A close look at 2011 and we notice numerous key trends that have immensely impacted the world of customer loyalty. From infusing loyalty programmes through gamification and mobiles, social shopping and desire for immediacy of rewards, marketers were trying to comprehend how best to capture the hearts and minds of social media savvy customers. Based on the knowledge gained during the last year, marketers are likely to term 2012 as 'The Year of Customer Engagement'. Despite the steep growth of the daily deal space, marketers have realised that customer loyalty is essential for driving sustainable growth and by implementing a voice-of-customer model they create a comprehensive view of the customer, a critical ingredient for cultivating loyal brand supporters.
Once armed with this insight, marketers can deliver a brand experience that ultimately exceeds customers expectations. Thus, loyalty is a much complex idea than it has been earlier. It is just not about discounts, points and rewards; it is about processes, ideas and interactions that engage an individual with the brand. So, what is it that will drive the customer engagement and loyalty this year? Well, the key areas that will change the scenario are customer experience, loyalty programmes, social media  and online marketing, mobile, and data.
Recent market buzz is setting up the assumption that 2012 will not only be a recovery year for the global economy, but also a growth year for loyalty marketing . Present economic factors have reduced our spending, forcing consumers and businesses to think hard about how and where they spend their money. Prudent consumer mind-set is one of the important factors affecting the end of recession as consumers have increased their savings, consuming less and are carefully choosing the right places to spend their money.
However, things may be looking up as global economy is predicted to grow this year. In addition, consumer confidence is expected to rise and many other economic indicators infer that the end of the recession may be near. Marketing budgets are still relatively conservative and thus some marketers are putting loyalty on hold. However, this trend might not last for long. The year 2012 may likely be the breakout year for loyalty marketing, as its value is finally being recognised. Loyalty marketing has proven its success in many markets and is seen as a tool to drive revenue from existing customers and create a competitive advantage for brands. Loyalty marketing programmes provide incentives that drive repeat business and help build relationships with customers.
Also, individuals are accepting the concept of building and mining customer databases. Loyalty marketing programmes provide business with a wealth of information about their customers. All businesses can better reach and motivate their customers by collecting insights on buying behaviour, trends, etc. Ultimately, consumers want relationships with their favourite brands. Some of the biggest obstacles to loyalty marketing success in the past are lack of understanding and lack of funding. Now, businesses realise the value that loyalty marketing holds. The year 2012 may very well be the year to watch out for!
Paritosh Palav is the Sr. Operations Manager with Strategic Publicity & Advertising Co. WLL.