Shifting from little L to big L loyalty: The three stages

Throughout the past year, we’ve talked a lot about Big L Loyalty and the benefits it brings to brands, and we’ve worked with multiple clients on helping them achieve their Big L Loyalty goals. In my blog, I defined the meaning of Big L Loyalty. It’s the passion, dedication, feelings, emotional connection and trust consumers establish with your brand that motivates them to continue their purchases and move through the customer lifecycle towards lifetime brand loyalty.

I like to think of ‘getting to’ Big L Loyalty as a three stage approach (of maturity): stage I, operational/transactional; stage II, customer centricity (Little L Loyalty); and stage III, enculturation (Big L Loyalty – it’s in the culture). As a first step, marketers need to evaluate and understand the stage they’re at and put a plan in place for getting to the next stage (and realize the level of loyalty increases with each stage).

Let’s explore the three stages along with the transitional process between each stage.

  • Stage I, Operational & transactional: During this first stage of maturity, brands don’t have extensive programs in place to sustain customers. There’s nothing ‘purposeful’ for retention, meaning personalized messaging, campaigns and programs. Companies lack a 360-degree view and rely on discounts, sales and non-targeted communications to win customers back.
  • Stage II, Customer centricity (Little L Loyalty): Throughout this stage, brands develop a loyalty or retention program and are actively engaged in data capture strategies to truly get to know their customers. During this stage, companies implement institutional tactics to entice customers to come back. CRM and Loyalty programs are actively in use here while personalization strategies are in play.
  • Stage III, Enculturation: Here, loyalty is enculturated. During this stage, brands build customer-centricity into their DNA and culture, creating experiences that draw customers back. It’s at this stage that marketers are able to communicate to their customers with 1:You messages – a holistic customer experience strategy that’s personalized to the individual across all interactions.

Download the e-book: From 1:1 to 1:You

— Personalizing the loyalty experience

It’s important to understand the transitional process between each stage. Throughout the past ten years, we’ve done a great job at moving companies from stage one to two by helping our clients create best-in-class programs. Now, it’s time to focus our energies on shifting brands from stage two to three.

To make this transition, marketers need to understand ‘the how.’ This shift requires an integration of systems and programs across the company. Additionally, culture adjustments are needed from the highest levels of leadership and change management is recommended. The mindset (or leadership style) needs to be re-prioritized from what the company needs to what’s best for the customer, a customer-centric approach. Lastly, it requires a leap of faith in that customers will respond favorably.

Several brands we work with are shifting from stage two to three. As we help these brands move towards loyalty enculturation, we look for ways to utilize the foundation of their existing loyalty program and assets and integrate them into the customer experience in order to enhance that experience. We look for ways to integrate and enhance loyalty rewards and discover how we can utilize valuable customer information learned from the loyalty program in order to further personalize the experience. One of my Epsilon colleagues recently told me about an experience she had with one of our client hotel brands, which is a great example of a Stage III experience.

During a recent hotel stay, my colleague’s guest experience with the brand’s mobile app was strategically planned from the time she landed to her departure. Within the app, the hotel created four categories that were relevant and important to the member during her stay. For example, one of the categories included ‘guest stay.’ Within this category, members are able do to a pre check-in before arrival and make requests such as a late checkout, extra towels, etc. Understanding the needs of each member as they interact with your brand is essential. And when you fulfill on these experiential and transactional needs, naturally their brand affinity increases resulting in Big L Loyalty.

Remember, Big L Loyalty is not a destination, it’s a journey. As you ‘travel’ through the stages and your program continues to evolve, there’s increased opportunities to get to know your customers. And never dismiss the importance of the customer experience – it’s essential when focused on achieving Big L Loyalty.