Four ways loyalty schemes will change in 2021

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Perhaps you think the pandemic has put paid to loyalty schemes, at least for the foreseeable future. Loyalty schemes are, after all, about making customers feel special – hard to do when the doors are closed; they cost money to run at a time when cash is a more precious commodity than usual, and uncertainty reigns over when customers might be able to redeem any accrued rewards.

However, findings published in our latest GO Technology report, in partnership with CGA, tell a different story. With consumers eager to support their favourite businesses and get back into venues in 2021, this year could in fact be a prime opportunity to launch a new loyalty programme. With the pandemic having changed consumer behaviours though, a successful loyalty scheme will need to look a little different from anything offered pre-pandemic. Here’s four ways to make a success of a loyalty scheme in 2021.

1 Apps not cards

A mere 35% of hospitality operators surveyed said that their current loyalty scheme was card-based, with over half (52%) adopting loyalty schemes powered by apps. This is borne out by our own experience in recent times – over the last 18 months we’ve not had a single enquiry from operators wanting to implement a card-based system, indeed all of the loyalty schemes we have delivered in that time have been digital.

This shift to digital loyalty solutions is very likely to continue in our opinion, a result of increased consumer uptake and comfort with order and pay apps and online ordering during the pandemic. Not only does this offer customer convenience but could drive sign ups and repeat orders. By having applications integrated into one platform the operational burden of linking the solutions and data together is removed as the technology is doing the hard work for you.

2 Discounts will drive downloads

For the majority of people, discounts on food and drink are the main driver for using a loyalty app, with 48% looking for a percentage off their bill, 45% wanting a cash benefit, while 37% would like free food and drink after reaching a set spend. Non-monetary perks are relevant too (14% like a loyalty scheme to give them preferential booking and 11% want to be given queue jumping privileges) but with the economic outlook looking far from positive, unemployment on the rise, and job security a concern for many, it seems clear that in the future more sophisticated programmes will take a back seat to discount-driven rewards – at least in the short to medium term.

3 Integrate to generate profit

Once consumers start to use a loyalty scheme, they tend to make good use of it – about half say they do so almost or every time they visit a venue, so it makes sense to ensure your scheme is integrated with other digital products. Investing in a loyalty solution that integrates with your EPoS and booking functions for example, will reap many benefits, not least that members will be visible to staff at every point of the customer journey.

Further integration with your existing channels, such as with an order and pay app, offers further benefits. Giving delivery customers access to loyalty benefits as trading restrictions continue, for example, and then, when we can finally open our doors again, making it simple and easy for those downloading an order and pay app to join your loyalty scheme as part of the sign up process.

4 Powering insight

A major advantage of the shift to digital for operators is the valuable insights that can be gained from harvesting the available data. Visiting patterns, purchasing habits and general consumer behaviour can be collected and collated. This can be used to inform and deliver tailored deals and rewards to each customer, driving engagement and sales directly from the loyalty scheme, with the data then used to deliver more engaging and more targeted marketing campaigns. Using the insights alongside other customer data can also result in more informed longer-term strategy and planning to help future-proof your business.

Alison Vasey is Group Product Director at Zonal

Download our latest research: Loyalty and Technology in 2021

Our latest GO Technology report in conjunction with CGA, reveals the popularity of loyalty schemes in restaurants, pubs and bars among both consumers and business leaders.

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