Defining the Loyalty Experience
The integration of digital and physical experiences is the horizon of customer experience.
Businesses that are doing this right in 2021 are using loyalty applications as the glue cementing frictionless purchase and payment to in-store and curbside pickup. The current state is imperfect, but it is working.
Let’s look at the winners. In the restaurant industry, quick service and fast casual restaurants have stolen significant market share over the last two years. At first, gains were due to drive thru and digital menu boards. More recently, growth and competition has focused on loyalty applications. Restaurants are using digital signage to develop new ways of interacting with customers and making every interaction more valuable.
The top 4 quick-service restaurants are adding between 800,000 and 3 Million users per month to their applications. This trend has lasted for the last few months and shows no signs of stopping any time soon. At the current rate, it will take less than a year to win over the entire US population. Of course, growth will lag at some point, but when it does, these QSRs will have built a loyalty network to rival grocery stores, where 85% of customers are enrolled in loyalty programs.
More important than the numbers are the relationships that these brands are developing with customers. Now, instead of having to buy third-party data about customers’ web browsing habits, they have first-party data tracing meaningful buying patterns and preferences that are specific to their products and services. This data will help brands personalize their value proposition to an audience of one, while providing the infrastructure to make accurate data-driven decisions moving forward.
For businesses at earlier stages in their omnichannel journey, it’s important to take a step back and analyze the strategic benefit of integrating digital signage with loyalty. It is easy to maintain a loyalty app, or a digital signage platform, but delivering an efficient, integrated experience that works at thousands of locations and accomplishes your organization’s strategic goals? That requires some thought and planning.
Where to Start — Digital Signage, or Loyalty?
While current forerunners make it clear that digital signage and loyalty are both components of omnichannel, which should come first?
In the case of quick service restaurants, digital signage laid the infrastructure; loyalty came later. Consumers saw the modernized, digital menu board appear in-store and in drive thrus years and in some cases over a decade before the recent push to loyalty applications.
That foundation helped quick service restaurant leaders incentivize the use of loyalty apps, since customers could make the connection from online and mobile ordering to drive thru and in-store pickup. For innovators with digital menu boards in place, the loyalty app provides a convenient, low-friction way to interact with the physical store. That value proposition helps restaurants expand their loyalty programs more rapidly than any other industry in history.
However, this process could be easily reversed, for example, if an online retailer opens a physical storefront. There are a handful of industries where loyalty is generally available but with only sparse digital signage (grocery, convenience and retail to name a few).
The hardware is less important than the information and expertise of developing an effective, customer-facing solution.
How can you tell whether your brand is effective in today’s market?
In a word: relevancy. An effective digital signage solution, just like an effective loyalty application, increases the relevancy of the business’ offerings to customers.
It is not about the system; it’s about building feedback loops into customer experience to provide increasingly relevant information and offers.
“Loyalty is more than an app; it’s relevancy”
— Cory Kiesel, STRATACACHE
When we deploy a digital signage platform, we introduce relevancy into the customer experience.
Consider a print menu board. A print menu board stays the same at all times. It is static.
A digital menu board, however, can change to serve the breakfast menu in the morning, a lunch menu during lunch, and a dinner menu during dinner. This helps to simplify content and streamline the ordering process. It is dynamic.
Many businesses do not start out with dayparted menus; they start by pushing their print design into a digital format. Dayparting and other adaptations evolve over time.
Later down the line, our example company starts to serve dynamic content based on real-time ordering data. The content management system (CMS) sees that a customer has ordered a sandwich, and asks, “Would you like a cool drink with your order?”
To make the offer a bit more relevant, we might use a global condition, like temperature, to alter the type of beverage recommended and displayed on the screen. On a cold, winter day, “Would you like a hot drink with your order?” A digital menu board would also be able to loop this data into a one-to-many communication as well, emphasizing hot drinks in special offers and visuals to make the entire menu more appealing.
Whether your offer is one-to-one, or one-to-many, context increases relevancy and appeal to the audience. It’s not only more effective, it’s more empathetic. That question sounds more human, more thoughtful, and it shows that the business has taken the time to consider the customer.
Relevancy develops relationships, and it is the real glue between online and in-store. Relevancy comes first.
This means that any business that is new to digital signage and loyalty gets a head start by focusing on relevancy first.
How to Deliver Leading, In-Store Customer Experience
We recommend our customers start by defining their ideal loyalty experience. Does it start by welcoming the customer by name, or does it start with, “What is your customer identification number?” These questions lead back to the personal preferences of your ideal customers, and they have real implications on the technology you will need to deploy.
Once you can establish a vision, then we can walk back to the infrastructure you need to get started on that path, building that in-store experience and developing better relationships with customers.