The best way to run a customer loyalty program may be by, well, keeping it a secret. 

At least that seems to be the message after CNBC reported last week that Chick-fil-A has been quietly running an invitation only perks program in about half its 2,000 restaurants since 2013.

The unpublicized program, which even the most faithful Chick-fil-A customers likely never heard about, offers some impressive perks. Lucky members get access to dinners, private tours and special events.

When asked about the program, a company spokesperson told CNBC the program was put in place for customers to experience more customized rewards and communication from their local restaurant and, ultimately, strengthen the bond between the company and its customers.

It's an innovative approach. 

But how are other companies showing appreciation to their customers — and how are they doing it in a multichannel world? Moreover, are they offering omnichannel experiences — that is, are they consistently and seamlessly offering the same experience and message across all these channels?

The Question

What are the best ways to create omnichannel loyalty programs?

The Answers

Danielle Brown, Vice President at Points

Brown is responsible for marketing at Points, a Toronto-based loyalty commerce platform. A seasoned marketer with a background in acquisitions, brand, product and direct marketing in the entertainment, wireless and retail sectors, she previously worked at multiple music companies, including SiriusXM Canada Tweet Danielle Brown.

Danielle Brown headshotJust as consumers expect to be able to shop on any platform, they also want to “earn and burn” their loyalty rewards in whatever way it is most convenient. As a result, they’re increasingly looking to access and manage their loyalty programs across channels — online, on their phones and even within digital wallets.

The average North American household belongs to at least 29 rewards programs, but uses only eight on a regular basis. So it's important to keep your loyalty program top of mind by making it readily accessible across digital touchpoints.

  1. Make sure your program is mobile optimized. Programs should be accessible no matter what device a member is using and functional across all channels. Allow members to check balances and earn and redeem their loyalty rewards no matter how they’re accessing your program.
  2. Deliver a seamless experience. Consistency is key, and the experience a member has online or via a mobile device should be the same.
  3. Use data to your advantage. As you gather more information about your customers and their behavior across channels, use this data to personalize your efforts, deliver context-driven relevant offers and content and drive better engagement with members.
  4. Leverage loyalty platforms. Consider integrating with loyalty platforms that can extend the reach of your loyalty brand and make it more engaging.

Jennifer James, Director, Kobie Marketing

James handles marketing at Kobie Marketing, a Saint Petersburg, Fla.-based loyalty marketing company. She has more than 15 years of experience in product development and design, enterprise technology, B2B, customer experience, GTM strategy and managing and developing teams. Tweet Jennifer James.

Jennifer James headshotThe digitization of everything has given companies a prime opportunity to leverage customer actions and produce useful data — data that gives them the consumer insights to drive personalization strategies, engender loyalty and elicit positive customer responses.

For omnichannel loyalty programs to thrive and positively impact your bottom line, think about your strategy along the “Five E’s” framework:

  1. Enterprise: Omnichannel loyalty is best achieved through an enterprise approach. An “omnichannel owner” should spearhead efforts to align internal teams, identify gaps in your customer experience and outline opportunities to collect actionable data.
  2. Experience and Engagement: Once you have enterprise alignment, create a comprehensive customer experience and engagement strategy. Optimizing the micro-moments along the customer journey matters most. Your North Star should be to create reciprocal customer-brand relationships.
  3. Enabling Technology: Your technology should integrate seamlessly across channels and touchpoints, while effectively scaling to meet your evolving needs. This is often easier said than done due to legacy systems and data silos.
  4. Economics: Your omnichannel loyalty strategy must focus on driving incremental financial results. For most companies, this process starts by building the business case for loyalty through economic and financial modeling.
  5. Execution: Failure to execute can crop up in many forms — from program conversion or implementation to execution at the frontline. Empower everyone to share ideas and pinpoint gaps in the omnichannel experience and resulting communications strategy. And remember, loyalty programs have a life cycle much like your business or products.

Julio de Villasante, President and COO, bLoyal

De Villasante is president and COO at Redmond, Wa.-based bLoyal, a provider of customer loyalty solutions. He has 18 years of entrepreneurship, general management and marketing experience in the electronic business arena including five years at Microsoft, where he was director of cloud solutions for Microsoft Dynamics. Tweet Julio de Villasante.

Julio bLoyal headshot

Omnichannel, by nature, means that you are engaging with customers across multiple channels and device formats.

You want to make sure that your program can be seamlessly integrated into your existing investments to minimize costs and staff training challenges, while providing you with a single master customer profile. With the above taken care off, you want to focus on three key aspects of your omnichannel loyalty program:

  1. Convert as many anonymous customers as you can into members of your loyalty program to get their demographics. Make it easy by providing multiple signup options across channels and devices. You might also offer your customers a real-time incentive to “push them over the hump” and join the program.
  2. Leverage their contact information and preferences to build a good relationship with personalized engagement across all touchpoints. Start with thanking them for joining the program. In time you should evolve to dynamic segmentation with unique benefits and experiences based on each customer’s individual history.
  3. Accept that things will change. The good news is you will be armed with a lot of valuable data to help better understand your customer and programs to continuously optimize your loyalty program.

A successful omnichannel loyalty program will combine the power of technology and insight together with your customer data and expertise transforming your customers’ understanding, growth and retention.