Predictions: 8 digital marketing trends for 2018

What does 2018 hold for digital marketers? We ask a raft of marketers, martech experts and industry commentators


4.Loyalty programs and leveraging data get even more important  

Experts agree the best loyalty programs are not about discounts, advocacy or loyalty, but about gathering data about consumers in order to personalise and upsell. And in 2018, that quest to utilise loyalty-based customer intelligence for action will be an imperative.  

“While ‘data’ seems to be the default answer to pretty much any marketing question, I do believe those brands that best collect and integrate their often disparate data sources will be the ones that flourish in the loyalty space,” The Works creative partner, Paul Swann, says. “The ability to achieve a more comprehensive view of customers’ current and likely behaviour will enable brands to better personalise offers and messages.  

“More importantly, it will also mean they can respond to increasingly nuanced triggers in the customer’s life, demonstrating that the brand truly understands them and builds towards the ultimate ambition of predicting their needs before they even arise.”   

As many marketers now realise, getting to this point is no mean feat. Even the more sophisticated brands often still wrestle with making data from different sources work together, let alone applying the learnings at speed and scale.  

“Therefore, rather than loyalty sitting within one team, increasingly there needs to be a broader loyalty culture instilled throughout the organisations which takes it seriously, with each department needing to understand the role they can play in collecting data and activating the insights that are derived from it,” Swann says.  

Read more: How brands are ramping up customer loyalty program spending in 2017

Read more: Village Cinemas relaunches customer loyalty program using data insights

Geekie points out brand advocacy stems from an emotional connection to a brand and its products that goes far beyond points and rewards.  

“Truly showing a customer that you ‘get’ them is far more powerful but it’s a complex business,” he says. “Brands that will win here are those embracing complex algorithms and AI to capitalise on their data and drive their marketing interactions.”  

Mobecom CEO, Neil Joseph, believes the future should be focused on millennial loyalty, because they are the advocates of the future. While willing to give their data to brand owners, managers of loyalty programs will need to rethink how they actually use this data because millennials expect to be valued beyond just a simple transaction, he says.  

“From a rewards currency perspective, trust, transparency and sincerity are key,” Joseph says. “With membership to multiple loyalty programs each with their own rules and limitations, the landscape is potentially ripe for a digital currency that can consolidate rewards into a single currency to provide instant redemption and exchange opportunities.”  

The future of loyalty programs as we move into 2018 will be about rewarding behaviour, transacted over an agnostic platform that’s not actually led by brands, Unlockd global chief creative officer, JC Oliver, predicts.  

“For example, I use a pair of Nike trainers when I run, and I earn Nike points as I’m part of the brand’s membership program,” he says. “The more I run, the more I earn. But this locks me into that ecosystem. The future of this behaviour will allow me to earn ‘agnostic jogging points’ which I can spend on any fitness brand that I want. So the ownership moves from brand to the person. It will be the user’s behavioural loyalty that will win, rather than the closed brand loyalty. It’s already where the world is moving.”  

To achieve this, MullenLowe Profero head of product for ECD, Ashadi Hopper, predicts 2018 will see partnership of loyalty programs with blockchain technology, opening up significant opportunities for marketers in Australia.  

“We believe traditional points-based loyalty schemes are ripe for transformation using blockchain or digital currency,” he says. “Australia leads the world in cashless payments, and we’ve also got a number of latent loyalty programs so the opportunity is significant.    

“Loyalty programs and their partners would benefit from blockchain technology to eliminate the delays and expense associated with running redemption and rewards schemes.  IBM’s Hyperledger platform is powering one of the most interesting startups in this space, Loyyal – and that’s certainly a company to watch.”  

Up next: The final 4 predictions for digital marketing in 2018

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