR codes adoption has steadily increased and can now be found on the menus of half of U.S. restaurants as well as at a growing number of hotels, airports, and retailers, like CVS pharmacy. Take advantage of this growth by placing QR codes in-store that direct consumers to a loyalty sign-up page built using Vibes Microexperience Designer to capture shoppers’ phone numbers and emails.
  • Your POS terminal should be contactless to promote consumer safety. Enable loyalty sign ups at your NFC terminal using Vibes Automatic Loyalty Enrollment (ALE). Using ALE, consumers simply hold their iPhone or Android to the terminal to receive a Mobile Wallet loyalty card and start receiving rewards immediately.
  • More consumers communicate and shop through digital channels than ever before. Convert your existing digital audience to loyalty members by deploying your Automated Loyalty Enrollment sign-up link directly through email, SMS, or wherever you can attach a link.

Create retention using behavioral data

Targeted engagement can help you retain consumers who have become cost-conscious. After you’ve acquired new loyalty consumers, your focus shifts towards increasing tenure and consistent spend; growth in both equate to an increase in consumer lifetime value. To do this, your engagement strategy must employ behavioral data about what your consumers are interested in and, more importantly, where they may fall off in their buying journey, so you can reengage them.

To keep your brand top of mind, use intelligent automated messaging driven by first-party behavioral data. This means crafting a message based on what consumers click on, add to their cart, or subsequently purchase. Combining this messaging strategy into your loyalty program drives conversions when consumers are not showing signs of purchasing.

Transactional messaging is your value-creating secret weapon

We don’t think of “order arrival” messages as part of a loyalty program, but it’s directly correlated to keeping shoppers engaged with your brand. Consumers nowadays have become more attuned to hearing from brands outside of marketing. 48% of consumers say they prefer receiving text alerts from businesses rather than email or phone calls during emergencies. If you’re not reaching consumers using transactional SMS alerts, you could be missing out on engaging and retaining almost 50% of your audience.

Transactional messaging provides a constant stream of updates telling your consumers what to do next. Whether it’s a bill pay reminder to save them from late fees, order arrival alerts to reinforce your speed of delivery promise, or a simple store hours alert message, transactional messaging fills the purchase-to-purchase engagement gaps.

87,000 Chipotle customers downloaded trackable mobile wallet offers during the 2019 NBA Finals.


To stand out, your program needs to be cool AND useful

Gartner finds that one of the leading drivers of lasting customer loyalty is based on “Product Experience” (e.g., The product’s usability, utility, and how it meets the needs of a consumer.) This aligns with two common brand challenges today 1) Contactless interactions are critical to consumer safety and brand perception 2) You need to stand out in our current digital-first world.

Cue Mobile Wallet. Brands like LEGO use Mobile Wallet to keep consumers up to date on loyalty points and status, deploy rewards, and drive retention. Mobile Wallet’s dynamic attributes push real-time offer or loyalty updates, enable contactless sign-ups and redemptions, and create app-like engagement that keeps your brand top of mind. In a world where speed to market wins, Mobile Wallet fuels a more engaging and dynamic shopping journey.

Moving forward
As consumers normalize to digital and mobile experiences, brands who continue investing in loyalty programs that ease the customer shopping experience will see increased audience engagement and growth.

To learn more about the Mobile for Loyalty, download our recent report here.



About the Author

A member of the Product Marketing team at Vibes, Andres De La Rosa works to share growth-enabling insights with those recognizing mobile potential. He is dedicated to bringing others a clear perspective on evolving mobile benefits.

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