But apart from coming up with a loyalty points system, which can be expensive to run and difficult to maintain, what can marketers do to achieve this goal of greater customer longevity?

To find out, Econsultancy recently invited dozens of brand marketers to our annual Digital Cream Singapore to discuss this and other pressing issues. Through roundtable discussions hosted by brand and marketing strategist, Liz Wullems-Griffioen, and Caroline Papadatos, SVP Global Solutions, LoyaltyOne, we arrived at four ways that brands are keeping customers engaged and loyal – without resorting to points programmes.

1) They fix their customers’ problems

The first, and perhaps most basic, way that companies keep customers loyal is to do what customers expect them to do, the companies solve their customers’ problems.

This is where many businesses seek to add value, because they either don’t typically deal with customers directly (e.g. distributors, agencies) or they are only ever in touch with customers when there is a problem (e.g. marketplaces, consumer commodities). By keeping a close eye on the whole customer journey and ensuring that any problems are dealt with quickly and to the level of customer satisfaction, these companies ensure that they have loyal, repeat business from their customers.

And, as we live in an era where a bad review or a negative tweet can cause endless problems for the company, many at our roundtables felt that a company looking to start a loyalty programme should first of all focus on solving their customers’ problems before trying anything else.

2) They empower employees

Another way that companies keep customers engaged without showering them with points is that they empower employees so that they can improve the overall customer experience.

Marketers from retail companies shared that a common mistake is for companies to overestimate the importance of customer rewards and underestimate how vital it is that employees understand customers.

One example offered was from a high-tech company who ensured that their frontline staff not only knew how to use the company’s devices, but also knew typical use cases, common issues, and troubleshooting steps. This helped them speak to the customer about the product lines on the customers’ terms, thereby increasing engagement and loyalty.

3) They aim to remain relevant across the whole customer lifecycle

One problem many marketers face is being heard above all of the messages that their customers receive every day. If the company can’t get through to the customer, one participant said, then there is little hope of keeping them engaged.

Another suggested that one way of keeping in touch with customers was to capture data points across the whole customer lifecycle and identify drop-off points.

Then, when you do find them, come up with strategies to keep customers coming back. Many brands, one attendee said, will simply default to a points-based loyalty system or offer discounts to try and keep customers, but often the promise of discounts in the future is not what the customer is looking for.

Instead, brands should aim to provide the information and help customers need, whether they are new or long-term users so that they continue to visit the website, open emails, and keep the brand as their preferred provider.

Additionally, one marketer pointed out, this also keeps marketing from compromising the brand by offering different prices to different consumers.

4) They create mind-blowing experiences

Finally, participants said that  brands can keep customers coming back by being creative and offering experiences they will not have elsewhere.

A few marketers indicated that thinking of these types of ‘mind-blowing’ customer experiences is how they are now spending a lot of their time and effort these days.

One, from a bike sharing company, said that while the competition is chiefly advertising for engagement, they changed the game and created a contest where the most frequent riders on their bikes stood to win an iPhone X, achieving both loyalty and viral reach.

And finally, a public transport company who largely focuses on solving problems came up with one of the most interesting loyalty-driving techniques of the day.  The marketing team created a scent with a focus group to ensure that every rider had a unique and engaging experience during its otherwise commodity service.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank  Liz Wullems-Griffioen, Brand, Marketing & Communications Strategist and Caroline Papadatos, SVP Global Solutions, LoyaltyOne for hosting the Customer Engagement & Loyalty table and Epsilon for sponsoring it.

We’d also like to thank all of the marketers who attended Digital Cream Singapore 2017 and shared their valuable insights.

We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy events!

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