Instant Loyalty club for $0.00

Most retailers toy with the idea of starting a loyalty/membership club at some stage. Some start the process; some even keep going for a while. FlyBuys seems to have been around forever, even though the program reminds me a bit of the dog that chased the bus… and caught it. FlyBuys has been hugely successful in generating unprecedented consumer data, but if Coles’ current travails (2006-8) are anything to go by, they have definitely failed to leverage such a rich resource. (Thety must be complimented on integrating it into their POS procedures though: ‘Do you have Fly Buys’ has become the equivalent of ‘do you want to have fries with that’ – long abandoned by Maccas.

A loyalty club is a concept that very quickly deteriorates from being a good idea to “it seemed such a good idea at the time.”There are two reasons for this:

1. The culture of instant gratification seems to be growing stronger, mitigating, nay, nullifying the idea of loyalty that is earned over time. This is a major challenge for all retailers and marketers to overcome – and there is no sign of it ever really changing if current trends are indicative.

2. The cost of doing/running such a program quickly escalates, especially in terms of time, to the point where the returns do not justify the investment. Unless someone in the organisation is truly passionate, and is charged with the responsibility and given the freedom to pursue such an initiative vigorously – with the support of senior management – it becomes a chore and that is reflected in the quality of the offer.

Whether such a scheme is a good idea for YOUR business or not, is for you to decide. The good news is that the job of creating such a club/program is now a very simple exercise; thanks to Web 2.0.

If you are reading this on my blog, you probably know what Web 2.0 means but for the record a simple analogy: The internet is now commonly seen to be in the second stage of its evolution; the 1st stage having been one that was dominated by static content that was pushed out to the internet surfing community. The 2nd stage is one whereby the community (of internet surfers) actually create the content in a dynamic way. I use radio as the analogy. The ordinary music station is the Stage 1 model – where ‘someone’ is pushing out content. The Stage 2 model is Talkback Radio – where the listeners (community) actually create the content – and in a way make or break the station. The station owners still have a role to play, but it must govern with a soft touch. Web 2.0 is like talkback: users create the content and build the community. Examples are EBay, Wikipedia, Facebook, MySpace etc.

Web 2.0 provides several, easy to use platforms that make a perfect, FREE platform to run a Special Interest Group. One of the easiest is Facebook. Using this platform, you simply sign-up; it is free and you don’t need to download or configure anything. Then you create a ‘group’ – a few easy clicks and you can then invite your customers to join – however you do that. On Facebook you now have access to over 14,000 ‘widgets’ that allow you to:

  • run quizzes,

  • remember birthdays,

  • upload photos,

  • run classifieds,

  • advertise events,

  • forums (fora?)

  • games,

and pretty much anything else you could think of.

It has no printing costs and it is instantaneous. It does not need special planning, technology or anything else really.

A second alternative, at the other end of the scale is to embrace Second Life. It will cost you an arm and a leg, but you can create and own the worldwide market for your product category. If world domination is your thing – check it out.

BUT BECAUSE it is Web 2.0, but there is one very important caveat:

Many, many (most) corporates don’t 'get' Web 2.0. By that I don’t mean the technology of the opportunity; but I mean as philosophy. You may start the club (say Paddy Pallin wants to start one around outdoor adventure, or Uncle Pete’s Toys start one around a Model Cars) but you don’t “own” the club. As the administrator you can technically shut down the ‘club’, but there may be a fearsome backlash. You don’t control the conversations, and you don’t control the connections. You will be empowering your community of customers and you will be a catalyst for their conversations and their activities – and you will earn their loyalty in an unprecedented way. The reality is that such loyalty (in today’s world) is such a precarious thing that you must really think long hard before you embrace it.

This is the world where the customer/community are in charge, and they like the power that comes with it.

I strongly recommend going down this path, if you pass the test and really get what you are getting into, go for it.




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