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Seamless, connected and contactless: Creating a high-impact, digital-first loyalty program of the future


In our two most recent posts, my colleagues explored the importance of emotional loyalty in the COVID era. However, for many companies, the act of connecting with consumers on a deeper and more personal level within their daily lives implies a high level of engagement—this at a time when consumers are trying to minimize in-person interaction.

In this environment, it’s important to consider how brands can build loyalty through digital channels, leveraging data, analytics and technology to increase personalization, relevance and timeliness. In this post, the final in our series about emotional loyalty, we identify three attributes that will define CP and retail loyalty initiatives of the future:

1. Seamless: Ensuring a connected and engaging digital experience

COVID-19 has simultaneously accelerated the use of digital channels and decreased interactions in physical stores. Recent research released by Capgemini underscores this point as 40 percent of consumers report that they expect to have “high interactions” with online retail channels, as compared to just 30 percent who said the same before the pandemic.

Brands must keep this point at the forefront as they reformulate their approach to loyalty. To be effective, loyalty activities must be seamless – with every stage being intuitive, responsive and engaging from the consumer’s point of view.

For example, in the UK, premium ice cream brand Magnum teamed up with Deliveroo to offer free at-home DIY ice cream kits to consumers in quarantine. The kits, which included ice cream bars, sticks and an assortment of toppings, were meant to replicate the experience of visiting a Pleasure Store location and creating a one-of-a-kind dessert. With this promotion, Magnum not only sparked interest in its newest product, but managed to do so without the benefit of the store, seamlessly engaging the consumer first through digital channels and then with an established delivery partner.

Another example is Heinz to Home, an owned direct-to-consumer digital channel launched by the brand that offers product bundles, fast delivery and the opportunity to personalize select products—features that speak to the consumer’s demand for speed, convenience, simplicity and customization. The brand also highlights its sense of purpose, offering Blue Light card holders, such as NHS workers, first responders and other public servants, discounts and other benefits to thank them for their continued service.

2. Connected: Threading loyalty touchpoints through physical and digital channels

In our earlier post, How to build emotional loyalty through purpose, we explored how traditional in-store “earn and burn” tactics are no longer relevant to consumers, particularly to those who prefer to shop online. Instead, digital consumers tend to be more focused on the purpose of the brand and the value they can add to their lives.

Companies will need to pursue content and experiences to drive up emotional connection and get consumers to connect with the brand on an ongoing basis. Loyalty initiatives hat balance digital rewards with personalized content and offerings can provide value beyond the transaction.

For example, beauty retailer Sephora has expanded their Beauty Insider program to offer facials, behind-the-scenes access to product creation and other experiential perks. In this expansion, we see a blend of physical and digital, not just in channels, but in the rewards themselves. Another example in the beauty industry comes from Estée Lauder, which launched Liv, a WhatsApp chatbot that offers skincare advice during the lockdown. Using the latest AI technology from digital partner, Rehab, the brand is replicating the in-store consultation experience to customers who are now at home. Seamless and effective, this example also blurs the line between physical and digital, helping consumers look and feel their best even if their normal routines are disrupted.

3. Contactless: Designing a touchless loyalty program and establishing it as the brand default

While some countries have managed to control the spread of COVID-19, many consumers are still very mindful of health and safety. Companies must react accordingly, adapting, iterating and operationalizing in-person loyalty programs to be virtually contactless. This includes incorporating touchless elements throughout the value chain, in areas such as discovery, delivery and payment.

For example, beauty brand NuFace, which makes a facial toning device, has seen its sales surge as consumers in quarantine seek at-home treatments for skincare. To adapt to the coronavirus environment, the company has replaced in-person house calls with a virtual version hosted on Zoom or Facetime. These calls target spa partners and influencers that work with the brand, and feature tutorials and product demos from NuFace’s founder and CEO Tara Peterson.

With this post, we conclude our series on the evolution of loyalty. We hope you will enjoy the other posts written on this topic and look forward to continuing to explore this issue as it evolves in the COVID era and beyond.