Just how Orwellian has our society become? We can’t be far off it: continuous terror wars across the globe, surveillance cameras on our streets, totalitarian politics and someone, somewhere always watching you, knowing everything about you. It is touching isn’t it?

Hold that last line a little because I want to take you away from the world of 1984 but not entirely. I want to engage you instead in what companies are doing now for you to love them more; to create loyalty rather than be part of yet another meaningless scheme. I could go further and say they are tapping a new sense of loyalty directly into your brain; the echoes of ‘Love Big Brother’ have been replaced in the corridors of marketing organisations with ‘Love Big Data’ and you, my comrade, could be part of it.

It’s not as sinister as you think though and besides, what does loyalty actually mean to us these days? Time has moved on, since customer loyalty cards blossomed in the age of plastic, to the age of digital we find ourselves in now. If you are a company hedging your bets purely on customer experience, you need to think harder as well. Companies revisiting their loyalty operating models are now focused on the personal side of the (centric) customer and this will mean studying our shopping behaviours as part of their plan. The idea being they provide us the experience of shopping with them and then here’s a reward to buy something they know we will like – because they do know what we like – touching isn’t it? Let me provide you some examples of my own experiences which support this.

Last week I went to Shakeaway, a shop that only sells milkshakes, with my younger son. I bought him what can only be described as a concoction of very sweet things blended together with milk, which tasted like sweet glue with an aftertaste of bits of toffee that get stuck in your teeth. Reward? Yes, I got a paper loyalty card that had an ink stamp of a cow’s head on it. Nice. Customer experience? Well, alright, but I’m unlikely to go back for another 5 visits to claim my free shake and look at pictures of cows on the wall while queuing– although some people might. Did I feel loyalty then? No!


http://www.shakeaway.com/RoyaltyCard/

In parallel to this, although I am a fan of Waitrose and buy online for convenience, my feet are consistently finding their way to Sainsbury’s.  Why? Well, this organisation has thought about their customers and exploited my shopping habits to their advantage. After marrying my Nectar card with my purchases that not only give me points, this company also rewards me with a coupon that saves me money on something I want on my next visit that is personal to me, all driven by data. I can even buy a milkshake without any fear it’s going to contain a mixture of smarties and refreshers.

New innovation, given to us using smart technology, has been embraced by us and organisations which are quick off the mark can take the digital advantage. We already know about Geo fencing and hooking you in with news about a promotion from their shop, but it is using data to create meaningful rewards that is the propaganda sparking your interest to buy more. Am I getting through to you yet? Loyalty has a new meaning and that is personalisation, a new way of control. Customers are now expecting this more intimate response, and companies that fail to personalise reward and make us feel special and wanted, have the opposite effect.

Just what sort of world are we accepting though? Well relax, next time you are sitting beneath ‘the spreading chestnut tree’ and wondering what loyalty means to you, don’t worry because someone has already done that for you.