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From Playing Favorites to Tierful Choices: Six Resolutions for Winning Savvy Consumers in 2013

If one word could describe consumers in 2012 it would be smart – smart phones, smarter transaction processing and smart mobile wallets. Now, with 2013 before us, I project consumers will take “smart” one step further, to savvy.

We, as marketers, can help. Think about it. Consumers have a host of mobile apps and digital services to do their comparison-shopping, pricing and even purchasing. But how informed are our customers when it comes to the guidelines of their loyalty programs? If the average household belongs to 18 loyalty programs but participates in only eight – as COLLOQUY, LoyaltyOne’s research group, has determined – then it is not earning and redeeming at optimum levels.

A customer who feels he or she is getting the short end of a brand transaction will not become loyal. So with that in mind, here are six resolutions I expect the savvy consumer will take in 2013, and the role smart marketers can play:

Play favorites: Savvy consumers will analyze where they spend their money and then consolidate as much purchasing as possible under the programs that yield the most relevant rewards. They also will calculate how many points or miles will be needed to get that desired reward, and how long it will take. The programs that offer the most options for gaining and redeeming tailored rewards, easily, will earn this business.

Avoid expiration exasperation: Once the consumer has calculated how long it will take to earn a specific reward, the next step will be to ensure the currency won’t expire before reaching that goal. Since program operators sometimes change their policies regarding expiration, savvy consumers will pay attention to all program communications to avoid being blind-sided. So make that communication clear, and clearly to the consumer’s benefit.

Pick partners: Merchant loyalty programs that give points to members who shop with a complementary business, such as supermarkets with gas stations, can yield faster rewards. But the savvy shopper will figure out that this only works if he or she uses the products and services of each business enough to generate those perks. To stimulate that business, marketers should invest in unique, cross-promotional spending opportunities, such as double fuel points for buying organic foods.

Look beyond the dollar: Consumers are pretty much conditioned to accumulate points. But with many credit cards offering just 1 percent to 3 percent back, savvy shoppers will quickly find that non-monetary rewards can be of greater value. Such perks might include apparel alterations, free Wi-Fi, access to airline lounges and complimentary hotel nights.

Make tierful choices: Lots of airlines, hotels and department store chains offer reward programs with silver, gold and platinum tiers. The higher the tier, the better the perks. This is great aspirational marketing, but the savvy consumer will ask: Can I achieve that tier ranking at my spending level? Loyalty programs can make it easy to run the math and see what it takes to advance, while offering spending options to get there (two Halston dresses + three Kate Spade bags = one Burberry scarf).

Don’t be a stranger: Lastly, marketers should make it so consumers can easily stay in touch with their rewards. Savvy loyalty members will choose programs that allow them to track point balances and redeem for rewards in ways that are convenient to their lifestyles. If a member stores her shopping lists on her smartphone, for example, she will prefer digital rewards to paper coupons. Likewise, savvy consumers will keep their eyes peeled for new ways to earn rewards, such as through social media activity or healthy lifestyle activities.

I am sure 2013 will deliver us a wonder of smart technologies and services. It is the marketer’s job to understand the aspirations and motivations that inform consumer decisions with each. Because regardless of the year, the savvy consumer is the smart choice.

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