Program Design is the first step of launching a Loyalty Program and is the most key step in making a program successful. The starting point for designing a Loyalty Program should always be mapping out the journey of the target audience. This approach holds for trade programs or influencer programs or consumer programs hence the term partner is used interchangeably for all of them in this post.
An ideal partner journey consists of many steps where the partner starts out from not knowing about the brand, takes an interest, takes a bet, purchases the product (or enters into an agreement), experiences it, becomes loyal, shares experience and promotes the brand further. The exact journeys for individual brands would be more nuanced and need to be accounted for.
Every partner’s individual journey needs to be compared to the ideal journey to understand where the partner dropped out or what stage he is in currently. Statistics of partners dropping out at various stages help in understanding and prioritising the gaps in the process which need to be plugged. For example, if there are greater proportion of partners dropping out before purchase stage then it is better to focus on generating trials and improving the product. But if lot of partners are dropping out after purchase then focus needs to be on providing them better experience. If there are high dropouts after loyalty stage, focus needs to be on promoting advocacy or referrals.
Partners at different stages of the journey need different kind of incentives. The kind of communication and gratification provided to partners needs to be tailor made depending on the stage in which they fall in. A person yet to trial the product cannot be communicated in the same way as someone who is already loyal. And the incentives also differ. The entire incentivization strategy and communication strategy needs to be devised keeping this in mind.
Mapping out the partner journey involves speaking to multiple stakeholders and gaining thorough knowledge of the business processes. A lot of effort would also go into the tailoring of incentives and communication post mapping it out but it should be the first step in the process.
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