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Marketers risk alienating too many customers too quickly if they don't show more restraint with their digital communications, according to a white paper by global loyalty management firm Aimia. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The paper, entitled 'The Four Futures', showed that out of the 86% of consumers who receive marketing emails, only 12% look forward to receiving them and 46% think they receive too many.

Despite this, consumers said they are still open to receiving targeted marketing communications. Of those surveyed, 70% said they are happy to receive voucher offers for products purchased regularly, and 55% said they are happy to receive product recommendations based on their lifestyle data.

"The possibilities for the future of customer loyalty are profound. The real challenge for the marketing and loyalty industries is to embrace the digital transition with both hands while showing enough restraint and respect for consumer's permissions and preferences," said study author Martin Hayward, vice president of global digital strategy for Aimia.

Long-term approach
In an era of technological development and expanding communication channels, it is important that marketers avoid the temptation to adopt a short-term approach and overload consumers with communications. Marketing professionals should have a thorough understanding of what is best for customers, rather than what is possible.

"Building 'real relationships' with consumers provides the key to success and enlightened companies that understand how to effectively and responsibly use new data and new channels in the right way will have a significant competitive advantage in the future," explained Hayward.

To help marketers navigate the digital transition, Aimia has assessed the possible outcomes that lie ahead and developed four possible futures:

  • Future 1: offer anarchy
    The increasing volume of customer data created by digitalisation remains freely available and loosely controlled. Customers tend to be over-exploited by many vendors, leading to highly transactional, deal-based behaviours, limited loyalty and frustrated, over-messaged consumers.
  • Future 2: pay to play
    A market where data is increasingly acknowledged to be valuable and powerful. Data begins to be controlled and traded as a valued commodity, requiring businesses to pay to access customers through increased rewards.
  • Future 3: the hunt for affinity
    An environment where consumers and brands realise that it is possible to locate meaningful relationships that offer more relevance, value and affinity, which ultimately allows for long-term relationships to be built.
  • Future 4: real relationships
    Winning companies build deep, trusting, long-term relationships with customers. A truly virtuous partnership to help consumers manage a complex environment and achieve value and satisfaction from their commercial relationships.

The ultimate future requires marketers to leverage data and build long-term customer loyalty while giving customers control over how, when and where their data is used. It is a future of 'real relationships' and one where everyone wins.

The full report has been made available for free download from Aimia's web site - click here (PDF document). Aimia owns and operates the Aeroplan coalition in Canada, Nectar in the UK, and Nectar Italia. The company also has stakes in Air Miles Middle East, Club Premier in Mexico, Prismah Fidelidade in Brazil, and i2c (a joint data analytics venture with Sainsbury's in the UK).