How to establish 'big L' loyalty

The first customer loyalty programs, founded by airlines companies, were based around transactions. Customers purchased company products or services, earned points or miles, and eventually redeemed those points or miles for perks and rewards. A customer might get to fly first-class on a flight home, or maybe that customer got really cheap gas. While the scale is different, the basic concept is the same: earn and burn.
However, in order to differentiate themselves, many brands are now striving to create emotional connections with their customers. The point of this type of connection is to drive deeper engagement and create true brand affinity. This kind of loyalty is called Big L Loyalty.
Recently, Loyalty360 sat down with Tamara Oliverio, Senior Director of Loyalty Strategy and CX at Epsilon, to discuss this very issue. Epsilon is a global marketing company with offices around the world. For more than 40 years, they’ve been helping brands improve their marketing, build better customer relationships and find new customers.
What does customer loyalty mean to you?
Customer loyalty is defined as consumers who are loyal to your brand first, followed by your products, services, and loyalty program. It reflects the customers who feel your brand’s authenticity and have developed an emotional connection or relationship with your brand and the value it signifies.
In thinking about what customer loyalty means to our organization, it really is about what it means to the brands we partner with to help manage their loyalty marketing initiatives. We work with hundreds of brands to help them achieve their goals and provide them with strategic guidance as to how to incorporate their brand level loyalty initiatives into their loyalty program marketing.
Today, in comparison to two to three years ago, customer loyalty has shifted from a siloed program to a strategic business initiative. Loyalty has become part of the brand and critical to the customer experience brands are delivering.
Do your clients understand Big L Loyalty? What it means, why its powerful, why it’s worth all of the effort to achieve it?
As a first step, it’s important to understand how we define Big L Loyalty. It’s an approach to loyalty that focuses on the human experience, not the loyalty program, to inspire passion, dedication, trust, and emotional connections between brands and consumers. The human experience is what motivates consumers to make repeat purchases and move through the customer lifecycle towards lifetime brand loyalty.
We’re constantly having conversations with clients to help them understand why they should aspire to achieve Big L Loyalty. Then, we help clients define their approach to Big L Loyalty and carry it throughout their program initiatives. Big L Loyalty is achieved when it becomes a mindset within an organization and customers feel it in every brand interaction. 
What trends are you seeing in customer loyalty and marketing?
One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is the shift from transactional to experiential loyalty. For several years, brands have talked about this shift, but today, brands are implementing it. Machine learning is helping bring the emotional, experience-driven loyalty strategy to life.
Additionally, marketers are starting to look at the entire human experience and every brand interaction through journey mapping. It’s about mapping out the consumer journey and all the different touchpoints they have with the brand, and then using different interactions to inspire Big L Loyalty, show empathy, connect with consumers in meaningful ways beyond discounts, and build trust amongst the brand and the consumer.
What does success mean for brands who deliver Big L Loyalty?
Success means achieving lifetime loyalty from your customers at the brand level so the brand becomes a positive part of the human experience. Success through Big L Loyalty means you’ve developed an emotional connection with your customers and they understand the true meaning or authenticity of your brand. When I think of a brand that’s implemented Big L Loyalty, FedEx comes to mind. FedEx’s brand values are instilled in everything they do, and it begins within their organization. FedEx’s Purple Promise (the soul of the company) of “I will make every FedEx experience outstanding” is their Big L Loyalty.
FedEx states, “Across regions, roles and companies, we are united by our promise and by our shared values: People, Service, Innovation, Integrity, Responsibility, and Loyalty. Together, our promise and our values make us stronger. And our commitment to excellence has separated us from the competition.” Each and every FedEx employee fulfills on this promise as they’re working on ensuring their customers remain loyal to the brand first, the service or program second.
How do you know when your programs are working?
Measurement is a critical component to ensure programs are working. KPIs need to be established and these metrics need to be achievable. For example, defining a metric of measuring the impact of real time marketing initiatives (from a tool like Momentum within Epsilon’s Agility Loyalty platform) on sales versus comparing a program effect of an enhancement to your loyalty program is key. Understanding the impact of real-time behavior is telling and helps guide future marketing planning.
Brands should develop a scorecard and make sure they’re in constant measurement mode. It’s an exciting time for the industry. Big L Loyalty will redefine how brands approach their overall customer experience. For example, we’re starting to look into how we can measure the emotions of consumers and the impact on lifetime loyalty. Data insights are key, and continuously aligning to KPIs while also seeking feedback from your customers is essential.
Our discussion with Tamara Oliverio has some key takeaways. First, brands should consider striving to create Big L Loyalty. Transactional programs have their benefits, but in order to turn customers into lifelong advocates, emotional connection and engagement is a must. In addition, establishing metrics to gauge Big L Loyalty is a necessity as well. If a brand wants to create this kind of affinity, then it will need to measure its success in this endeavor. Given Epsilon’s experience in this area, we believe more innovative brands will be reaching towards the Big L going forward.

*This article first appeared on Loyalty360.