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What Back-to-School Can Teach Us About Customer Loyalty

What Back-to-School Can Teach Us About Customer Loyalty

Rajat Paharia


By Rajat Paharia, Founder and Chief Product Officer

Schools across the country are opening their doors to students eager to start a new year of classes.

And you can bet that most of these young folks are outfitted with the latest fashions, supplies and devices. Indeed, data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) shows that back-to-school spending for K–12 and college for clothing, shoes, supplies and electronics is expected to reach $74.9 billion this year!

Of course, that comes as no surprise to anyone who has been inside a mall over the past month, where it’s difficult not to succumb to a mind-numbing haze of saturation in this competitive market. Every store and kiosk is stuffed with the latest “back-to-school this” and the next “must-have that,” all clamoring for attention. Consumers are, in a word, distracted—by all the choices . . . and by online merchandising and social media platforms that produce an endless stream of deals and information about what’s “hot.”

As Pam Goodfellow, Prosper Insights Consumer Insights Director, sums it up, “Students will make sure to keep one eye on social media and the other on retailers’ websites as they seek out what’s new and exciting in their hunt for fresh, fashionable and relevant back-to-school gear.”

It’s how shoppers operate now –whether they’re in the market for back-to-school items, groceries, manufacturing machinery, software or anything else. Typically, there are numerous product options, coupled with a wide array of channels and platforms –each one overflowing with information, offers, reviews and advice.

To be successful, B2C and B2B brands desperately need to cut through all that noise. They need to engage customers, retain their interest and drive true loyalty, which at Bunchball, we call “Loyalty 3.0.”

You see, customer engagement has moved beyond purely transactional loyalty programs like “buy one, get one free” (aka, Loyalty 1.0). Today’s companies need to cultivate deeper, ongoing relationships with customers, and to get there, more and more are turning to gamification.

With gamification, you can integrate three essential components:

  1. research about what motivates human behavior,
  2. big data and
  3. interactive design.

That means you can use gamification to determine what truly inspires your customers, and then use those insights to strengthen your engagement strategies and cultivate loyalty that endures.

As I see it, true loyalty is like a long-standing friendship, like the high school friend you could trust no matter what. It stands above inertia loyalty, when customers are too lazy to switch, and above mercenary loyalty, where customers will have a surface-level allegiance, but only for a price. True loyalty means your brand is “in” with your customers –on the first day of school . . . and every day after that, too.

For more about how companies like Eloqua, EA Sports/FIFA and Coca-Cola are using gamification to:

  • Boost revenue through customer retention and satisfaction,
  • Influence customer word-of-mouth and referral, and 
  • Increase customer share-of-mind to drive brand affinity and loyalty,

please download our new white paper, Using Gamification for Customer Loyalty

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