Physicists have determined that a bubble-burst is not a finite event, but instead the initiation of a cascade effect that creates a series of smaller, less-stable bubbles. And the chain seems to continue to unfold and multiply repeatedly.
This all sounds hauntingly familiar, resonating with the popping we hear in the global economic universe. The savings-and-loan bubble is followed by the internet bubble is followed by the housing bubble and so it goes.
Is this phenomenon really so different within the microcosm that is the loyalty industry? For instance, it wasn't so long ago that we were captivated by programs like Beenz and Flooz that rewarded customers for simply reading online ads or taking online surveys until that bubble burst in the cascade resulting from the internet bubble's collapse. Now, we have a new generation of "engagement strategies" that reward customers for myriad word-of-mouth activities, healthy behaviors, ecologically-responsible activities and much more.
In discussing the newest loyalty ventures into cultivating non-transactional behaviors, it's easy to get dazzled by the scope and diversity of the new options and platforms available to engage best customers. When digging into the conversation a bit further, however, there are familiar themes that will determine the sustainability of this new movement. Here are a few of those themes:
Is this new generation of rewards and incentives for non-purchase behavior here to stay; or, are we witnessing the rapid inflation of the next loyalty "bubble" that will burst when practitioners fail to make a direct-enough link to the underlying economic motivation for encouraging such socially responsible behaviors?
To influence non-transactional behavior, sincerity is imperative. Mix that with rewards, recognition elements and relevant communications and – yes – it is possible to influence customer behaviors outside of the checkout line. One would expect that more than a few loyalty leaders have studied past failures and will take to heart their lessons learned; and, that these prescient loyalty physicists will find themselves not on the bubble, but on the solid ground of entirely new loyalty worlds.
Kelly Hlavinka is Managing Partner at COLLOQUY, a LoyaltyOne Research Group.Kelly.Hlavinka@COLLOQUY.com