The Loyalty Lab: Crafting B2C Loyalty Programs That Drive Customer Retention
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Maximizing Customer Loyalty with AI: Strategies for Modern Loyalty Programs
Anna Dawal
Anna Dawal
July 8, 2024
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Maximizing Customer Loyalty with AI: Strategies for Modern Loyalty Programs

Customer loyalty isn’t exclusive anymore. Nowadays, people join up to 16 loyalty programs but only actively use half (Statista). Even though 90% of brands offer rewards programs, many of these are pretty generic and don’t cater to specific customer needs or showcase what makes the brand unique (Accenture). This leads to 80% of customers being ready to switch brands because of bad experiences (Qualtrics).

AI can help close this gap by making loyalty programs better and stronger, but it’s got to be used right and ethically. In this blog post, I’ll discuss how AI-driven personalization can improve loyalty programs and promotions. I’ll also share key questions for setting up AI-powered loyalty programs and discuss using AI responsibly to keep customers happy.

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What are AI-powered loyalty programs and how they work?

AI loyalty programs are advanced customer engagement systems that use artificial intelligence to keep customers coming back and make their experiences with a brand more personal. These programs use predictive analytics to spot and engage customers who are most likely to join a loyalty program, refer friends, or share info through surveys and quizzes.

By looking at past purchases, engagement levels, and demographic data, predictive AI can figure out which customers are likely to go for specific promotions or might stop shopping. This not only helps keep customers interested but also makes loyalty campaigns more effective, boosting retention and customer lifetime value.

How can AI supercharge loyalty programs?

Loyalty AI is a game-changer in businesses' universal quest to boost sales while safeguarding margins. Whether a brand is looking to elevate its existing loyalty programs or lay the foundation for new ones, AI offers invaluable support in building long-lasting relationships with consumers. 

Here are some key areas where AI makes a significant impact:

1. Personalization

Leveraging AI, you can tailor incentives, program rules, and structures to individual customers. These systems create targeted offers for specific segments, ensuring the right customers are reached at the right time and context.

Pre-AI vs. Post-AI: How AI influences loyalty program personalization

2. Program monitoring

Predictive AI systems significantly facilitate program monitoring by providing real-time feedback. For instance, if today's points redemption rates are lower compared to a specified period, AI can quickly identify this trend and alert relevant teams. 

This allows for immediate action and ensures that your loyalty program remains dynamic and responsive to customer behaviors and market conditions at all times.

3. Churn prevention

By analyzing patterns and indicators of customer disengagement, AI algorithms help identify when customers are likely to churn. Insights from past experiences can then enable proactive measures, such as sending personalized offers or re-engagement emails, to retain customers before they leave.

4. Increasing LTV

AI can boost customer buying propensity by offering relevant products at the optimal time and price. For example, if a customer frequently buys running shoes, the AI can suggest new models or related accessories like socks and fitness trackers when they're most likely to make a purchase. This doesn't necessarily require promotions; it can simply involve showing the right products to customers without any extra incentives.

5. Fraud detection

AI tools analyze behavior and anomalies to detect and flag suspicious activities common in loyalty programs. Early identification of fraudulent activities can save companies substantial amounts of money and earn consumer trust.

6. Reducing OpEx & relieving developers

AI-driven solutions enable tech teams to develop MVPs faster, automate repetitive tasks, and create space for more creative thinking. For example, launching an AI chatbot for loyalty-related queries and implementing AI-powered A/B testing can streamline workflows, allowing developers to focus on projects requiring more attention.

AI chatbot example for relieving developers

How to enhance promotions with AI?

Using AI in your promotional strategies can significantly improve their effectiveness:

Here are some key ways to leverage loyalty AI for a better loyalty experience:

1. AI-powered segmentation

Leverage AI to segment customers based on customer data – past promotional behaviors, purchase history, browsing behavior, and propensity to engage with loyalty programs.

A prime example here is Starbucks, which uses its Deep Brew data analytics and AI tool to identify and create personalized offers for specific rewards members cohorts. 

And they are doing it effectively – just in the first quarter of 2024, Starbucks saw a notable increase in its rewards program membership, reaching 34.3 million 90-day active members in the U.S., a 13% year-over-year growth with 4 million new members (Starbucks).

2. Personalized assistance

Elevate promotions with an AI assistant that monitors campaign performance and suggests quick wins. It can also launch multiple A/B tests to optimize promotional settings. 

For example, Sephora uses AI to offer personalized recommendations and suggest makeup products based on user preferences, which enhances customer satisfaction and boosts conversion rates. Moreover, customers can virtually try on makeup using AR thanks to Sephora's virtual artist feature, match their skin tone to a foundation with AI, and sample fragrances via a touchscreen and scented air.

3. Smart promo recommendations

Use AI to predict which deals will resonate most with each customer based on their shopping history in order to offer personalized rewards. 

AI-based smart promotion recommendation example

Amazon’s recommendation engine is a prime example in this category. It suggests products tailored to each customer’s preferences while enhancing the effectiveness of promotions in real time.

4. Deep integration with AI CMS

Integrate your promotions with an AI-powered CMS to automatically generate promotion descriptions, terms and conditions, and banners at scale. AI enables immediate inclusivity of promotional content in multiple languages and with alt text. 

For instance, Netflix employs AI to personalize the thumbnails displayed for each title. By testing different thumbnails with various user segments, they can determine which images are most likely to attract a user's attention, increasing the likelihood of them watching the content. 

AI in loyalty programs – is this what you need?

When considering deploying AI to enhance your loyalty program, there are several key factors to take into account to ensure its effectiveness and alignment with your business goals:

  • Customer needs: Determine if this AI feature addresses a specific pain point for your customers. For example, can it tailor rewards or predict and prevent churn? Ensuring it meets both current and future needs is crucial for relevance and longevity.

  • Development: Assess your internal capabilities. Do you have a team skilled in AI development, or will you need to hire experts? Consider the time and budget required to build and maintain the AI feature effectively.

  • Impact: Evaluate the potential outcomes. Will this AI feature increase sales, reduce customer churn, or boost overall satisfaction? Quantify the expected benefits to justify the investment.

  • Expansion: Consider the growth potential. Can this AI feature help you tap into new customer segments or markets? Look at how it can broaden your reach and attract diverse customer groups for long-term expansion.

The ethical aspect of deploying AI for your customer loyalty program

A recent Pew Research Center study reveals that 52% of Americans feel more concerned than excited about the growing use of artificial intelligence. Only 10% are more excited than concerned, while 36% experience a mix of these emotions. 

Using AI in customer loyalty programs undoubtedly offers numerous benefits, but it is crucial to ensure this technology is correctly used. In essence, brands must use AI responsibly to comply with regulations, mitigate risks, and build trust, ultimately enhancing customer satisfaction rather than having shoppers worry about their data being used or manipulated unfairly.

Here are some key actions for the responsible use of AI in loyalty programs and promotions:

1. Supervising AI

Technology is meant to be our ally, simplifying tasks and enhancing our lives. But, while AI offers incredible potential, it cannot operate unchecked. It is crucial to maintain human control in AI-driven loyalty programs and promotions. 

Let your customers know that AI is supervised and in control of human hands. This transparency will reinforce your commitment to a customer-first approach, reminding them that real people are looking out for their best interests.

2. Protecting data privacy

With the increase in online crime and data breaches, consumers are more worried than ever about their data being misused. Protecting customer data, especially when using AI, is crucial.

Collect data only for legitimate purposes and ensure customers have control over their information. For example, when machine-analyzing purchase history for tailored promotions, inform customers about how their data will be used and provide them with opt-out options.

3. Ensuring transparency

Clearly inform customers when they interact with AI-driven systems in loyalty programs. Transparency builds trust and helps users understand how AI enhances their experience. For example, if an AI system generates personalized discount codes, specify that these recommendations are AI-driven. To build trust, you can also disclose the decision-making process behind product recommendations made by chatbots.

4. Mitigating bias

The promise of AI lies in its ability to make objective, data-driven decisions. However, this ideal is not always achieved. To prevent AI from reinforcing biases in loyalty programs and promotions, it's essential to ensure that algorithms are fair and inclusive. 

For example, AI should not favor one demographic over another in promotional offers. Conduct regular audits to verify that rewards and promotions are distributed equitably among all customer segments. This practice helps maintain fairness and fosters trust among your diverse customer base.

5. Complying with regulations

Adhere to all relevant regulations and ensure robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard sensitive information.

For instance, when using AI to analyze spending patterns for targeted promotions, comply with data protection laws such as GDPR in Europe and CCPA in the US. Implement strong security practices to keep customer data safe and secure.

Voucherify for AI-driven loyalty programs

Brands today are eager to optimize their promotions, seeking the perfect balance between maximizing sales and minimizing discounts to protect their margins. 

As a partner in promotions and loyalty, we use AI to accelerate development and help our customers achieve their business goals. Our open APIs allow for seamless integration with external AI tools. Additionally, Voucherify provides valuable insights into customer behavior related to promotions. This data can train AI models to optimize strategies and implement effective recommendations.

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