7 Customer loyalty trends that are set to make 2021 an interesting one.

After a year of major disruption, here are 7 customer loyalty trends in retail that you can expect in 2021, including changes in loyalty programs.

The retail industry has seen significant disruption in 2020, from having to close physical stores during the lockdown to an accelerated shift to digital and adapting to new health and safety regulations when their doors reopened.

With all of these changes, holding on to your existing customers while attracting new ones is becoming increasingly difficult. Making customer retention and loyalty more important than ever.

Your loyalty programs play a huge role in customer loyalty, with 75% of customers favouring companies that offer rewards. Here are some of the top customer loyalty trends to follow in 2021 to retain your existing customer base.

Customer loyalty trends to expect in 2021.

While gaining customer loyalty has always been important to retailers, it is going to be even more critical in 2021. An uncertain global economy, along with rising customer acquisition and overhead costs, are likely going to force brands to put even more focus on retaining existing customers.

Here are some of the top customer loyalty trends that are expected to make 2021 an interesting one.


1. Data & machine learning

As businesses become more reliant on business intelligence tools and AI, reliable customer data and analytics has become increasingly important.

There’s going to be even more improvements to data collection methods, paired with the use of machine learning/AI technology. This will allow more loyalty programs to deliver personalised communications and experiences.

Personalisation will extend into retail outlets via in-store strategies and chatbots. Machine learning will also develop further into contact centre operations, using extensive customer data profiles to service member needs, with the option for more complex issues to be handed over to agents.


2. Integrated loyalty programs

Online sales are forecast to reach $4.5 trillion in 2021. This continued rise of e-commerce makes integrated loyalty programs a must-have for all retailers. 

Benefits of an e-loyalty program include: 

  • Increased online sales.
  • Attracting more customers to shop online while retaining existing online customers.
  • Driving more traffic to your digital store.
  • Increasing online referrals and social shares.
  • Capturing more accurate customer data.
  • Offering more personalised experiences.


There’s also likely going to be an increase in mobile apps, either purely for loyalty programs or for entire shopping experiences. Companies can then rely on push notifications, newsletters, promos, and reward programs within the loyalty app to keep their customer base engaged and loyal.


3. Gamification

More than 80% of millennials and nearly two-thirds of baby boomers have reported interest in getting rewards not just for purchases but also for engagement with brands. Companies use gamification to drive engagement, which is the key to loyalty.

Gamification is about using data to move behaviour. It’s the integration of game design elements into non-game or real-life activities – both physical and digital. Increasingly, more loyalty programs are integrating gamification, focusing on engaging customers instead of just getting transactions from them.

The games don’t necessarily need to be incorporated into the reward program, but can also be used in one-off campaigns. For example, when Pick n Pay ran a campaign around the ICC 2019 Cricket World Cup, using a free interactive app to add value to the promotion.


4. Personalised customer experiences

Recent statistics are saying that post-COVID-19, 59% of consumers care more about customer experience when deciding what company to support. Customer experience, therefore, will continue dictating purchasing in 2021.

Paired with customer experiences is personalised customer experiences, which is another leading trend in 2021. As a retailer, you need to get personal with your customers. 

Highly personalised experiences, when done well, not only differentiate retailers but also give them a competitive advantage.


5. Sustainability

Sustainability is a big trend that is only going to get stronger. No matter what industry you are in, incorporating sustainability is key in attracting and keeping customers

More companies are starting to incorporate sustainable and eco-friendly practices into their loyalty programs and campaigns. A recent example is local brand Checkers and their Little Garden campaign where shoppers were given seedlings to plant when purchasing above a certain amount.


6. Simplification of loyalty programs

Simplification is another upcoming trend in loyalty programs, with more reward programs aiming for short-term satisfaction and redemptions rather than the long-term accumulation and saving up of points. This includes cash backs, discounts and surprise vouchers. Instant rewards equal instant gratification.


7. More focus on benefits and privileges

Loyalty programs are going to be a lot more focused on ‘soft benefits’. Soft benefits help differentiate you from competitors by showing your customers that you care, appealing to their emotional side.

Examples of soft benefits include free delivery, extended warranty, exclusive access to deals or special privileges like preferential in-store treatment. Some of the best loyalty programs blend both hard and soft benefits to create a compelling customer value proposition. By combining rewards and recognition, you’re putting together an offer that appeals to both sides of the brain.


Your loyalty program needs to keep evolving.

After a year of unexpected changes, 2021 is set to be an interesting one when it comes to retaining customers. 

To maintain your customer base, your loyalty program has to keep evolving to match the expectations and interests of your customers. Achievement Awards Group keeps ahead of the curve when it comes to customer loyalty trends. Building loyalty programs that align with your customer’s behaviours and interests.

Get in touch with our loyalty experts today. 

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