What do customer loyalty programmes look like for 2022's luxury e-tail?
It would be easy to imagine that the principles of effective loyalty schemes for online-based brands – whether or not they target the highest end of the market – are always broadly the same.
Much recent conversation, however, has centred on whether the loyalty programmes of today are truly fit for purpose. And if not, what implications may this have for today’s luxury brands seeking to optimise their customer retention efforts?
Do luxury retailers truly ‘do’ loyalty schemes?
Ask many well-placed industry observers, and their answer to this question would be: no, they do not. After all, so the traditional reading goes, the notion of points-based tiers or product discounts for repeat buyers does not tally well with the aspirational values that even the least experienced luxury retailers seek to associate themselves with.
Instead of pushy ‘pile them high and sell them cheap’ promotions, we are often told, premium brands are in the game of cultivating a rarefied intimacy with their customers.
And this may be just as well, given that in today’s increasingly omnichannel retail space, brands can no longer be so sure of commanding long-term loyalty on the basis of their reputation alone.
So, do high-end brands have anything to learn from the latest loyalty trends?
The short answer is, yes, for the simple reason that prestige brands are already engaged in such trends.
In several ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the issue for many luxury retailers anxious not to be left behind. Given the strong emphasis that such brands routinely place on the finer details of the individual customer experience, many have rushed to upgrade their omnichannel capabilities to restore the sense of personal connection with customers who were rendered unable to shop in-store. Virtual consultations have become widespread, and may have some durability beyond the pandemic, together with personal shopping services delivered partially or entirely digitally.
Luxury brands that do embrace more formal loyalty schemes in the 2020s have often been moved to set up multi-tiered systems to provide the layers of exclusivity the most discerning customers expect.
Some brands establishing such loyalty schemes have shied away from the concept of buyers earning points through purchases, instead rewarding members for partaking in other specific activities. Examples of such activities could include checking in with the brand’s mobile app at one of its brick-and-mortar locations, or even bringing a reusable bag with them for their shopping.
Even when members are rewarded for these activities, the rewards – such as exclusive access to new items – may be likelier to have highly experiential and emotive elements compared to the loyalty points and discounts that non-luxury brands might typically offer.
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