by Phil Seward | October 27, 2016
Marketers can measure customer engagement practices in a multitude of ways, but many underestimate the strong value that loyalty programs yield when it comes to keeping customers devoted. Many retailers leave loyalty and rewards programs on the back burner, but it's crucial for these initiatives to be at the forefront during an age when competition is multiplying exponentially across traditional and digital consumer landscapes. In order to health-check the success of your company's loyalty program, ask yourself these key questions:

Are you the customer's first choice?

Loyalty means customers are coming back time and again and are continually choosing you for every purchase over heading to competing brands. Repeat customers solidifying their allegiance to your brand is a sign you have the ability to build meaningful and long-lasting customer relationships.

Are the perks new and interesting?

Headline-grabbing rewards programs must offer innovative perks that are meaningful but not easily accessible elsewhere. Creativity should be exercised in the conception process in order to produce original ideas. If it helps, hold a brainstorm session asking your team members questions like what noncompeting services your participants are using, what apps they've downloaded, which devices they're using, or how they're getting their goods delivered. You could be the first to partner with someone your members could really capitalize on via your brand.

How soon are your customers receiving their first reward?

"Day one" should be the answer to this question. The most common customer complaint with loyalty programs is that it takes too long to accumulate enough points or rewards to realize any meaningful benefit -- but that won't pose a problem if valued participants receive the right incentives from the start, whether or not they've made a transaction. Signing up and leaving your store with a perk they didn't expect to earn when they walked in will make their day.

Do your customers understand your program?

It's always good to enhance your loyalty program in order to entice new members and keep existing members engaged, as long as you add sensible features that don't make it unnecessarily complicated. Customers do not want to be part of something they think will require too much effort. They need to understand exactly what's expected of them in order to unlock incremental benefits. Rewards and perks should carry over and be redeemable in-store, online, or via mobile. Remember that mobile no longer pertains to just Millennials: Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are also on their phones using the same rewards apps.

Are your employees embracing the program?

Your employees need to understand your loyalty program is a serious effort designed to enhance customer devotion. When it comes to customer-facing staff, loyalty programs need to serve as a two-way street designed to enhance the customer experience, while empowering employees to grow professionally as they meet their own sales targets. They should know the resources and technology available to access relevant customer information are there to help them be the best in the role you hired them to perform.

Is customer data driving your customer experience?

Data should be employed to deliver a more personalized brand experience and present educated suggestions of perks that customers want, based on their behavior and preferences. With data, brands can access a history of past purchases, products and delivery preferences, interests and demographics, and social influence. There's a better chance you'll offer members something they'll appreciate and take advantage of when data is used to foster devotion.

Are you defining and measuring success?

From the beginning, robust success metrics need to be realistic and attainable. They must be measured systematically to assess program performance and growth. Additionally, key performance indicators should be set across all facets of the business to cover metrics beyond transactional revenue values.

Are your customers participating?

Above everything, your current customers and potential members need to know your loyalty program exists. Many retailers are great at promoting their brand and advertising various sales, but the same effort should be invested to market loyalty programs in order to drive acquisition and bring the programs' benefits to the forefront of consumers' minds each and every time they think about making a purchase. 

Phil Seward is the regional director for the Americas at global loyalty agency ICLP. Combining agency and client-side experience, he is responsible for driving devoted customer relationships for ICLP's clients across the U.S. and Latin America.