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Taking a mobile-first approach to customer loyalty

Most of us would be lost without our mobile phones. We manage our lives with them. Our shopping habits are informed by them, too. We research purchases via mobile, find our nearest store or shop online and even pay using our mobiles.

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Taking a mobile-first approach to customer loyalty

We use them to manage much of our day-to-day lives, from tracking our food and exercise, to ordering and paying for our coffee, or planning our weekly shop. Loyalty schemes that take advantage of the benefits of mobile technology stand a much better chance of creating long-term loyalty in customers. So if loyalty schemes are to stay relevant in a mobile world, they need to think ‘mobile first’.

How can a loyalty programme become more mobile? Here are a few tips for retailers.

1. Incorporate mobile payments into your loyalty programme. If your programme means customers can pay with reward points, they should be able to do that direct from their mobile, particularly if they’re using it to pay for goods anyway. They shouldn’t have to insert a card to redeem points when they’re paying via a mobile phone. If you use a self-scan device, why not incorporate mobile payments at the end of the shop, rather than asking your customer to pay at the till?

2. Use in-store apps as a product catalogue. When a customer visits your store, give them access to what’s available (and what’s on offer) via their mobile. If they want to know if you have a dress in a particular size, why not let them check themselves on their phone? It’s another way of communicating with the customer, and personalising their shopping experience without increasing the number of assistants on the shop floor. It’s also a great way of tracking what they looking for, so you can send them more relevant offers next time they shop.

3. Send contextual offers by mobile notification. If you know that the last time your customer visited your store, they bought fresh pasta, you could send them a suggestion for a new dish as they approach the aisle. Or if they browsed online for a new top but didn’t complete the check out process, and they pass your store on the high street, send an offer to their phone to let them know they could pop in and try that top on.

4. Make it personal. A mobile phone is a personal device. Make sure what you do with it is hyper-relevant and tailored to your customer. You could use augmented reality to let a customer see how a new sofa might look in their sitting room, or suggest new kitchenware to go with their kitchen, show where they can find accessories to go with a new outfit in the store, or even indicate which products on the supermarket shelves are gluten or dairy-free. You could use mobile to have a private conversation with an assistant. Agent Provocateur recently started using WhatsApp to set up three-way conversations between customer service assistants and couples as a way to discuss the customer’s requirements in a more private setting.

5. Think about how mobile might make customers’ lives easier. Starbucks does this well, by using mobile to let customers order through the app on their way to the store, which means they can avoid the queue. Starbucks delivers convenience (and a sense of being a VIP – who doesn’t love to jump a queue?) while also ensuring they never miss out on an order.

6. Work with new behaviour, rather than fight it. Customers now research their in-store purchases online before they buy, or even search the internet while in the shop, checking for price comparisons or alternative ideas. This is especially true with young customers as 72% research their options online before making a purchase in store. If your prices are better or you offer a price guarantee, proactively give customers the comparisons they want.

7. Keep it simple. Placing any barriers in the way of claiming benefits will frustrate and alienate shoppers rather than reward them. Recent research revealed that 70% of consumers found loyalty schemes “too cumbersome” and that most preferred to engage with brands via text message rather than via emails or even apps. Retailers should be exploring ways to simplify loyalty schemes and communication, and mobile offers the best chance of providing customers with the ease-of-use and customisation that a good loyalty scheme needs. Thinking mobile first forces simplicity.

8. Think in communities. Our mobile phones are used to connect us to our friends, family and the world around us. Use this in your loyalty programme. Let your customers create friends and family accounts, so they can pool points to redeem them towards a common cause. That might be towards a family holiday, or it could be towards a cause that’s close to their hearts. You could include an element of competition to encourage them to participate – for example, who has donated most to a charity, or who has contributed the most air miles?

9. Let your customers be social. In 2015, Nielsen found that 84% of people said recommendations from friends and family were the most credible form of advertising. An on-the-spot recommendation from a friend might tip the decision to buy a new pair of shoes, as well as promoting your brand to a group of people outside the store.

10. Integrate with your CRM system. Integrating all this data to your CRM means that you can gain a really rounded view of your customers, and tailor their experiences to be incredibly relevant. This can be used to inform your sales strategy, your marketing and even the layout of your stores.

Get the mobile approach to loyalty right, and the information you’ll learn about your customers will be invaluable. You can use data on their shopping habits to inform your market programmes, product development and in-store experiences. Your customers will have a better shopping experience, and be more loyal to you in return.


Lauren Hogg is the UK Marketing Manager at Comarch, a supplier of IT services and solutions including the building and managing of innovative loyalty programmes. It provides robust and scalable technology and services to enable loyalty schemes for companies that have multiple locations and high numbers of customer transactions.

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