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7 practices for making trade loyalty effective

Nowadays we do not start our day but start-up our day. I wonder in the last few years, was there ever a day a start-up did not start or end. Pundits do speak about few critical elements of a successful start-up and few prime amongst those are good product, competitive edge, no legal issues, deep pockets and definitely a strong team.

I agree completely. However, for a new venture that needs trade partners to take the brand to the market and to the customers, happy and motivated channel partners have no substitutes. The same applies for not only trade partners but business collaborators, who are co-value creators and receivers. Like the Uber cabbies. I am sure there are other factors, but Uber succeeded and Sidecar did not. This is only to make mention of the fact your trade partners and collaborators contribute immensely to your success. Both to a start-up and to a conventional organisation.

Though in our organization, we mainly focus on B2B loyalty platforms and solutions aimed at helping clients keep their trade partners and influencers happy, we often along with the client (co-culprit) bypass the important question of “Why?” Why are we doing this loyalty program for my dealers?

We want all from increasing engagement to increasing sales but sometimes ambiguous on the specific role of a loyalty solution for my Brand. The daft answers to WHY leads to non-cohesiveness in answers to WHAT and HOW.

In India, my personal opinion is that we have the most intelligent and manipulative people in our society, called traders. They might never be yours but can make yours. A typical Indian housewife always asks a grocer the billion dollar cliché question “I am sure the quality of the wheat is good, isn’t it?” As if, the grocer ever answered in negative. But the same cliché answer from the grocer makes the wheat the best for the housewife. The Brand wins and both the grocer and housewife lived happily ever after, not together though. Thus my question, “Is your loyalty program to build loyalty?” Let us think.
Organisations have started to stand up and appreciate the fact that loyalty is Utopia. So does that mean that the days for loyalty programs are numbered? NO, definitely no.

We can make magic for our business if we leverage the loyalty platform effectively with the right practical objective, starting with the right answer to “WHY”.

At mjunction services limited, we make the objectives very clear and try bring the client on the same page, doing a workshop before and after partnering with them. We believe in, our clients leveraging the loyalty platform as marketing decision making tool. Strong relationships will be built on taking right decisions on engagement and recognitions aided by insights and information from the system. The methodology and the objectives have been proven to be well aligned in some of our programs that we are doing for our major Cement and Steel clients. The story will be a good fit for all organisations having trade relationships beyond the primary veil. Though the approach may vary but I would like to end this piece with the below mentioned 7 guiding principles of an effective loyalty programme.

1. Ensure that you know your trade partners and influencers
The first block to building your program is to have a sanitized database of the target group. We often do not know as to who is actually buying my brand or advocating me. It is imperative to have essential details of your Influencers to connect with them and a know-how of what they aspire. If you do not know them, you do not have them, leave aside rewarding them. We have used e-KYC, through Apps, which can be effectively used during meets/events for enrolling dealers, influencers and others

2. Simplicity and motivation are major levers for growth of program community
The program should be made simple to understand and easy to join. Most programs lack simplicity which causes resistance amongst stakeholders to get them enrolled. The motive to enroll themselves should be made interesting and rewarding. Make the program elements simple so that they can easily earn and burn. All the process and rules should be very simple and clear. Initiate the WoW factor from the start and entice them. We follow a structured onboarding approach which includes phase-wise communication in various modes. We also deploy the principles of endowed progress and entice onboarding with welcome points and novelties. Our approach of enabling registration through both offline and online modes enable convenience for all

3. Capture of authenticated and validated transaction data to identify your growth partners
Adoption of the right technology is critical to getting the correct transaction data. The choice of technology is based on the target profile and the ease and simplicity of task expected from the stakeholders. Implement a process that does not create additional hardship for members to transact, but ensure sanctity and genuineness of data. It may vary from a simple SMS methodology to using an App. At MJ, we keep convenience and user journey as a priority over technology. Based on user profiles, we activate technologies starting from QR code to simple missed call facilities

4. Engage and engage and engage – make them feel special
Irrelevant communication and information is a common deterrent. Personalisation of the program communication and experiential rewards is a major success lever. We segment stakeholders based on loyalty data and design tailor-made program that has created huge program equity across established brands. Nothing delights more than the feeling of being valued and respected. Reward beneficiaries the way they want or at least give meaningful and relevant choices. Incentives need to be given as a choice and not enforced, hence we need to have a delightful mix of rewards and fulfill them at doorstep with great delight, creating a personal touch. Our reward catalogues have gifts of all types, for all beneficiaries, for all occasions. We make sure that we keep our promises and get happiness delivered through our extensive logistics network and tie-ups. We have successfully used gamification and leveraged multi-modal communication channels to create continual buzz and emotional connect

5. Empowerment and dialogue
Listen to the members and gather feedback for making your strategies more effective. Ensure your loyalty platform is also a source of market intelligence having a system to capture feedback and insights. We design programs to encourage two-way interactions. Make the program enable easy interactions and recognize feedback and inputs from your trade partners. At MJ, we make sure that the loyalty platform is also a source of gathering market insights for innovation and improvements. Reward them for telling you secrets to success. We do have lead and site referral systems for few of our cement and metal clients that help in rewarding the influencers accordingly

6. Loyalty program aligned to business objectives
Your program design or incentive schemes need to be completely aligned to the business objectives or the intended behavior of the target group. Whether we need channel penetration or market insights or build relationship will influence your program design. Right alignment of design and objectives ensures impactful returns (ROI) from the program. While consulting our clients, during the design stage, we make sure the objectives and expectations are clear and all aspects of the program align towards attaining the intended behavior. If your program is mainly to attain mindshare, the program should facilitate engagement and reward beneficiaries for interacting with your brand over the platform or through any interface. Give them points and rewards for contests, for attending quizzes, for events, etc.

7. Decision making tool for increased ROI
Make your program a single source of all trade insights. The data or information should be able to aid all your marketing decisions and identify clearly the loyal buyers. The system should help you in identifying the profitable customers and your best partners across the community. Loyalty is utopia. Make sure, while the program is to engage with your targets, you derive the right data from the platform to make your marketing decisions effective. Our platform enables view of hierarchy based data, sliced and diced accordingly to provide insights on next actions and helps you assess the effectiveness of past decisions. Make the platform your marketing consultant

Authored by

Atanu Saha

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