There is still a wealth of ways in which marketers and their brands can improve their customer loyalty programmes, such as integrating 'beacon' technology into retail loyalty offerings, thereby increasing customer engagement by encouraging more frequent interactions, according to a study of shoppers' loyalty programme behaviours by Key Ring. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

The idea behind Apple's 'iBeacon' technology is that it's an indoor proximity messaging system; in other words it can push a message to an Apple (iOS) or Android-based mobile handset when it comes within a very limited physical range. This is a potentially useful platform for marketers, not for indiscriminate mass-advertising but - because the customer's device can identify itself uniquely when it 'talks' to the beacon - for personalised and even loyalty programme-based communications and offers.

Beacons ahead...
Apple's iBeacon technology enables an iOS device or other hardware to send push notifications to iOS devices in close proximity. Android operating system devices can receive iBeacon advertisements but cannot emit iBeacon advertisements. The iBeacon works on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also known as Bluetooth Smart. BLE can also be found on Bluetooth 4.0 devices that support dual mode. One potential application is a location-aware, context-aware, pervasive small wireless sensor beacon that could pinpoint users' location in a store: iBeacons could send notifications of items nearby that are on sale or items customers may be looking for, and it could enable payments at the point of sale (POS) where customers don't need to remove their wallets or cards to make payments. It could even be a possible Near Field Communication (NFC) competitor (source: click here).

As a result, Key Ring has integrated its own systems with inMarket's Mobile to Mortar beacon platform to offer retailers better access to in-store shoppers in real time.

How loyalty cards influence behaviour
Among the other key behavioural findings from the company's study conducted among its own retail loyalty client base:

  • Easy access to loyalty programme points balances is more important than marketers realise. For example, one of Key Ring's clients reported that points balances are viewed 25,000 times each month.
  • Weekends are a prime engagement period for mobile shoppers. Grocery loyalty programmes are used most on Sunday at 4.00pm, and sending a push notification reminding them about their shopping list on Sunday morning helps increase transactions. And, when one sporting goods retailer sent a push notification 24 hours before the prime shopping period, loyalty-linked transactions increased by 113%.
  • Discount cards top the list of the most frequently used loyalty programme cards (41%), followed by fixed rewards cards (39%), perks loyalty cards (37%), points cards (34%) and platinum member cards (31%).
  • Consumers are often willing to pay for a rewards programme membership. In fact, nearly one-third of consumers (29%) said they were more likely to make use of a loyalty card that required them to pay a membership fee to receive special discounts and offers.
  • Although mobile device adoption and usage continues to grow, customer retention is still a major obstacle for retailers. Some 73% of smartphone and tablet users said they would like to use their devices to interact with loyalty programmes. However, 61% of retailers cited 'customer retention' as being a major obstacle for them.
  • Long-term value is an important benefit for consumers when signing up for loyalty programmes. More than one-third of respondents (37.3%) said they would not join a loyalty programme in which there was "no long-term value for me".
  • Loyalty translates into revenue. Truly loyal customers generate between 55% and 70% of retail sales across Key Ring's client base.