I was surprised today when I discovered that a choice of reward for my credit credit card loyalty program was credit toward shopping on Amazon.com. When I made the choice, I found out I had credit on the retailer’s site, available to be used immediately.
Before I made this simple discovery, I thought I had to order merchandise or gift cards and wait an indeterminate amount of time for their arrival. After all, we’ve been trained that free doesn’t necessarily come in express mail and rarely right away. This right-time marketing is part of a rapidly growing trend where consumers can receive their loyalty rewards as near or far from real-time as it gets.
It makes sense that right-time rewards are just a part of delivering great customer loyalty programs. Asking customers to delay gratification to a time of your choosing has the effect of making rewards less tangible. Anything, including choice, timing or complexity, that stands between reward and redemption also stands in the way of creating consumer habits that benefit the brand. Our parents taught us that patience is a virtue, but does that apply to loyalty?
Marshmallows and Mobile Devices
As much as delayed gratification is a virtue in society, brought to life in the famous Stanford Marshmallow Test, delaying or giving tone-deaf consumer gratification is not a virtuous situation for the brand.
Taking this a step further, the perception of what constitutes ‘right’ is being rewritten by the mobile revolution, as consumers have the ability to receive reward notifications or use rewards they’ve earned on the go, anywhere and everywhere. This makes things really interesting as brands can compete on finding innovative ways to incent and reward mobile commerce behaviors in just the right moments.
In a July 2012 Aberdeen Report, analysts state that incorporating right-time rewards into mobile messaging allows retailers to generate a two-way dialogue with their customers. The report also points out that right-time rewards give retailers and brands a way to track the success of a campaign in the moment and to make corrective changes as needed.
Let’s Get Physical
Where mobile really turns things up is in capturing as much of the customer’s physical circumstances as possible so that interaction, including rewards, can have the proper context. A mobile users location is valuable information, as that determines time of day, proximity to a store, weather and more. If that ambient context can be blended with data about past behaviors, it potentially takes on much greater value in deciding loyalty rewards. In effect, it brings together the physical world of the consumer with the digital world of the loyalty program.
The merging of the physical and digital worlds in right-time is marketing nirvana. It represents an opportunity for a brand to be present in the moment a decision is being made: a decision to buy an item or to enter a store, including a competitor’s location. Those moments are increasingly becoming the key to loyalty success.
This first appeared on the Loyalty Lab blog and has been lightly edited.