“This isn’t about how B2C or B2B organizations respond in times of crisis. It’s about people-to-people interactions and how organizations learn from disruption at a human level.” 

~ Brian Solis

For years I’ve watched the loyalty industry (consumer and B2B) continue to create programs that simply resurrect the last program they sold that did well and spread that same program design like peanut butter over every new client initiative. Custom program design took a back seat to efficiency and cost savings when launching and building a platform. Less work. Fast path to revenue. Less quality program design.

And I don’t see things changing much. But I think they will soon. COVID not only made us experts at Zoom – it changed everything. 

Quality program design is the new black. 

And my opinion – if you’re not doing it correctly, you’re losing the game. 

We Are All Different Now

I remember my father was called a “depression baby”. It was a term used for people born in and around the time of The Great Depression. It referenced how those experiences shaped their lives. My dad saved everything – aluminum foil (tin foil he called it), sandwich bags, every screw and nail he found. Not a hoarder but let’s just say he had a huge respect for not wasting anything. The depression was his “somatic marker”. It imprinted on him for the rest of his life.

And COVID is a somatic marker according to Brian Solaris, (global innovation evangelist at Salesforce.com), and it is and will have a similar life-changing impact on how we all make decisions.

Generation Novel

Brian wrote a fast company article waaaaaay back in the olden days – August 2020 – where he discusses how COVID and associated lockdowns and changes to our day-to-day life created a whole new type of buyer in just 90 days. In the article, he states:

“Meet Generation Novel, a growing cross-generational psychographic of digital-first consumers galvanized by the disruptive effects of COVID-19.”

Out of the gate, he tells us this isn’t “age” driven but more of a technology-driven issue. Meaning – if you’re using digital tools every day (regardless of when you were born) your world is changing and you with it. The author also posted in 2014 about Generation C(onnected).

Brian’s point in the more recent article is Generation C is evolving into Generation N, made up of customers who were previously hyperconnected (Gen C) and those fast becoming digital. From my point of view, if you put those two groups in a Venn diagram it is now basically EVERYBODY!

Are You Designing or Simply Resurrecting Program Design?

Loyalty programs are at their core purchasing programs. Get people to buy more of your stuff. Sure, they include “engagement” tasks and challenges, brand-building efforts, etc. All those things are designed to get you to buy more and do it lovingly and willingly. The key is you need to know what influences people in order to create interventions that nudge and guide folks to the decision that is good for your brand – and – for them as well.

Solis suggests that the following things are now influencing and informing how people are making decisions. He states…

“Consumer attention and loyalty is up for grabs right now.”

From his article:

  • Consumerism shifted, accelerating toward digital experiences at a blinding pace after two decades of steady growth. Just how fast are things moving? McKinsey estimates that COVID-19 served as a great accelerant, advancing 10 years of U.S. e-commerce growth in just 90 days’ time.
  • 75 percent of U.S. consumers have tried different stores, websites, or brands during this crisis.
  • Of those consumers, 60 percent reported that they expect to integrate new brands and stores in their post-pandemic lives.
  • Gen N members are becoming more conscious about what they buy and the brands they support.
  • In a recent study reported by MarTech, 58 percent of customers stated that COVID-19 had notably impacted their view of brands.

All of this means – you NEED a custom program design process!

You can’t use your old program design in today’s changed world. It would be like trying to use an original IBM PC to run today’s software. It might work – slowly, painfully, horribly.

You need a methodology that helps you design bespoke programs efficiently and correctly. Over the years I’ve created my own methodology and it includes many of the suggestions Brian outlined when looking for insights for your next program. Brain recommends:

  • Experience the existing journey and each touchpoint (physical and digital) through the lens of Generation N. (Do you do buyer journeys and behavior maps before you design a program? You should.)
  • Create a human and data-centered, cross-functional organization that prioritizes real-time shopping behaviors and consumer preferences, intentions, and values. (What do you currently track in your loyalty platform? Probably the things the CFO likes not necessarily what your loyalty members like.)
  • Operationalize. Assemble executive sponsors and stakeholders responsible for touchpoints across the customer journey to assess patterns and convert insights into actionable pilots and programs. (EVERYONE is accountable. This isn’t a marketing program – it’s a business program – get everyone rowing together – get alignment. Don’t skip this step.)
  • Invent. Explore opportunities to add new value to customer experiences, at every step, that align with and enhance customer progression – instead of adapting legacy journeys for digital platforms. (DO NOT RUN THE LAST GOOD PROGRAM AGAIN! Run a new one designed for your current audience, client and goals.)
  • Measure. Do more than just attempt to document ROI or track traditional KPIs. Consider customer-facing metrics that capture sentiment, satisfaction, customer experiences, and resulting performance in digital realms. (See “operationalize… it’s not about you.)

Dig Deeper

Make sure you dig into your consumer and B2B loyalty provider’s skill sets.

  • Do they have case studies of how they designed a program?
  • How different are each of their programs? Too similar means they are a cookie-cutter company.
  • What is their methodology? If they say they are skilled at program design, they MUST have a proven method. Saying “trust me, I’m smart” is a capability.

Design is the new black. Remember that.

Net Net:

I can’t say it better than Brian:

This isn’t about how B2C or B2B organizations respond in times of crisis. It’s about people-to-people interactions and how organizations learn from disruption at a human level.

Tired of Generational Malpractice? Want a true custom-designed channel or employee engagement/loyalty program? (Sure you do …)  Call me to find out.