With 2020 now done and dusted, and harsh socio-economic lessons learnt, retailers can now turn their attention to 2021 and a new year with new opportunity to reward customers and secure market share.

To this end, business owners would do well to pay close attention to trends that now define loyalty and loyalty-based programs, according to leading independent customer relationship management company LoyaltyPlus.

While the pandemic was calamitous for many industries, it actually served as a catalyst for change within retail. Many businesses fast-tracked their digital strategies and moved quickly to accommodate online shoppers.

LoyaltyPlus echoes the sentiment expressed by Currencyalliance.com and says 2020 was a baptism of fire for many businesses in terms of their business continuity processes, systems and their ability to guarantee value – whatever the trading conditions.

In fact, as experts have suggested, 2021 will be marked by a more customer-centric approach by businesses. Programmes and platforms designed to build loyalty, reward customers and possibly attract more customers are at the heart of this approach. In essence, 2021 is expected to be THE year for customer experience and customer-centricity.

Another trend to watch out for is that of consolidation and strategic partnerships between brands to roll out loyalty programs and capture the customer.

As LoyaltyPlus explains, the objective is to create and maintain multiple channels of engagement to effectively reach the customer.

Linchpinseo.com suggests that the mobile app has emerged as a strong channel, one that is able to reach a huge audience, quickly and cost-effectively. The site refers to the use of geofenced push notifications, newsletters, promos, and loyalty programs within the app “to keep their customer base engaged and thriving.”

Experts also underline the importance of give-aways, additional ‘perks’ and other benefits linked to any loyalty programme or platform.

Linchpinseo.com also emphasises the role of gamification marketing in loyalty programmes and customer engagement strategies.

The overriding objective is to provide a better experience for the customer and in that way, reinforce loyalty and trust in the brand.

LoyaltyPlus advises that in today’s market, characterised by uncertainty, smart technology, business intelligence, a more tech-savvy consumer and other key factors, businesses have little option but to keep up with trends – including data management.

The methods of collecting, storing and manipulating data has changed and the ability of businesses to keep up with this change will be demonstrated in 2021.

As Rewardco.com explains, data, machine learning or AI and personalisation will begin to be  a singular entity, with the technology having a massive influence over how customers personalise their items and their brands. Merchants will have to bring their ‘A’ game this year.

With many industries and sectors fully aware of the need to ‘recapture’ customers who may have ventured away during 2020, loyalty programmes are likely to change or be adapted to new objectives.

Phocuswire.com reflects on the stressed airline industry as a case in point.  In addition to new, fresh levels of benefits stacked onto existing programmes, there is every chance that new services may emerge given the current economic climate and consumers could be spoilt for choice on their next flight!

Experts foresee technology-driven leaders in the industry and more exclusive-type programmes being rolled out. For 2021, the key themes will be added value within a customer-centric approach to loyalty and a tech-driven offering.