Like many other space enthusiasts around the world, I woke up today in a bittersweet mood as I read the reports about the death of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta comet probe. Its demise was carefully planned and long foretold but was sad all the same, putting a period at the end of a story that rolling out for more than 12 years. During that time, Rosetta made three passes by Earth, one by Mars, visited a pair of asteroids, and spent more than two years scrutinizing Comet 67P/Churyumov–
Customer loyalty programs are crucial.
The goal of loyalty initiatives is to engage, not pander more products to frequent buyers.
But how do you determine if your loyalty program is working well?
Use data to steer your customer loyalty program in the right direction.
McKinsey found that “executive teams that make extensive use of customer data analytics across all business decisions see a 126% profit improvement over companies that don’t.”
“By instituting a loyalty program, you not only improve customer appreciation of your business, but you also increase the chances that existing clients will share this joy with those close to them,” says Steve Olenski, a senior creative content strategist at Oracle Responsys.
Upgrade your loyalty program. Let’s explore how.
Focusing on Retention
One primary mission of loyalty programs is to increase customer retention. You want buyers to remain with your brand after they make a purchase.
For your business, higher retention means a steady flow of revenue. And it cuts down on your costs to constantly acquire new customers.
Therefore, your loyalty programs must be effective. They need to serve a real purpose for the consumer, not just your bottom line.
To provide the best customer experience, fuse data into your retention strategies. It will impact how your team approaches the buyer.
“Influencing customer loyalty in this way doesn’t require magic, it requires data – usually data that you already have but aren’t using to full advantage. Regardless of industry, most organizations today generate mountains of data,” writes Mike Flannagan, vice president and general manager of Cisco.
Uncover the correlation between customer characteristics and purchasing behavior. Assign your team to analyze the current data of your most valuable customers. And learn which characteristics these customers have in common and which traits are dissimilar.
Consider data an ongoing process of observing, acting, and learning. Improve your loyalty programs by taking action on your insights. Measure success by monitoring your customer lifetime value, loyal customer rate, and redemption rate.
Start with retention. And let the data guide you to customer loyalty.
Targeted Product Recommendations
Research shows that “customers that are actively engaged with brands and their loyalty programs make 90% more frequent purchases, spend 60% more in each transaction and are five times more likely to choose the brand in the future.”
Sending targeted product recommendations is one way to keep customers engaged. Because if they are not receptive to certain products, consumers will feel more inclined to take their business elsewhere.
Integrate real-time purchase data with historical purchase data to make specific recommendations. For example, if a small business bought payroll software from you, their team might be interested in purchasing your series of on-demand accounting webinars.
“Consumer data must be analyzed to create highly targeted product recommendation offers. Analyze consumer data such as demographics, lifestyle, products purchased by category and type, frequency of purchase, and purchase value,” states Larisa Bedgood, director of marketing at DataMentors.
It’s key not to draw wild conclusions from one piece of data. Just because a Florida resident buys a winter coat doesn’t mean he wants to be flooded with similar recommendations. The consumer might have bought it as a gift for a friend living in Michigan.
So, gather multiple data points in order to make intelligent recommendations. You don’t want to frustrate loyal customers.
Your brand also can take a different approach. Use social proof to your advantage. If consumers are hesitant about particular products, remind them that other people are buying the product, too.
Home Depot uses this tactic by displaying a list of bestselling inventory. It persuades the customer to join the crowd.
Sift through your analysis reports. Uncover the best product recommendations for your customers.
For customers, loyalty takes effort. They receive lots of promotional ads everyday to try products from other brands. Appreciating your consumer’s urge to resist the hype is important.
Mobile phone carriers lead the way in baiting consumers to switch their services. AT&T offers cell phone users up to $650 in credit just to say bye to T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon.
To keep their loyalty, customers will hold your team accountable. They expect timely promotions that not only fit their buying habits but also their lifestyles.
At the end of the day, you want to deliver the right offer at the right time. This will increase the likelihood of the promotion redemption.
Monitor the sales data to learn when promotional codes are redeemed. Do your consumers use promotions more often in the morning? Right after a sales announcement? Or during summer months?
“By creating a time-sensitive sales promotion and having a good grasp on your target customer demographic, you’ll be able to incentivize the right actions, get them to respond, and grow your business in the process,” states Humayun Khan, former content marketer at Shopify.
Moreover, analyze your reports to discover the best product promotions. A timely discount matched with the wrong product won’t be useful for the consumer or your company.
Segment your customers to offer relevant discounts for multiple channels—in-store, online, and mobile. Every loyalty member doesn’t have to receive the same offer.
For instance, Starbucks offers its Gold members the opportunity to earn double stars. The coffee company surprises its loyal consumers on a different day each month. This technique increases the excitement and prepares customers to spend more money on a particular day.
Don’t wait for your competitor to offer your customers a good deal. Start creating your own timely promotions.
Everyone likes to be rewarded. It signifies that you’ve done something commendable. And incentives compel you to continue the rewarded behavior.
Recognize the value of your customer’s actions. Because that’s what you’re rewarding.
You can offer perks based on monetary transactions, shopping frequency, or even survey responses. It’s all about showing appreciation for consumers’ actions.
But it’s your team’s job to appropriately reward customers. Don’t expect people to buy $1000 worth of services in one month if your highest service retails at $10.
In addition, manage your loyalty members’ expectations. They shouldn’t expect your brand to give away free Beyonce tickets every day.
Personalized rewards ensure you’re giving your customers what they desire. It also shows that you are truly invested in the customer experience.
Send a simple email survey asking consumers what types of incentives excite them. Or conduct social media listening to identify useful prizes that can make your customers’ lives better.
Dick’s Sporting Goods sends emails asking customers for their opinions. The company uses the information to improve its inventory and customer service.
Remember to focus on maintaining positive relationships with your consumers. Because that’s the ultimate goal for loyalty initiatives.
You want people to feel comfortable with your brand. Aim to offer rewards that bridge the gap between the consumer-brand relationship.
“A significant aspect of customer loyalty comes down to your likability. People will almost always remain committed to a brand if they believe they’ve developed a genuine and mutually beneficial relationship,” says Entrepreneur contributor Dave Thompson.
Tailor your rewards to satisfy your customers. Offer them something special.
Analyze Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty can lead to retention. That’s why your team must use data to drive your loyalty programs.
Give consumers targeted product recommendations they can’t resist. Send promotions at the right time. And personalize rewards so the customer feels part of the brand.
Look at the data. Improve customer loyalty programs.
About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.
The journal Neurology published a unique and touching paper today: it’s by artist Susan Schneider Williams, the widow of actor Robin Williams, who died by suicide in August 2014. It’s titled The terrorist inside my husband’s brain, the ‘terrorist’ being Lewy Body disease (LBD), the neurodegenerative disorder that, as Schneider Williams recounts, destroyed his life.
Here’s how she describes the first signs of her husbands’ illness:
The colors were changing and the air was crisp; it wa
Even as the costliest wildfire to fight in U.S. history nears containment, a new, dangerous blaze has ignited
I knew something bad was up when a Facebook friend posted this yesterday:
Oh joy! Now I have smoke coming in from TWO wildfires!
And then a little while later:
104F yesterday. Nowhere to hide. Moving to Canada. 😬
He lives in the Carmel, California, right on the edge of the Soberanes Fire, which has been burning since July 22. And his comments pretty well sum up California’s wi
Let’s think back to the early days of social media for a moment, and how it impacted our marketing.
Not only did it bring the potential of massive free exposure, it radically increased transparency as well. Every good or bad customer experience suddenly became a potentially viral story. And thus the relation between business and consumer was changed, forever.
But social media isn’t at the top of the digital food chain anymore. As of 2015, messaging apps have overtaken social networking apps in monthly active users.
In 2015, messaging apps overtook social media platforms in monthly active users. (Image Source)
This balance tip coincided with a few other developments: Facebook’s launch of Messenger for Business, WhatsApp announcing a move into B2C communication, an increasing reliance by businesses on message-based communication tools like Slack, and advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) entering a critical phase. The last point was nicely illustrated by AlphaGo wiping the floor with our human champions in Go.
Chris Messina, the guy who brought us the #hashtag, noticed the interplay between these developments, and concluded in a post on Medium that we’re at the brink of another revolution in B2C relationships.
Where before you would use your messaging apps for simple interactions with friends, the above developments allow them to be used for real-time conversations with businesses as well – whether that’s with a service rep or an intelligent chatbot. He dubbed this new era of B2C relationships ‘conversational commerce’.
So, how can you take advantage of this development? How can you integrate real-time communication into your existing marketing stack?
First, let’s clarify why you’ll want to jump aboard this trend in the first place. Then we’ll share some ideas and company examples that will help you start off today.
The Promise of Real-Time Communication
For years, marketers have known the power of ‘now’. Pay attention to the banners and billboards you’ll run into throughout the rest of the day, and notice how often they’re filled with maxims like ‘instant access’, ‘same day delivery’, and ‘quick checkout’. Immediacy strongly impacts our buying behavior.
Amazon Prime, a prime example of our desire for immediacy. (Image Source)
In The Art of Thinking Clearly, Rolf Dobelli shares an experiment into our weakness for ‘right now’ with two groups of participants.
Group A was asked whether they would rather receive $1,000 in 12 months, or $1,100 in 13 months. Most chose the 13-month option, because where else will you find an investment option with a 10% monthly interest rate?
Group B was offered a slightly different choice. They could choose to receive $1,000 today, or $1,100 in one month. Here, most people choose the $1,000 today option. This is remarkable. The choice is basically the same – except that the $1,000 today targets our weakness for wanting things right now. That’s hyperbolic discounting, our irrational preference for what we can get now over what we can get in the future.
Real-time customer service has a similar effect on our preference for right now. According to a Forrester Research study, 57% of online customers leave a website if they don’t receive a quick answer on their question.
This was confirmed in a case study with Intuit, the company behind the financial products QuickBooks and Mint. By placing live chat for real-time support during its checkout process, Intuit increased its average order value by 43%.
From “Interaction” to “Relation”
A major benefit of communication via messaging apps is that it results in a permanent and low-barrier connection with the customer.
Once a phone call with a customer is over, the connection is broken. That is not the case with email, but email has a high barrier to contact compared to writing a message on Facebook.
A permanent low barrier connection promises a major increase in customer interaction – keeping your business top of mind and always accessible.
Also, when a conversation picks up again, it happens within the context of a messaging thread. This makes it easier for support reps to understand the situation and provide a good answer. While emails and phone calls are mere snapshots, messaging threads represent long-term relationships.
Lower Costs per Interaction
As mentioned above, the existing messaging thread will prevent duplication. Things become more efficient when customers don’t have to repeat their issue with every service handover – not to mention more pleasant.
At the same time, advancements in natural language processing fuel expectations of chatbots soon solving many support questions that humans are tackling at the moment. Not all, of course. But a modest 20% would already represent a huge gain in efficiency.
We’re still some years away from scenes like in the movie Her, in which we’re having natural conversations with smooth sounding chatbots that are indistinguishable from those with humans. What is closer and easier to picture, however, is a sort of ‘chat cyborg’ – a human service rep that uses AI to deliver a superior service.
When a question comes in, AI runs it through the database of customer interactions and offers answer suggestions to its human colleague. The human serves as the last check, and can choose to override the suggestions or adjust them. The AI learns from the answer that is given, as well as the response from the customer (was it the right response?). That way, the chat cyborg is continuously growing in smarts and efficiency.
Now let’s look at how you can start with reaping the fruits of these developments today.
How to Get Started With Real-Time Communication
Live Chat on your Site
Web chat has been around for some years, but is developing fast together with the abovementioned trends. You implement a live chat window on your website, through which visitors can reach out and receive support.
Live chat offers many of the benefits described above, such as the power of instant support and minimizing duplication. What makes it especially powerful is that the chat is available at a critical moment in the buyer’s journey – on the website.
A customer might be ready to buy, but has some small concerns or questions before doing so. With live chat there’s no need to delay the purchase, since questions can be resolved on the spot.
A great example of how to do chat right is Apple’s live chat service.
Live chat is an important ingredient in Apple’s service setup.
If you’re an Apple user, I recommend you try it out next time you have a service question. You receive full and detailed answers in no time, which suggest they make use of an intelligent knowledge base in the backend.
Facebook’s Messenger for Business allows live chat providers to connect to their platform, and tools like Telegram and WeChat are open for this as well. We can expect tighter integrations between website chat and messaging support in the future.
Messaging support is very promising, simply because it’s so darn convenient for consumers. They send a question through their favorite messaging app, and receive an answer in their back pockets.
One example of a business deploying large scale messaging support is Livecrowd, a Dutch company offering next-level customer service and experience for mass crowd events. Think festivals, football matches, or concerts (see Beyoncé’s concert page below). Such events are major logistical challenges. A quick and easy way to advise visitors about transport or safety is invaluable.
Messaging support is perfect for customers on the go, such as music event visitors.
Another messaging example from the Netherlands is KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines. Since a few weeks, they’ve added Facebook Messenger support to their booking process.
This makes it easy for flyers to check the status on their flights and ask support agents any questions:
Managing your booking with an app you’re already familiar with.
When you’re booking a flight and are logged into your Facebook account, you can select to stay updated about your flight through messenger. When you have a delay, for example, you receive an update on the app. You can also receive your boarding pass through Messenger, or ask questions to the KLM service team directly.
As you can see, part of KLM’s messaging support is automated. Which brings us to the next application.
Chatbots are a hot and exciting area of the tech industry, mainly because they’re fueled by advancements in machine learning.
Slack allows you to connect an existing chatbot to your team or build one with its own logic, while Facebook’s Chatbot API allows you to build a bot for Messenger. There are also plenty of third party apps that allow you to set up a chatbot fairly easily, such as Motion AI.
One example of the extensive use of chatbots is Call of Duty. Players can connect with Lieutenant Reyes chatbot, and solve a not-so-easy-to-solve puzzle. This chatbot sent over six million messages to its gamers in total.
Chatbots will only become more interesting with the continuous advancements in machine learning. The more intelligent the chatbots become, the more customer interactions can be left to them.
How to Get Started
Make a comprehensive communication plan.
To get started with real-time communication, you’ll need to integrate it in a comprehensive communication plan. Ask yourself: What channels make sense for me and my customers?
Set up a dedicated service team.
The fact that conversational commerce is based on text means that compared to phone, more interactions could be done per service agent. But you’ll also have a lower barrier for contact, so you can expect the number of customer interaction to rise. You’ll need a dedicated real-time communication team to support this.
Empower frontline employees.
In real-time communication, speed is king. Zendesk stated that customer satisfaction in live chat dropped after 30 seconds of waiting. Since you’ll be having so many customer inquiries requiring fast responses, it’s essential to empower your frontline employees to resolve issues themselves. The number of cases that require involvement from higher up should be minimized.
Set up communication guidelines.
That doesn’t mean your real-time communication should be a free-for-all. On the contrary, it takes directed effort to maintain a consistent voice across all channels. Like The Economist maintains a style guide for its articles, you should require a style guide for your real-time communication as well. On what level of familiarity will you communicate? If you’ll speak in English, will it be British or American?
Play together with your other channels.
In the world of conversational commerce, one-on-one conversations will cover a much wider area of topics than before. That’s why your frontend employees need to be well aware of all external communications. Whether it’s social media, content, email, or performance marketing – your real-time communication channel needs to be in sync.
Track key metrics.
One key benefit of written communication is that it can easily be tracked. Most live chat solutions, for example, have standard integrations with analytics solutions like Google Analytics and Kissmetrics. With them, it’s easy to measure key indicators of quality communication: first response time, handovers per issue, service ratings, etc.
We really do seem to be at the brink of another revolution in the relationship between businesses and customers.
You can start reaping the benefits of real-time communication today, by taking the first steps with website chat, messaging support, and chatbots. Happy chatting!
The big bad wolf won’t be blowing these bees’ house down any time soon.
Unlike other species of excavating bees who build their homes in wood or soil, Anthophora pueblo carves a home out rock in the Utah desert, creating nests that can withstand the tests of time and elements. The species was discovered almost 40 years ago by a USDA entomologist named Frank Parker who found dozens of new species of insects in the region.
He took samples of the unique hives, but never formally published
During the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Mahe Drysdale rowed 2,000 meters (1.24 miles) in just 6 minutes and 41 seconds.
However, despite his impressive performance, the world record-holder nearly lost the race.
In one of the closest finishes in Olympic history, Drysdale won by mere millimeters.
Have you ever seen anything like this!?
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 13, 2016
In contrast, Great Britain’s Men’s Eight team rowed the same distance in just 5 minutes and 29 seconds—over 70 seconds faster than Drysdale’s time!
What’s more, the Brits won by more than a half second.
That might not seem like a huge margin, but in the Olympics, a half second is a big deal.
So, why was Britain’s team so much faster than Drysdale?
The answer is simple: they had more oars in the water.
Now, at this point, you might be thinking, This is all well and good, Jake, but what does rowing have to do with online marketing?
Well, it turns out that conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a lot like rowing.
The more oars you have in the water, the faster you’ll make it to your goal and the more likely you are to beat out the competition.
The Secret is Testing Multiple Variants
Over the years, CRO seems to have become synonymous with A/B testing in the minds of many marketers.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. A/B testing is a form of conversion rate optimization. You have a page and you want it to perform better, so you change something and see if it improves your results.
But here’s the thing, A/B testing isn’t the only way to do CRO.
It might not roll off the tongue as nicely as “A/B testing”, but if you’ve got enough traffic, A/B/C/D/etc testing can allow you to produce meaningful results much more quickly.
For example, Optimizely recently studied and reported on the factors that defined the world’s best testing companies.
Guess what the 4 biggest factors were?
- Testing the things that drive the most revenue
- Testing every change
- Testing to solve real problems
- Testing multiple variants simultaneously
Does #4 surprise you?
Apparently, the most effective CRO doesn’t come from A/B testing—it comes from testing multiple variants.
Essentially, A/B testing is like the Mahe Drysdale of CRO. It works and it can even deliver amazing results.
But, it’s only two oars in the water—there’s no way it can compete with an 8-man team.
To put this in more concrete terms, according to Optimizely, just 14% of A/B tests significantly improve conversion rates. On the other hand, tests with 4 variants improve conversion rates 27% of the time.
So, if you test 4 variants, you are 90% more likely to improve your conversion rate than if you just ran an A/B test. However, 65% of CRO tests are—you guessed it—A/B tests!
Why Testing Multiple Variants Works Better
Basically, there are two reasons why multiple variant testing outperforms A/B testing: 1) it’s faster and 2) it allows you to test more variants under the same testing conditions.
Multiple Variant Testing is Faster
Sure, you can test the same things with a series of A/B tests as you can with a multiple variant test—it just takes a lot longer.
When you run an A/B test, you can really only learn one thing from your test. Your variant will either perform better, the same or worse than your original.
And that’s it, that’s all you can learn.
Now, if you’re smart about your A/B testing strategy, your results can teach you a lot about your audience and make your future tests smarter, but you’re still only learning one thing from each test.
On the other hand, with multiple variant testing, you can try out several ideas at the same time. That means you can simultaneously test multiple hypotheses.
So, instead of just learning that a hero shot with a smiling woman outperforms a shot of a grumpy man, you can also see if a grumpy woman image drives more results than the grumpy man pic or if a happy man outshines them all.
Or, you can try multiple combinations, like a new headline or CTA in combination with either the smiling woman or the grumpy man.
Running all of these tests simultaneously will allow you to optimize your page or site much more quickly than you could with a long series of A/B tests.
Plus, running a test with multiple variants will greatly improve the odds that a single test will deliver at least one positive result, allowing you to start getting more from your website sooner.
Multiple Variant Testing is More Reliable
Another problem with successive A/B tests stems from the fact that the world changes over time.
For example, if you are in eCommerce and run your first A/B test during October and your second test during November, how do you know if your results aren’t being skewed by Black Friday?
Even if your business isn’t seasonal, things like differences in your competitors marketing strategies, political change or a variety of other variables can make it difficult to directly compare the results of A/B tests.
As a result, sometimes it can be hard to know if a particular A/B testing variant succeeded (or failed) because of factors outside of your control or even knowledge. The more tests you run, the murkier your results may become.
However, with a multiple variant test, you are testing all of your variants under the same conditions. That makes it easy to compare apples-to-apples and draw valid, reliable conclusions from your tests.
What Does Testing Multiple Variants Look Like in Real Life?
To show you just how testing multiple variants can improve your CRO results, let me share an experience we recently had with one of our clients.
The client wanted to get site traffic to their “Find Your Local Chapter” page, so we decided to add a “Find Your Local Chapter” link to the client’s footer. That way, the link would be seen by as many people as possible.
Makes sense, right?
So, we put together something that looked like this:
At first, we figured we would just put the link in the footer and run a test to see if the link made a difference.
But then, we started wondering if there was a way to make the link even more noticeable. After all, getting traffic to this page was a big deal to the client, so it made sense to emphasize the link.
With that in mind, we added color to the link:
Now, this idea seemed logical, but at Disruptive, we believe in testing, not gut instinct, so we figured, “Hey, we’ve got enough traffic to test 3 variants, let’s take this even further!”
The problem was, the client’s site was a designer’s dream—modern and seamlessly designed. To be honest, we had a bit of trouble selling them on the idea that creating a page element that interrupted their seamless flow was worth testing.
But, eventually, we convinced them to try the following:
It was very different from anything the client had tried on the page before, but we decided to run with the idea and include it in our test.
Not surprisingly, adding the “Find Your Local Chapter” link increased page visits by over 60% for every variant—that’s an awesome win, right?
But here’s the thing. With our original, strict A/B test, we would only have discovered that adding the link increased traffic by 63%.
On the other hand, by including a couple of extra variants, we were able with the same test to discover that—contrary to the client’s belief—the more our link “interrupted” the site experience, the more traffic it drove to the chapter page.
Sure, we might have reached the same conclusion with several more tests, but we achieved these results much more quickly and reliably than we would have with an A/B testing series.
Should You Test Multiple Variants?
When it comes to testing multiple variants, there’s only one real reason not to use it: your boat is too small.
Think about it: if the entire British Eight Man team had tried to cram onto Mahe Drysdale’s boat, they never would have made any forward progress.
The same idea applies to CRO.
As great as multiple variant testing is, if you don’t have enough traffic, a test could take months or years to complete.
In fact, in true multivariate testing—where you test to see how a large number of subtle changes interact to generate your conversion rate—you want at least 100,000 unique visitors per month (for more information on multivariate testing, check out this great article).
On the other hand, you need far less traffic to simultaneously test multiple page variants.
To see how long a multiple variant test will take on your site, try out this VWO has a free sample size and test duration calculator from VWO. If the time frame makes sense for your business, go for it!
Whether it’s Olympic rowing or CRO, the more oars you have in the water, the better your results will be.
Although it may be tempting to limit CRO to A/B testing, testing multiple variants will allow you to improve your conversion rates more quickly and reliably than you could with a series of A/B tests.
You’ve heard my two cents, now it’s your turn.
Have you tried multiple variant testing? What was your experience like? Did any of the data in this article surprise you?
About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising, an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.