4 tips to build customer connections in a contactless world

2020 jolted us into reevaluating in-person interactions—from shopping to socializing to completely restructuring the workplace. Connecting with customers and creating loyalty has always been a challenge for brands, even during face-to-face interactions. Absent of those interactions, what are brands left with? 

Contactless interactions must move beyond the baseline

It will take a bit more than leaving takeout on the front steps or accepting payments via Apple Pay to create strong, lasting connections with your customers.

The good news is, we have some ideas on how to connect with customers during this new normal of social distancing and online interactions. And they start with a new concept called Contactless Loyalty.

What is contactless loyalty?

If you haven’t heard of contactless loyalty before, don’t worry. It’s a new concept we’re introducing to you.

Contactless loyalty is the act of creating long-lasting connections with your people and keeping them coming back to your brand—even when human contact is limited.

Creating contactless loyalty means finding ways to simulate the human touch in programs like contact-free delivery, curbside pickup, and contactless payments to improve customer experiences and build brand affinity. The key is to think beyond short-term changes and evolve your strategy into something that can enhance customer loyalty with or without contact.

4 tips for creating contactless loyalty

At Epsilon, we have decades of experience helping the world’s largest brands create loyalty experiences that power lifetime customer connections. Based on that knowledge, we’d like to share four practical steps you can take to create loyalty.

1. Reevaluate the value exchange you have with your customers

Because consumer behavior has changed due to COVID-19, marketers must reevaluate all touchpoints along the buyer’s journey, from email outreach to digital media consumption. Consumers are engaging with new channels and technology—brands must consider whether these engagements create a satisfying customer experience that truly addresses their needs.

Wait, what is the value exchange?

As a brand, you need to deliver quality products, services, or experiences. In exchange, consumers deliver value to you through purchases and word-of-mouth recommendations. Investing in the value exchange encourages consumers to increase the amount of time, money, and emotional engagement that they share with your brand.

By focusing on these connections, you’ll create longer-lasting customer relationships. In an increasingly contactless world, consider how consumer behavior has changed and how you can incentivize customers to continue their engagement with your product.

2. Promote an agile strategy with the appropriate tools

Real-time feedback is a must-have for marketing campaigns. One thing connecting with customers during COVID-19 has taught us was that you’ll never know when you need quick reflexes and the ability to adapt.

At Epsilon, we believe in having the right analytics to be able to forecast, pace, and pivot when needed.

Here are some tools your brand should be using:

Forecasting. Loyalty programs justify their existence with ROI. We built our ProFIT model to help clients understand how profitable these programs can be. ProFIT is a holistic modeling and financial optimization tool designed specifically for loyalty programs. It identifies the sweet spot for program funding and potential for reward liability, creating the best-case, worst-case, and most likely 5-year P&L scenario.

This helps brands understand and predict the profitability of their loyalty investment. We model ROI and NPV to increase sales and acquisition while reducing attrition.

Pacing. Our Epsilon PeopleCloud (EPC) Loyalty platform builds out analytics around client-set goals and monitors them to drive outcomes. Creating insights around campaign analysis—one of our top priorities—helps clients monitor their loyalty program tiers differently and reward their members accordingly with personalized offers.

We’ve also taken analytics to the next level by tracking offer performance and updating brands when they’re on (or off) track. This improves transparency in results, from spending to engagement. It tracks progress and reports out to leadership in realtime.

Overall, our solution takes the heavy lifting off brands, and provides data-driven recommendations for how they should start their day and reach their desired outcomes. 

Pivoting. Your loyalty approach needs to be nimble to pivot when needed. This stems from planning and pacing, but you also need the right tools for pivoting as consumer behavior continues to change. No one could have predicted COVID-19 and its ramifications. Having the right data in hand will inform your organization on how to connect with customers—no matter the surprise.

It’s important to continually monitor your loyalty program data to understand what’s working and what isn’t. At Epsilon, we help clients understand how their loyalty program compares to other CRM initiatives and monitor the program’s true ROI.

Here are a few considerations for pivoting your program in an increasingly contactless world:

  • Increase engagement across contactless channels or virtual experiences.
  • Create goodwill.
  • Lead with empathy.

Download our guide: Contactless loyalty: Build connections in a contactless world


3. Use loyalty data as your secret weapon

Remember, loyalty programs are about a value exchange. Customers expect a valuable and personalized loyalty experience in return for their data. Since loyalty programs are opt-in, customers are sharing their data in exchange for unique experiences personalized to them. It’s important to look beyond transactions to fully understand customer behavior, as behavior is ultimately what shows who someone is and what’s important to them. That way, you can reward your very best customers—and find look alike customers (or non-customers) to also join your program.

Over time with every interaction, you capture data to create a fuller, more holistic view of the customer, which helps you understand their motivations and how to best personalize their brand experiences. From there, you can compare those shopping with you to those who aren’t. You’ll see who has the best potential to join your program and how you can engage with them.

At Epsilon, we’ve created a methodology to segment and personalize the data our clients get from loyalty programs. Our segmentation model is called VAP, which stands for value, attrition and potential.

The model is a three-dimensional approach to determine:

  • Value: how valuable your customers are
  • Attrition: how likely customers are to leave your program or brand
  • Potential: what kind of potential they have with your brand in the future

This statistical model uses machine learning to automate data collection and provide marketers with detailed segmentation—helping them optimize their marketing investments and personalize their interactions. VAP uses a lifecycle approach of activate, engage, upsell and retain for marketers to determine program design components.

Overall, using your loyalty program data will help you reach the right customers and optimize your marketing spend.

4. Don’t forget to create emotional connections

For years, we’ve seen shifts from transactional to experiential loyalty. But now it’s important to make emotional connections that inspire contactless loyalty. Your marketing team must keep a balanced value exchange and learn how to connect with customers in meaningful ways. They must show empathy during times of disruption, build trust, and meet customers where they are as their behavior and sentiments change.

To achieve this, brands should focus on building loyalty into their culture. According to Deloitte Digital, “emotions are the basis for 80% of the decisions a person makes in a single day. Yet, very few brands have a way to sufficiently act upon a person’s emotions to impact their connection and loyalty to their brand.”

Even though COVID-19 has robbed brands of face-to-face interactions, they can still pivot and learn how to connect with customers effectively (albeit from behind a mask). When a company focuses on the ways that it can elevate the new customer rituals of contactless payment, delivery and curbside pickup to engender loyalty, it will inevitably outcompete incumbents who take their customers for granted.

Ready to create a contactless loyalty experience that keeps your members engaged, happy and coming back for more?  Download our guide.

 ***This article originally appeared in L360.