Maybe your loyalty program has been slowly declining, maybe it’s never quite lived up to expectations – either way, you know it’s time to make a change.

But what if it’s not just your program mechanics that need an overhaul? What if you need a whole new platform?

Replacing a big tech platform – especially one that has a direct impact on your customers – always has its risks. Combine that with the task of revamping a loyalty program, and you’ve got a recipe for internal push-back and sleepless nights.

Fortunately, you can reduce the stress with smart planning and processes. We’ve outlined a few steps below that will help you mitigate risks and stay in control of your loyalty replatforming – and earn the support of key stakeholders.

Let’s dive in…
 

Start with strategy

Here’s the hard truth: The best platform in the world won’t save an ailing loyalty program if the right strategy isn’t behind it. So the first step in your replatforming journey is to ask a few key questions.

Working with other relevant departments (like customer service or sales), as well as customers themselves, try to answer the following:

  • What adds value to our members’ relationship with our business?
  • What are we trying to achieve with our program? (e.g. retain customers, drive cross-sales, grow brand advocacy)
  • What are our competitors doing with their programs? What elements are table-stakes? How can we differentiate?
  • What about our current program is preventing us from achieving these things?

You may find that there’s a flawed assumption in the original approach, the objectives weren’t quite right, or that your existing platform simply isn’t equipped to help you deliver on your strategy effectively. Whatever the case, the answers to these questions should inform your loyalty strategy going forward.

As you formulate a new strategy, always keep the customer – and the value you’re providing them – front-of-mind. A program that doesn’t add value to the customer’s relationship will have little effect on your bottom line.

Smart strategy + solid tech = success

The combination of good strategy and technology is what really enables your loyalty program to succeed. But if you’re time-strapped or new to the loyalty arena, it’s worth bringing in outside help – whether an independent consultant, an agency, or even the strategic division of a solutions vendor. The extra insight and guidance can make all the difference.

Be data-minded

According to a recent Forrester report, one of the most important things your loyalty platform should help you do is understand your customers – their interests, preferences and motivations – so that you can give them more relevant experiences.

And that means you’ll need data.

Customer data can feel like a bit of a minefield in our post-GDPR world. But it’s also an opportunity.

By applying the data customers have shared with you in a way that creates tangible value for them, you can build positive emotional connections.

Think about the information you’ll need (and be able to use) to truly improve a customer’s experience – not just their experience of the loyalty program itself, but also of your brand.

That will usually include things like:

Demographics, Purchase History, Behavior, Sentiment

Try to define early on what data you’ll need, where you plan to collect it from and how you’ll use it. This will help you map out how your updated program will work and also inform your choice of vendor.

Finally, don’t forget about the customer data you’ve already got within your existing loyalty platform. Make sure you can export it in a suitable format (CSV usually does the trick) – and if it’s difficult to access, talk to your provider about how you can transfer it to a new system.

The last thing you want to do is upset loyal members by forcing them to start from scratch or making them feel as though you’ve forgotten who they are.
 

Look for innovation

A platform migration is a great opportunity to really push your program forward, especially if you’ve been held back by legacy software. Creative uses of technology that improve the customer experience can help you stand out in a competitive environment.

To that end, look for a platform with innovation at its core. Add to your shortlist vendors who are already working with things like machine learning, real-time engagement and non-transactional loyalty. And look out for any upgrade fees or stipulations that could prevent you from accessing the latest capabilities.

Then, guided by your strategy, sketch out what the program should look like in its first year. Think about the types of activities or behavior you want to reward, how you’ll personalize the program, what types of rewards you want to offer, and what the member experience should feel like.

You don’t have to map out the exact business rules now, but it’s important to understand what you’ll need in a new platform.

Technology is evolving rapidly (and so are customer expectations), so this is only a starting point. But thinking carefully about the capabilities you’ll need both now and down the road means you’re less likely to need another migration in a few years’ time.

​​​​​​​We’ve had plenty of experience migrating loyalty programs onto our flexible Horizon platform. Click here to find out more about how we can help.