In every industry, retail or niche, luxury or mass, consumer loyalty is always among a company’s highest priorities. Building it, retaining it, growing it — customer loyalty is what can break a company, or help make it an irreplaceable icon. With everything having gone digital over the past decade, the loyalty game, on one hand, has gotten easier; customers can more easily sign up for membership programs, as well as access account information–earning and redeeming points, for example–and receive company news, updates, etc., via multiple digital platforms. On the flipside, companies’ actions (or inaction, as the case may be) are also much more public now that sites like Facbook and Twitter provide dissatisfied customers a communal space to complain in real-time about cancelled flights, botched shipping and rude salespeople.
With today’s increased customer service transparency, along with the general increase in product competition, cultivating brand loyalty is not an option, it’s a requirement. For the vast majority of brands we analyze here at L2 (retail, beauty, hospitality), user-friendly loyalty programs are a cornerstone of the digital package. In our newest report, Digital IQ Index: Spirits, however, the landscape was comparatively feeble. Only one-third of the 69 brands we looked at, for example, offer account sign-up on their sites–a huge missed opportunity. And in terms of traditional loyalty programs, a mere four percent of Spirits brands offered them. This, compared with nearly 20 percent of beauty brands and almost 50 percent of hotel groups.
As you can see in the chart above (click for more detail), the more sophisticated the loyalty feature, the less likely Spirits brands had incorporated it into their digital properties. Some brands reached out to members via email with news and event listings but those went largely unseen. A few others offered up small prizes like personalized bottle labels or tote bags. Patrón and Laphroaig (the only brand whose loyalty program is an actual transactional point-based one) were the strongest of the pack, both offering bottle registration/lookup, which allows brands to track purchase location and habits. With the difficulty of age-gating, Spirits brands will inherently face more challenges than other industries’ when it comes to e-commerce or even basic fan outreach. As such, Spirits brands must capitalize on the low-hanging fruit like basic loyalty programs that not only help to build loyal fan bases but also provide data on their target audience and their multi-channel browsing/purchase activities.