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How to choose a loyalty platform provider: 3 things every CMO, CEO, and CTO should remember

Guide for CMOs, CEOs, and CTOs: Choose the right loyalty provider by clarifying needs, assessing costs, and involving your tech team. Elevate your strategy now.

How to choose a loyalty platform provider: 3 things every CMO, CEO, and CTO should remember

Karol Bzik
Karol Bzik
CPO- co-founder
Loyalty platfom provider blogpost cover picture.

Choosing the right technology to launch your loyalty program is tricky. We often have in-depth discussions with our clients about the best technology for their projects.

One of the things we learned is that implementing customer loyalty programs at the enterprise level requires extreme flexibility and skillful management. It also requires matching the new software to the rest of the existing infrastructure without drastically increasing the need for additional tools.

 Loyalty experts know that, in most cases, it's not about having thousands of features but building a technological stack with scalable infrastructure for future growth.

In this article, we'll explain what variants of customer loyalty software are available on the market. We also provide advice on three of the most important things to remember while choosing loyalty technology.

What is a loyalty service provider?

A loyalty service provider is essentially a business's partner in creating, managing, and optimizing customer loyalty programs.

These entities specialize in delivering a suite of services and technological platforms designed to foster customer loyalty toward a brand. The ultimate objectives of partnering with such a provider include enhancing customer retention, maximizing the lifetime value of each customer, and establishing resilient brand loyalty.

Loyalty software providers are the masterminds behind strategies and tech systems that make customers want to stick around and spend more, thanks to awesome rewards, discounts, personalized treats, and other incentives, all tailored to ensure customers remain connected to the brand.

What to expect from loyalty providers?

Now that you know the basics, let's delve into the offers and contributions that you should count on from loyalty providers.

Loyalty program design and strategy

Starting with a foundation in strategic consultation, loyalty service providers collaborate closely with businesses to customize programs that align with the brand's distinct identity and overarching objectives. By leveraging insights from behavioral science, they craft compelling program elements designed to encourage customers to engage in beneficial actions, such as repeat purchases or brand advocacy on social media.

This part is all about choosing rewards that grab attention and figuring out how customers can earn and use points in a way that feels rewarding. The goal? To create an experience that members will absolutely love!

Technology platform

Transitioning from strategy to implementation, these providers offer state-of-the-art software solutions that empower businesses to manage loyalty programs efficiently. Some features they offer include tracking member activities, administering rewards, and facilitating seamless communications.

They ensure that the loyalty program seamlessly blends into customers' digital experiences through mobile apps and websites, making it more accessible and engaging. This technological foundation bridges the gap between your strategic vision and operational execution.

Marketing and communication tools

Building upon a robust technological platform, loyalty service providers equip businesses with targeted marketing and communication tools to enhance customer relationships and maximize the value from existing customers.

These tools let companies slice and dice their customer base to send out personalized messages. Think emails, SMS, push notifications, and even reaching out on social media. By focusing on the nuances of customer preferences and behaviors, businesses can tailor their messages and offers to meet the unique needs of different loyalty segments.

Moreover, throwing referral marketing strategies within this framework empowers companies to leverage their existing customer base for growth. Encouraging satisfied customers to refer friends and family expands the brand's reach and strengthens the bond with current customers, as they feel valued and integral to the brand's success.

This tailored approach reinforces the efficacy of promotional efforts and amplifies customer engagement, creating a more cohesive and dynamic interaction between the brand and its audience.

Data analytics and insights

As part of a continuous improvement cycle, providers delve into data analytics to extract actionable insights from customer behavior and program performance. By analyzing trends and member preferences, they offer strategic recommendations that refine program offerings and enhance engagement tactics.

Detailed performance reporting and dashboards offer a lens into the program's impact, tracking metrics such as member acquisition, engagement levels, and return on investment. This analytical phase is crucial for iterating on the loyalty program, ensuring its alignment with business goals, and meeting customer expectations.

Integration services

Making sure the loyalty program plays nice with your existing systems, like your CRM, POS, and e-commerce platforms, is another thing these providers are great at.

Strong integration makes for a smooth experience for your customers and simplifies managing the program. By offering APIs and customization options, providers ensure that the program's functionality can be finely tuned to align with specific business needs and technological landscapes, facilitating a cohesive and efficient loyalty ecosystem.

Legal and compliance expertise

Finally, understanding the importance of trust and security, loyalty service providers offer critical support in navigating the complex legal and regulatory compliance landscape.

They ensure programs adhere to relevant data protection and privacy laws, implementing robust security measures to protect sensitive customer information. This includes leveraging customer loyalty program software that often comes with a free trial, allowing businesses to assess its features and compliance capabilities before fully committing. Well, is there anything more crucial than the responsible management of data and security?

The loyalty program software itself needs to be well-designed, promoting engaging loyalty programs while ensuring strict adherence to privacy standards and regulations. By prioritizing legal compliance and data security, these providers maintain the program's integrity and bolster customer trust, creating a sturdy foundation for long-lasting loyalty.

What kind of loyalty platform providers are available in the market?

Often, companies that want to implement a loyalty program start with the question:

"Should we develop customized loyalty program software or build it on top of existing loyalty technology?".

This decision isn't trivial, as it encapsulates a broader strategic choice between customization and convenience, between unique brand alignment and speed to market in rolling out their loyalty programs.

Loyalty platform providers offer solutions designed to help businesses implement and manage customer loyalty programs, aiming to increase customer retention, engagement, and spending. These platforms provide various features, including rewards management, customer segmentation, analytics, and integration capabilities with other business systems.

Here are some types of loyalty platform providers available on the market:

Point-based loyalty platforms

These providers offer systems where customers earn points for purchases that they can redeem for rewards. 

Tier-based loyalty platforms

These platforms create levels or tiers of loyalty that customers can achieve based on their engagement or purchase behavior. Higher tiers offer better rewards or perks. 

Subscription-based loyalty platforms

Some providers focus on subscription models, where customers pay a fee to join a loyalty program and receive exclusive benefits. 

Blockchain-based loyalty platforms

Emerging providers use blockchain technology to offer secure and transparent loyalty programs. These platforms can facilitate the exchange of loyalty points between different businesses or industries. 

Omnichannel loyalty platforms

These providers offer solutions that integrate with multiple channels (online, in-store, mobile app) to provide a seamless loyalty experience. 

Gamified loyalty platforms

By focusing on engaging customers through game-like elements (challenges, badges, leaderboards), these platforms aim to make loyalty programs more fun and engaging.

Customizable vs. white-label loyalty platforms

These providers offer platforms that businesses can customize and brand as their own, allowing for greater flexibility in creating unique loyalty programs.

Let's now turn to a brief remark.

Opting to design a dedicated loyalty program from the ground up, either with an internal team or through a partnership with a specialized agency, allows businesses to craft a solution that's precisely aligned with their unique brand values and customer engagement goals. This bespoke approach ensures that every aspect of the loyalty program resonates with the company's vision and meets its specific needs. However, this route is fraught with challenges, including a prolonged time-to-market (TTM), which can delay the realization of its benefits.

Moreover, the financial investment required for the initial development, coupled with the ongoing costs associated with maintaining and updating the loyalty program, can be substantial. Additionally, companies may find themselves constrained by the original architecture of their custom solution, making future enhancements and scalability more complex and cumbersome. That’s part of the true cost of creating a loyalty solution in-house.

On the flip side, Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms offer a compelling alternative, presenting a suite of ready-to-deploy features that can quickly set the foundation of an effective loyalty program. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly, allowing companies to swiftly launch and manage their loyalty initiatives.

However, the SaaS model typically offers less flexibility compared to custom-developed solutions. Companies may encounter limitations in how well the platform's offerings can be tailored to fit their envisioned loyalty program, occasionally necessitating compromises between the desired program attributes and the platform's existing capabilities.

The landscape of SaaS loyalty solutions is diverse, with platforms varying significantly in terms of feature sets, scalability, and technical architecture. Large enterprises, in particular, tend to favor solutions that offer highly flexible APIs, enabling seamless integration with their existing systems and allowing them to tailor the loyalty program to their precise specifications.

Meanwhile, organizations with stringent security requirements might prefer on-premises customer loyalty software solutions. These can be integrated directly into the company's internal IT infrastructure, providing complete control over data security and privacy – a crucial consideration for sensitive customer information.

By carefully evaluating these elements and surpassing the buy vs build dilemma, you can choose a path that best supports their long-term customer engagement and loyalty objectives.

The right loyalty program software and rewards program that meet with customer expectations encourage customers, drive customer loyalty, influence customer behaviour and boost customer engagement.
The choice of loyalty solutions must take into account both the loyalty scheme and technical requirements, including those that may arise in the future.

How to choose a loyalty platform? 3 aspects to remember

Selecting the right loyalty engine transcends mere preference – it's a strategic imperative for businesses keen on elevating customer engagement and fostering lasting loyalty.

So, how do you choose the right loyalty vendor?

To shed light on this pivotal decision-making process, we will explore in greater depth the three critical considerations that should be top of mind for every Chief Technology Officer, Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Marketing Officer embarking on the quest for the ideal customer loyalty software provider. This comprehensive analysis aims to arm decision-makers with the insights needed to make informed choices that align with their strategic objectives and customer engagement goals.

1. Clarify the loyalty scheme and write down business and technical requirements

Before diving into the selection process, it's essential to have a clear vision of what you want your loyalty program to achieve. This involves writing down both business and technical requirements to ensure the program aligns with your strategic goals and technical capabilities.

Questions to answer

  • Program design. How do you envision the loyalty program functioning? Consider if you want a simple points system, tiered rewards, or something more complex.
  • Unique features. Should your loyalty program offer unique earn and spend capabilities to stand out from competitors? Think about the aspects that will make your program distinct.
  • Scalability. How flexible does the platform need to be to accommodate future growth or changes?
  • Integration and features. What are the essential systems and features your program must integrate with to support key use scenarios? This might include CRM integration, analytics, personalized marketing, and more.
  • Technical and security requirements. What technical standards and security measures must the loyalty program software meet to ensure compatibility and protect customer data?

If you're looking for a customer loyalty software provider, you may already have an idea of the type of loyalty program your company needs. Preparing a detailed request for proposal (RFP) that describes your business and technical requirements will make the entire process of selecting a software provider much easier. It'll also help you clarify the vision for your loyalty program.

The best practice for clarifying loyalty program requirements is to prepare a list of detailed user stories with all the business and technical objectives for the loyalty program software. It's also useful to map the responsibility of the systems and clarify which system and how it should be involved to cover each user story. Here's a good article from Atlassian on how to write good user stories and how to prioritize them on the roadmap.

From the technical perspective, it’s crucial to define how existing systems will be engaged to cover the business requirements of the loyalty program. It’s always a good idea to engage a technical person, like a CTO, system architect, or business analyst, in the process of mapping and optimizing the responsibilities of the system.

A few examples of systems to consider when mapping responsibilities include eCommerce, point of sale (POS), marketing automation, email marketing, business intelligence/analytics, mobile app, and enterprise resource planning (ERP).

To make sure the technology you use for your own loyalty program is cost-effective, it shouldn't duplicate the tasks of your current systems. These systems might include a data warehouse, email marketing software, eCommerce, or business intelligence tools.

On top of the above, to avoid data synchronization errors, there should be a single system that plays the role of a single source of truth. Read more about how to optimize loyalty technology costs.

Technical requirements of loyalty programs

The most common types of technical requirements for the loyalty engine are:

  • System security. Ensure robust security measures, including encryption and authentication, to protect customer information and maintain program integrity.
  • Flexibility. Enable customization for diverse reward structures and campaigns, allowing businesses to adapt loyalty programs to changing market dynamics.
  • Good API documentation. Provide clear and comprehensive API documentation for seamless integration, facilitating developers in understanding and utilizing the loyalty engine's functionalities.
  • Data ownership. Clearly define data ownership rights and responsibilities to build trust and ensure compliance with data protection regulations.
  • Expandability. Support easy integration of new features and functionalities to keep the loyalty program relevant and adaptable over time.
  • Speed. Optimize the loyalty engine for quick and efficient transaction processing, ensuring a responsive and positive customer experience.
  • System scalability. Design the loyalty software to scale with business growth, handling increased user volume and data without sacrificing performance.
  • Handling seasonal peaks. Ensure the loyalty engine can manage sudden spikes in activity during peak periods, maintaining a consistent and reliable user experience.
To introduce great personalized loyalty programs, engage customers during their customer journey, motivate existing customers and retain customers, customer data is key.
Choosing a loyalty provider is a process that involves understanding the pros and cons of different loyalty solutions.

2. Define long-term total costs of ownership (TCO) but start small

The financial implications of implementing and maintaining a loyalty program can be significant. It's important to calculate the long-term costs while considering an approach that allows you to start on a smaller scale and expand as needed.

Questions to answer

  • Importance of customer loyalty. How critical is customer loyalty to your business operations? Reflect on whether improving customer retention is a strategic priority.
  • Future developments. How might your loyalty program evolve? Consider the potential changes in your business model, customer expectations, and technological advancements.
  • Starting small. How can you initiate your loyalty program with minimal upfront investment, allowing for scalability as success and budget permit?

Finding the answers to these questions will help you assess the level of investment to consider when choosing the right loyalty technology. If you operate in a highly competitive industry, gaining a competitive advantage over your competitors with a customized customer loyalty program may make sense.

Take a look at your customer-facing metrics, do some simple math, and you'll have an answer to whether even a slight increase will generate enough value to justify the expense.

It's almost always a good idea to start small and expand your loyalty program over time. At Open Loyalty, many of our clients begin by creating a simple proof of concept (PoC) to validate a customer loyalty program idea. They also determine how the loyalty engine will be combined with other tools.

If the customer loyalty program will evolve over time, it's essential to choose loyalty program software that allows for this by providing a robust API. This is especially important in cases where the interface of a customer's loyalty program – that is, its eCommerce or mobile app design – will change.

Engaging loyalty programs use top customer loyalty software, mobile apps, customer data, and customer feedback to increase customer retention and the number of loyal customers.
Introducing loyalty reward programs and loyalty systems is best started in small steps.

3. Invite the tech team into the process and understand their capabilities in the context of customer loyalty program

The success of a loyalty program often hinges on the technical team's ability to implement and maintain the software. Engaging your tech team early in the process ensures that their capabilities and limitations are considered in the decision-making process.

Questions to answer

  • Deployment model. Is an on-premise solution necessary, or is a cloud-based platform viable? Consider the implications for data security, control, and maintenance.
  • IT team capacity. Do you have an in-house IT team capable of handling the implementation and ongoing support, or do you rely on external partners? Evaluate their workload and expertise concerning the demands of the new software.
  • Maintenance and support. Is there a dedicated team in place to maintain your existing applications, and can it accommodate the additional workload of a new loyalty program? If so, assess whether they can take on additional responsibilities or if further resources are needed.

When considering on-premises or SaaS software, the IT component is critical. Midsize and large organizations will likely have significantly more resources to implement loyalty solutions. Some have dedicated positions to manage corporate data centers, and so on. If you run a small company and your development team consists of your friend who codes after hours, you may be better off choosing software that doesn't require secret knowledge to operate.

Before making a final decision, it's worth considering the above solutions, as they can be of great benefit and provide all the answers early on. Ultimately, remember that the technology you choose will determine the set of tools available to you.

However, even the best of these will never replace a well-designed loyalty strategy. The two must come together for the program to be successful and provide accurate, tangible value to your customer base.

Introducing loyalty reward programs and loyalty systems works best when including the tech team.

Summary

In summary, selecting the right customer loyalty vendor and software is an essential factor for enhancing customer lifetime value. When evaluating loyalty management software or a customer loyalty platform, consider its adaptability and scalability to meet both current and future business needs.

Assess the level of flexibility required in your loyalty solution and anticipate how it can evolve to align with changing customer expectations.

Additionally, think about how the loyalty program software integrates into your operational processes. Determine who will manage and optimize the customer loyalty platform in the long run.

When analyzing costs, delve into the comprehensive total cost of ownership for the loyalty solution. This encompasses expenses related to licenses, hosting, maintenance, updates, and future extensions to foster customer loyalty and retention consistently.

And what lies ahead? Wishing you the best of luck with your plans!

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How to choose a loyalty platform provider: 3 things every CMO, CEO, and CTO should remember

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Karol Bzik
CPO- co-founder
Loyalty platfom provider blogpost cover picture.
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Choosing the right technology to launch your loyalty program is tricky. We often have in-depth discussions with our clients about the best technology for their projects.

One of the things we learned is that implementing customer loyalty programs at the enterprise level requires extreme flexibility and skillful management. It also requires matching the new software to the rest of the existing infrastructure without drastically increasing the need for additional tools.

 Loyalty experts know that, in most cases, it's not about having thousands of features but building a technological stack with scalable infrastructure for future growth.

In this article, we'll explain what variants of customer loyalty software are available on the market. We also provide advice on three of the most important things to remember while choosing loyalty technology.

What is a loyalty service provider?

A loyalty service provider is essentially a business's partner in creating, managing, and optimizing customer loyalty programs.

These entities specialize in delivering a suite of services and technological platforms designed to foster customer loyalty toward a brand. The ultimate objectives of partnering with such a provider include enhancing customer retention, maximizing the lifetime value of each customer, and establishing resilient brand loyalty.

Loyalty software providers are the masterminds behind strategies and tech systems that make customers want to stick around and spend more, thanks to awesome rewards, discounts, personalized treats, and other incentives, all tailored to ensure customers remain connected to the brand.

What to expect from loyalty providers?

Now that you know the basics, let's delve into the offers and contributions that you should count on from loyalty providers.

Loyalty program design and strategy

Starting with a foundation in strategic consultation, loyalty service providers collaborate closely with businesses to customize programs that align with the brand's distinct identity and overarching objectives. By leveraging insights from behavioral science, they craft compelling program elements designed to encourage customers to engage in beneficial actions, such as repeat purchases or brand advocacy on social media.

This part is all about choosing rewards that grab attention and figuring out how customers can earn and use points in a way that feels rewarding. The goal? To create an experience that members will absolutely love!

Technology platform

Transitioning from strategy to implementation, these providers offer state-of-the-art software solutions that empower businesses to manage loyalty programs efficiently. Some features they offer include tracking member activities, administering rewards, and facilitating seamless communications.

They ensure that the loyalty program seamlessly blends into customers' digital experiences through mobile apps and websites, making it more accessible and engaging. This technological foundation bridges the gap between your strategic vision and operational execution.

Marketing and communication tools

Building upon a robust technological platform, loyalty service providers equip businesses with targeted marketing and communication tools to enhance customer relationships and maximize the value from existing customers.

These tools let companies slice and dice their customer base to send out personalized messages. Think emails, SMS, push notifications, and even reaching out on social media. By focusing on the nuances of customer preferences and behaviors, businesses can tailor their messages and offers to meet the unique needs of different loyalty segments.

Moreover, throwing referral marketing strategies within this framework empowers companies to leverage their existing customer base for growth. Encouraging satisfied customers to refer friends and family expands the brand's reach and strengthens the bond with current customers, as they feel valued and integral to the brand's success.

This tailored approach reinforces the efficacy of promotional efforts and amplifies customer engagement, creating a more cohesive and dynamic interaction between the brand and its audience.

Data analytics and insights

As part of a continuous improvement cycle, providers delve into data analytics to extract actionable insights from customer behavior and program performance. By analyzing trends and member preferences, they offer strategic recommendations that refine program offerings and enhance engagement tactics.

Detailed performance reporting and dashboards offer a lens into the program's impact, tracking metrics such as member acquisition, engagement levels, and return on investment. This analytical phase is crucial for iterating on the loyalty program, ensuring its alignment with business goals, and meeting customer expectations.

Integration services

Making sure the loyalty program plays nice with your existing systems, like your CRM, POS, and e-commerce platforms, is another thing these providers are great at.

Strong integration makes for a smooth experience for your customers and simplifies managing the program. By offering APIs and customization options, providers ensure that the program's functionality can be finely tuned to align with specific business needs and technological landscapes, facilitating a cohesive and efficient loyalty ecosystem.

Legal and compliance expertise

Finally, understanding the importance of trust and security, loyalty service providers offer critical support in navigating the complex legal and regulatory compliance landscape.

They ensure programs adhere to relevant data protection and privacy laws, implementing robust security measures to protect sensitive customer information. This includes leveraging customer loyalty program software that often comes with a free trial, allowing businesses to assess its features and compliance capabilities before fully committing. Well, is there anything more crucial than the responsible management of data and security?

The loyalty program software itself needs to be well-designed, promoting engaging loyalty programs while ensuring strict adherence to privacy standards and regulations. By prioritizing legal compliance and data security, these providers maintain the program's integrity and bolster customer trust, creating a sturdy foundation for long-lasting loyalty.

What kind of loyalty platform providers are available in the market?

Often, companies that want to implement a loyalty program start with the question:

"Should we develop customized loyalty program software or build it on top of existing loyalty technology?".

This decision isn't trivial, as it encapsulates a broader strategic choice between customization and convenience, between unique brand alignment and speed to market in rolling out their loyalty programs.

Loyalty platform providers offer solutions designed to help businesses implement and manage customer loyalty programs, aiming to increase customer retention, engagement, and spending. These platforms provide various features, including rewards management, customer segmentation, analytics, and integration capabilities with other business systems.

Here are some types of loyalty platform providers available on the market:

Point-based loyalty platforms

These providers offer systems where customers earn points for purchases that they can redeem for rewards. 

Tier-based loyalty platforms

These platforms create levels or tiers of loyalty that customers can achieve based on their engagement or purchase behavior. Higher tiers offer better rewards or perks. 

Subscription-based loyalty platforms

Some providers focus on subscription models, where customers pay a fee to join a loyalty program and receive exclusive benefits. 

Blockchain-based loyalty platforms

Emerging providers use blockchain technology to offer secure and transparent loyalty programs. These platforms can facilitate the exchange of loyalty points between different businesses or industries. 

Omnichannel loyalty platforms

These providers offer solutions that integrate with multiple channels (online, in-store, mobile app) to provide a seamless loyalty experience. 

Gamified loyalty platforms

By focusing on engaging customers through game-like elements (challenges, badges, leaderboards), these platforms aim to make loyalty programs more fun and engaging.

Customizable vs. white-label loyalty platforms

These providers offer platforms that businesses can customize and brand as their own, allowing for greater flexibility in creating unique loyalty programs.

Let's now turn to a brief remark.

Opting to design a dedicated loyalty program from the ground up, either with an internal team or through a partnership with a specialized agency, allows businesses to craft a solution that's precisely aligned with their unique brand values and customer engagement goals. This bespoke approach ensures that every aspect of the loyalty program resonates with the company's vision and meets its specific needs. However, this route is fraught with challenges, including a prolonged time-to-market (TTM), which can delay the realization of its benefits.

Moreover, the financial investment required for the initial development, coupled with the ongoing costs associated with maintaining and updating the loyalty program, can be substantial. Additionally, companies may find themselves constrained by the original architecture of their custom solution, making future enhancements and scalability more complex and cumbersome. That’s part of the true cost of creating a loyalty solution in-house.

On the flip side, Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms offer a compelling alternative, presenting a suite of ready-to-deploy features that can quickly set the foundation of an effective loyalty program. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly, allowing companies to swiftly launch and manage their loyalty initiatives.

However, the SaaS model typically offers less flexibility compared to custom-developed solutions. Companies may encounter limitations in how well the platform's offerings can be tailored to fit their envisioned loyalty program, occasionally necessitating compromises between the desired program attributes and the platform's existing capabilities.

The landscape of SaaS loyalty solutions is diverse, with platforms varying significantly in terms of feature sets, scalability, and technical architecture. Large enterprises, in particular, tend to favor solutions that offer highly flexible APIs, enabling seamless integration with their existing systems and allowing them to tailor the loyalty program to their precise specifications.

Meanwhile, organizations with stringent security requirements might prefer on-premises customer loyalty software solutions. These can be integrated directly into the company's internal IT infrastructure, providing complete control over data security and privacy – a crucial consideration for sensitive customer information.

By carefully evaluating these elements and surpassing the buy vs build dilemma, you can choose a path that best supports their long-term customer engagement and loyalty objectives.

The right loyalty program software and rewards program that meet with customer expectations encourage customers, drive customer loyalty, influence customer behaviour and boost customer engagement.
The choice of loyalty solutions must take into account both the loyalty scheme and technical requirements, including those that may arise in the future.

How to choose a loyalty platform provider: 3 things every CMO, CEO, and CTO should remember

Karol Bzik
Karol Bzik
CPO- co-founder
Loyalty platfom provider blogpost cover picture.

Choosing the right technology to launch your loyalty program is tricky. We often have in-depth discussions with our clients about the best technology for their projects.

One of the things we learned is that implementing customer loyalty programs at the enterprise level requires extreme flexibility and skillful management. It also requires matching the new software to the rest of the existing infrastructure without drastically increasing the need for additional tools.

 Loyalty experts know that, in most cases, it's not about having thousands of features but building a technological stack with scalable infrastructure for future growth.

In this article, we'll explain what variants of customer loyalty software are available on the market. We also provide advice on three of the most important things to remember while choosing loyalty technology.

What is a loyalty service provider?

A loyalty service provider is essentially a business's partner in creating, managing, and optimizing customer loyalty programs.

These entities specialize in delivering a suite of services and technological platforms designed to foster customer loyalty toward a brand. The ultimate objectives of partnering with such a provider include enhancing customer retention, maximizing the lifetime value of each customer, and establishing resilient brand loyalty.

Loyalty software providers are the masterminds behind strategies and tech systems that make customers want to stick around and spend more, thanks to awesome rewards, discounts, personalized treats, and other incentives, all tailored to ensure customers remain connected to the brand.

What to expect from loyalty providers?

Now that you know the basics, let's delve into the offers and contributions that you should count on from loyalty providers.

Loyalty program design and strategy

Starting with a foundation in strategic consultation, loyalty service providers collaborate closely with businesses to customize programs that align with the brand's distinct identity and overarching objectives. By leveraging insights from behavioral science, they craft compelling program elements designed to encourage customers to engage in beneficial actions, such as repeat purchases or brand advocacy on social media.

This part is all about choosing rewards that grab attention and figuring out how customers can earn and use points in a way that feels rewarding. The goal? To create an experience that members will absolutely love!

Technology platform

Transitioning from strategy to implementation, these providers offer state-of-the-art software solutions that empower businesses to manage loyalty programs efficiently. Some features they offer include tracking member activities, administering rewards, and facilitating seamless communications.

They ensure that the loyalty program seamlessly blends into customers' digital experiences through mobile apps and websites, making it more accessible and engaging. This technological foundation bridges the gap between your strategic vision and operational execution.

Marketing and communication tools

Building upon a robust technological platform, loyalty service providers equip businesses with targeted marketing and communication tools to enhance customer relationships and maximize the value from existing customers.

These tools let companies slice and dice their customer base to send out personalized messages. Think emails, SMS, push notifications, and even reaching out on social media. By focusing on the nuances of customer preferences and behaviors, businesses can tailor their messages and offers to meet the unique needs of different loyalty segments.

Moreover, throwing referral marketing strategies within this framework empowers companies to leverage their existing customer base for growth. Encouraging satisfied customers to refer friends and family expands the brand's reach and strengthens the bond with current customers, as they feel valued and integral to the brand's success.

This tailored approach reinforces the efficacy of promotional efforts and amplifies customer engagement, creating a more cohesive and dynamic interaction between the brand and its audience.

Data analytics and insights

As part of a continuous improvement cycle, providers delve into data analytics to extract actionable insights from customer behavior and program performance. By analyzing trends and member preferences, they offer strategic recommendations that refine program offerings and enhance engagement tactics.

Detailed performance reporting and dashboards offer a lens into the program's impact, tracking metrics such as member acquisition, engagement levels, and return on investment. This analytical phase is crucial for iterating on the loyalty program, ensuring its alignment with business goals, and meeting customer expectations.

Integration services

Making sure the loyalty program plays nice with your existing systems, like your CRM, POS, and e-commerce platforms, is another thing these providers are great at.

Strong integration makes for a smooth experience for your customers and simplifies managing the program. By offering APIs and customization options, providers ensure that the program's functionality can be finely tuned to align with specific business needs and technological landscapes, facilitating a cohesive and efficient loyalty ecosystem.

Legal and compliance expertise

Finally, understanding the importance of trust and security, loyalty service providers offer critical support in navigating the complex legal and regulatory compliance landscape.

They ensure programs adhere to relevant data protection and privacy laws, implementing robust security measures to protect sensitive customer information. This includes leveraging customer loyalty program software that often comes with a free trial, allowing businesses to assess its features and compliance capabilities before fully committing. Well, is there anything more crucial than the responsible management of data and security?

The loyalty program software itself needs to be well-designed, promoting engaging loyalty programs while ensuring strict adherence to privacy standards and regulations. By prioritizing legal compliance and data security, these providers maintain the program's integrity and bolster customer trust, creating a sturdy foundation for long-lasting loyalty.

What kind of loyalty platform providers are available in the market?

Often, companies that want to implement a loyalty program start with the question:

"Should we develop customized loyalty program software or build it on top of existing loyalty technology?".

This decision isn't trivial, as it encapsulates a broader strategic choice between customization and convenience, between unique brand alignment and speed to market in rolling out their loyalty programs.

Loyalty platform providers offer solutions designed to help businesses implement and manage customer loyalty programs, aiming to increase customer retention, engagement, and spending. These platforms provide various features, including rewards management, customer segmentation, analytics, and integration capabilities with other business systems.

Here are some types of loyalty platform providers available on the market:

Point-based loyalty platforms

These providers offer systems where customers earn points for purchases that they can redeem for rewards. 

Tier-based loyalty platforms

These platforms create levels or tiers of loyalty that customers can achieve based on their engagement or purchase behavior. Higher tiers offer better rewards or perks. 

Subscription-based loyalty platforms

Some providers focus on subscription models, where customers pay a fee to join a loyalty program and receive exclusive benefits. 

Blockchain-based loyalty platforms

Emerging providers use blockchain technology to offer secure and transparent loyalty programs. These platforms can facilitate the exchange of loyalty points between different businesses or industries. 

Omnichannel loyalty platforms

These providers offer solutions that integrate with multiple channels (online, in-store, mobile app) to provide a seamless loyalty experience. 

Gamified loyalty platforms

By focusing on engaging customers through game-like elements (challenges, badges, leaderboards), these platforms aim to make loyalty programs more fun and engaging.

Customizable vs. white-label loyalty platforms

These providers offer platforms that businesses can customize and brand as their own, allowing for greater flexibility in creating unique loyalty programs.

Let's now turn to a brief remark.

Opting to design a dedicated loyalty program from the ground up, either with an internal team or through a partnership with a specialized agency, allows businesses to craft a solution that's precisely aligned with their unique brand values and customer engagement goals. This bespoke approach ensures that every aspect of the loyalty program resonates with the company's vision and meets its specific needs. However, this route is fraught with challenges, including a prolonged time-to-market (TTM), which can delay the realization of its benefits.

Moreover, the financial investment required for the initial development, coupled with the ongoing costs associated with maintaining and updating the loyalty program, can be substantial. Additionally, companies may find themselves constrained by the original architecture of their custom solution, making future enhancements and scalability more complex and cumbersome. That’s part of the true cost of creating a loyalty solution in-house.

On the flip side, Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms offer a compelling alternative, presenting a suite of ready-to-deploy features that can quickly set the foundation of an effective loyalty program. These platforms are designed to be user-friendly, allowing companies to swiftly launch and manage their loyalty initiatives.

However, the SaaS model typically offers less flexibility compared to custom-developed solutions. Companies may encounter limitations in how well the platform's offerings can be tailored to fit their envisioned loyalty program, occasionally necessitating compromises between the desired program attributes and the platform's existing capabilities.

The landscape of SaaS loyalty solutions is diverse, with platforms varying significantly in terms of feature sets, scalability, and technical architecture. Large enterprises, in particular, tend to favor solutions that offer highly flexible APIs, enabling seamless integration with their existing systems and allowing them to tailor the loyalty program to their precise specifications.

Meanwhile, organizations with stringent security requirements might prefer on-premises customer loyalty software solutions. These can be integrated directly into the company's internal IT infrastructure, providing complete control over data security and privacy – a crucial consideration for sensitive customer information.

By carefully evaluating these elements and surpassing the buy vs build dilemma, you can choose a path that best supports their long-term customer engagement and loyalty objectives.

The right loyalty program software and rewards program that meet with customer expectations encourage customers, drive customer loyalty, influence customer behaviour and boost customer engagement.
The choice of loyalty solutions must take into account both the loyalty scheme and technical requirements, including those that may arise in the future.

How to choose a loyalty platform? 3 aspects to remember

Selecting the right loyalty engine transcends mere preference – it's a strategic imperative for businesses keen on elevating customer engagement and fostering lasting loyalty.

So, how do you choose the right loyalty vendor?

To shed light on this pivotal decision-making process, we will explore in greater depth the three critical considerations that should be top of mind for every Chief Technology Officer, Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Marketing Officer embarking on the quest for the ideal customer loyalty software provider. This comprehensive analysis aims to arm decision-makers with the insights needed to make informed choices that align with their strategic objectives and customer engagement goals.

1. Clarify the loyalty scheme and write down business and technical requirements

Before diving into the selection process, it's essential to have a clear vision of what you want your loyalty program to achieve. This involves writing down both business and technical requirements to ensure the program aligns with your strategic goals and technical capabilities.

Questions to answer

  • Program design. How do you envision the loyalty program functioning? Consider if you want a simple points system, tiered rewards, or something more complex.
  • Unique features. Should your loyalty program offer unique earn and spend capabilities to stand out from competitors? Think about the aspects that will make your program distinct.
  • Scalability. How flexible does the platform need to be to accommodate future growth or changes?
  • Integration and features. What are the essential systems and features your program must integrate with to support key use scenarios? This might include CRM integration, analytics, personalized marketing, and more.
  • Technical and security requirements. What technical standards and security measures must the loyalty program software meet to ensure compatibility and protect customer data?

If you're looking for a customer loyalty software provider, you may already have an idea of the type of loyalty program your company needs. Preparing a detailed request for proposal (RFP) that describes your business and technical requirements will make the entire process of selecting a software provider much easier. It'll also help you clarify the vision for your loyalty program.

The best practice for clarifying loyalty program requirements is to prepare a list of detailed user stories with all the business and technical objectives for the loyalty program software. It's also useful to map the responsibility of the systems and clarify which system and how it should be involved to cover each user story. Here's a good article from Atlassian on how to write good user stories and how to prioritize them on the roadmap.

From the technical perspective, it’s crucial to define how existing systems will be engaged to cover the business requirements of the loyalty program. It’s always a good idea to engage a technical person, like a CTO, system architect, or business analyst, in the process of mapping and optimizing the responsibilities of the system.

A few examples of systems to consider when mapping responsibilities include eCommerce, point of sale (POS), marketing automation, email marketing, business intelligence/analytics, mobile app, and enterprise resource planning (ERP).

To make sure the technology you use for your own loyalty program is cost-effective, it shouldn't duplicate the tasks of your current systems. These systems might include a data warehouse, email marketing software, eCommerce, or business intelligence tools.

On top of the above, to avoid data synchronization errors, there should be a single system that plays the role of a single source of truth. Read more about how to optimize loyalty technology costs.

Technical requirements of loyalty programs

The most common types of technical requirements for the loyalty engine are:

  • System security. Ensure robust security measures, including encryption and authentication, to protect customer information and maintain program integrity.
  • Flexibility. Enable customization for diverse reward structures and campaigns, allowing businesses to adapt loyalty programs to changing market dynamics.
  • Good API documentation. Provide clear and comprehensive API documentation for seamless integration, facilitating developers in understanding and utilizing the loyalty engine's functionalities.
  • Data ownership. Clearly define data ownership rights and responsibilities to build trust and ensure compliance with data protection regulations.
  • Expandability. Support easy integration of new features and functionalities to keep the loyalty program relevant and adaptable over time.
  • Speed. Optimize the loyalty engine for quick and efficient transaction processing, ensuring a responsive and positive customer experience.
  • System scalability. Design the loyalty software to scale with business growth, handling increased user volume and data without sacrificing performance.
  • Handling seasonal peaks. Ensure the loyalty engine can manage sudden spikes in activity during peak periods, maintaining a consistent and reliable user experience.
To introduce great personalized loyalty programs, engage customers during their customer journey, motivate existing customers and retain customers, customer data is key.
Choosing a loyalty provider is a process that involves understanding the pros and cons of different loyalty solutions.

2. Define long-term total costs of ownership (TCO) but start small

The financial implications of implementing and maintaining a loyalty program can be significant. It's important to calculate the long-term costs while considering an approach that allows you to start on a smaller scale and expand as needed.

Questions to answer

  • Importance of customer loyalty. How critical is customer loyalty to your business operations? Reflect on whether improving customer retention is a strategic priority.
  • Future developments. How might your loyalty program evolve? Consider the potential changes in your business model, customer expectations, and technological advancements.
  • Starting small. How can you initiate your loyalty program with minimal upfront investment, allowing for scalability as success and budget permit?

Finding the answers to these questions will help you assess the level of investment to consider when choosing the right loyalty technology. If you operate in a highly competitive industry, gaining a competitive advantage over your competitors with a customized customer loyalty program may make sense.

Take a look at your customer-facing metrics, do some simple math, and you'll have an answer to whether even a slight increase will generate enough value to justify the expense.

It's almost always a good idea to start small and expand your loyalty program over time. At Open Loyalty, many of our clients begin by creating a simple proof of concept (PoC) to validate a customer loyalty program idea. They also determine how the loyalty engine will be combined with other tools.

If the customer loyalty program will evolve over time, it's essential to choose loyalty program software that allows for this by providing a robust API. This is especially important in cases where the interface of a customer's loyalty program – that is, its eCommerce or mobile app design – will change.

Engaging loyalty programs use top customer loyalty software, mobile apps, customer data, and customer feedback to increase customer retention and the number of loyal customers.
Introducing loyalty reward programs and loyalty systems is best started in small steps.

3. Invite the tech team into the process and understand their capabilities in the context of customer loyalty program

The success of a loyalty program often hinges on the technical team's ability to implement and maintain the software. Engaging your tech team early in the process ensures that their capabilities and limitations are considered in the decision-making process.

Questions to answer

  • Deployment model. Is an on-premise solution necessary, or is a cloud-based platform viable? Consider the implications for data security, control, and maintenance.
  • IT team capacity. Do you have an in-house IT team capable of handling the implementation and ongoing support, or do you rely on external partners? Evaluate their workload and expertise concerning the demands of the new software.
  • Maintenance and support. Is there a dedicated team in place to maintain your existing applications, and can it accommodate the additional workload of a new loyalty program? If so, assess whether they can take on additional responsibilities or if further resources are needed.

When considering on-premises or SaaS software, the IT component is critical. Midsize and large organizations will likely have significantly more resources to implement loyalty solutions. Some have dedicated positions to manage corporate data centers, and so on. If you run a small company and your development team consists of your friend who codes after hours, you may be better off choosing software that doesn't require secret knowledge to operate.

Before making a final decision, it's worth considering the above solutions, as they can be of great benefit and provide all the answers early on. Ultimately, remember that the technology you choose will determine the set of tools available to you.

However, even the best of these will never replace a well-designed loyalty strategy. The two must come together for the program to be successful and provide accurate, tangible value to your customer base.

Introducing loyalty reward programs and loyalty systems works best when including the tech team.

Summary

In summary, selecting the right customer loyalty vendor and software is an essential factor for enhancing customer lifetime value. When evaluating loyalty management software or a customer loyalty platform, consider its adaptability and scalability to meet both current and future business needs.

Assess the level of flexibility required in your loyalty solution and anticipate how it can evolve to align with changing customer expectations.

Additionally, think about how the loyalty program software integrates into your operational processes. Determine who will manage and optimize the customer loyalty platform in the long run.

When analyzing costs, delve into the comprehensive total cost of ownership for the loyalty solution. This encompasses expenses related to licenses, hosting, maintenance, updates, and future extensions to foster customer loyalty and retention consistently.

And what lies ahead? Wishing you the best of luck with your plans!

Do you have questions about choosing a loyalty platform provider?

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