Plastic cards can be swiped or scanned, but loyal relationships remain firmly cemented in programs designed to add consistent value to the customers’ lives. While loyalty programs typically allow customers to accrue points they can then redeem for special rewards to encourage repeat patronage, they often neglect to facilitate the two-way conversation that helps companies learn more about their customers and vice versa.According to a study
conducted by SAS
and Loyalty 360
, 47 percent of companies claim the primary objective of their loyalty programs is to increase spend within their current customer base. However, only 16 percent aim to create brand evangelists. The focus on generating revenue now puts customers on a shelf for later. To truly cultivate customer loyalty, companies need to build integrated loyalty initiatives that leverage both the digital medium and traditional programs, while offering their high-value customers unique rewards and incentives based on relevant customer data. Such a foundation gives rise to customer satisfaction, which inevitably trickles down to advocacy, referral, and increased revenue.For BalticMiles
and Course Hero
, leveraging loyalty programs means providing quality service, listening to customer feedback, and offering valuable rewards that promote brand advocacy and customer engagement. These programs also work to incorporate outside partners, threading engagement throughout all interactions.BalticMiles Establishes Partnerships for an Expanded Loyalty Initiative
Launched in October 2009, BalticMiles aims to build closer relationships with its important customers by creating a hybrid loyalty program that combines the traditional retailer coalition program with the traditional frequent flyer program. Currently at 500,000 members, BalticMiles hopes to grow to three million members by 2015. The program, which acts as a separate entity from its sister airline, airBaltic, allows customers to earn points at more than 160 different partners, including airBaltic, restaurants, petrol, hotels, spas, online retailers, and bookstores.
To further improve its program, BalticMiles has also implemented a crowdsourcing platform that allows members to directly impact future partners and promotions based on personal preference. With members as its main focus, BalticMiles created a platform that gives members the opportunity to help build a membership level based on their ideas.
“Combined with smart technology, a high level of personalization for members, and with a sense of innovation and trendiness, we are trying to carve out our own niche in the European loyalty marketing landscape,” says Gabi Kool, CEO of BalticMiles.
Those who submit ideas may find the act of participating to be just as fruitful as the loyalty program itself. For the first 20 ideas to reach 100 “likes,” members will receive 5,000 reward points. The top three contributed ideas, as selected by BalticMiles, will be awarded 100,000 points each, equaling 23 free flights. Winners will be able to redeem these points for travel and rewards catalog items within a three-year time period.
With focus markets in the Baltics, Finland, Russia, and Ukraine, BalticMiles puts great emphasis on cultivating strategic partnerships with the top 20 categories in which households spend most of their money. By doing so, BalticMiles offers a compelling value proposition that keeps members engaged by offering rewards for average, everyday purchases. As points accumulate, members can then redeem their rewards for free flights and upgrades on airBaltic and popular merchandise, as well as music, experiences, donations, and auctions. Members can even use the points plus cash system, making it easy for them to redeem points exactly as they wish. Of those points earned, only one-third stems from direct interactions with airBaltic, while two-thirds are earned through retail and bank transactions.
BalticMiles also engages with customers by allowing them to provide feedback on not only how to reward those who use their loyalty card, but also those who advocate via social media. These interactions solidify loyalty by making members feel that the program aims to improve constantly, refining its current practices and evolving with the help of customer input.
“In the end, it is OK to create new features and fail occasionally as you never know 100 percent which idea will catch on,” Kool says, “so you have to go out and test, take some calculated risks, monitor and measure, and adjust quickly if needed.”
Course Hero Paves the Path to Customer Loyalty and Personal Success
In order to maximize learning for its more than two million members, Course Hero works to engage students of all ages by emphasizing content rather than grading. Course Hero provides an online learning platform that provides users with access to numerous study tools and courses to enhance their experience. While Course Hero allows users to create digital flash card sets, connect with expert tutors, and explore its library of study documents, lecture notes, and practice problems, the company’s courses garner the most attention.
Course Hero offers 22 free, customer-designed lessons broken down into three learning paths: entrepreneurship, business, and Web programming. For each path, students must complete five courses in order to graduate. However, each path comes with real-world challenges and incentives to engage students with the course material, as well as help them establish their personal goals.
“The underlying product has to start with something great,” says Andrew Grauer, CEO of Course Hero. “In our case, if it’s tutoring, you need great tutors. If it’s a course, you need great content. For us, with regard to learning, learning can be really boring. If it’s boring, the data shows you won’t learn as much.”
For those following the entrepreneurship path, graduates are then eligible to enter a quarterly business plan competition where they compete for a pitch meeting with Silicon Valley investment firm, SV Angel, and a $5,000 grand prize. Business and web programming students are encouraged to submit their resumes to apply for a job opening at Course Hero.
While the end rewards provide great incentive to pursue course completion, Course Hero also awards points and badges throughout the students’ learning as they complete chapters and courses. For instance, when students contribute 10 documents to Course Hero’s ever-growing learning tool library, they will receive a surfer-themed “Hang 10” badge that they can then share with friends via Facebook and Twitter. However, this milestone integrates engagement with the offline world, once again, because Course Hero will donate one book to Books for Africa in honor of the student’s achievement. Students help others by helping themselves, earning the “BFA” badge to mark their success and their contribution.