The 7 Most Innovative Brands of 2018

December 21, 2018 Brianna McEwan

Earning loyalty in 2018 was particularly challenging due to consumer concerns around data and growing expectations around brand experience. Brands were forced to step up their efforts to keep customers coming back. Many brands chose to innovate and invest in the customer experience to secure their share of consumers’ wallets and hearts.

Here are some of the most innovative brand loyalty initiatives of this year.

1. Macy’s embraces digitization and shifts to multi tender loyalty

After conducting extensive research and mapping out their customer journey, Macy’s was able to determine that their customers’ #1 frustration was the checkout process and that mobile is their strongest entry point. The brand therefore decided to make significant investments in digitizing the in-store shopping experience and improving their mobile app.

Macy’s piloted a self-checkout feature where customers could scan product barcodes with their phone through the Macy’s app, pay in app and go to a special counter where security tags could be removed.

The brand also shifted to multi tender loyalty by allowing customers to join its Star Rewards loyalty program without having to sign up for their store credit card.

Since making these changes, Macy’s mobile sales are expected to pass $1 billion this year with sales up 50% year-over-year for the first half of the year, and the brand saw an increase in loyalty program membership by over 1 million.

Why It’s Innovative

Customer journey mapping allows brands to understand customers better, build out personas, and understand their experiences along the brand journey, giving them the ability to identify pain points and address them directly. By shifting to multi tender loyalty, Macy's is able to  capture more than transactional data, and instead collect customer data across every single touchpoint and incentivize customers to engage with them, share preferences, refer friends, and write reviews. This helps to inform and strengthen the brand’s ability to map customer journeys. Brands can use this data to help strengthen engagement, personalize promotions and make the customer feel valued, helping to deepen consumer relationships and foster loyalty.

2. WW (Weight Watchers) rewards members for leading healthier lifestyles

WW, formerly Weight Watchers, launched their Wellness Wins rewards program, which is a tier-based program that rewards members for leading healthier lifestyles.

WW rewards members for tracking meals, exercise, weight and Wellness Workshop attendance in their app. Members are encouraged to climb the ranks by reaching goals and earning “wins,” while unlocking new tiers and new rewards. Rewards range from fitness class passes, to Bluetooth speakers, to wine tumblers.

WW is able to incentivize member participation and drive engagement while adding additional value and motivation to members.

Why It’s Innovative

The program, powered by CrowdTwist, helps WW stand out from the competition and provide more value for members by giving them incentives, rewards and perks that keep them subscribed and engaged with the brand.

3. Nike provides a frictionless shopping experience

This year, Nike invested in creating a unique and easy shopping experience for customers in store through their mobile app.

The brand gave customers the ability to reserve shoes online that they’d like to try on in store at the “speed shop.” The “speed shop” has lockers, which can be unlocked by the customer’s phone, and contains the shoes they reserved. The customer can then try on the shoes on their own time and, if they decide to purchase, can use their phone to check out themselves.

The app also allows customers to locate apparel on mannequins throughout the store, request their size and have them sent directly to a fitting room to try on.

These new features eliminate the need to speak with customer associates or wait in line to pay, creating a seamless in store shopping experience.

Why It’s Innovative

Nike creates a unique shopping experience for consumers that is convenient and hassle free, keeping customers happy and motivating them to continue coming back.

4. Budweiser customizes beyond email

Brands with robust personalization capabilities can customize emails to members to let them know how many points they have and which rewards are available. This year, Budweiser used their loyalty program, Budweiser Rewards, to go further.

Budweiser used their program to personalize member activities based on preferences, behaviors, and engagement, and to make the rewards mix members receive more relevant based on the information the member shared with the brand.

For example, Budweiser gives points for members to share their zip code. Once that information is mapped out, the brand offers rewards that are relevant to the member’s location, so for example, members in Texas could be offered country concert tickets, while New Yorkers would be offered tickets to see the New York Yankees.

Why It’s Innovative

The program, powered by CrowdTwist, is highly customizable for members across the country and rewards members with relevant, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. This supercharges loyalty and makes members feel valued, building deeper, emotional connections with consumers.

5. Uber introduces loyalty to stand out from competition

With the increasing competition in the ride sharing space, Uber had to find a way to stand out from everyone else, which is why they announced they’ll be launching a loyalty program.

The program encourages and incentivizes customers to choose Uber over other ride-sharing services and reap the rewards, securing the repeat business of their consumers. The program is tier-based, with each tier offering a new set of perks and rewards. Members can earn points for taking rides and ordering through Uber Eats, and redeem for free delivery on Uber Eats orders and Uber Cash rewards.

Why It’s Innovative

This program helps Uber stand out from its competitors by providing extra value to consumers for a service they regularly use. It shows they appreciate and value loyal customers, and encourages consumers to repeatedly use their service over others.

6. TOMS takes a stance on political issues

TOMS shoes has always had a one-for-one giving model, but this year they decided to also take a stance on gun control. TOMS vowed to donate $5 million to nonprofits working to end gun violence and to use its influence and reach to call on lawmakers to pass universal background checks.

TOMS has been able to engage customers in charitable causes through the rewards component of their loyalty program, Passport Rewards. The program, powered by CrowdTwist, makes it easy for members to redeem points for charitable donations to causes like helping educate underprivileged children or natural disaster relief efforts.

These initiatives demonstrate that TOMS cares about more than just their bottom line and makes it easy for their rewards members to engage with the brand to affect causes they care about.

Why It’s Innovative

79% of Americans are more loyal to purpose driven brands and 77% of Americans feel a stronger emotional connection to them. When brands establish a clear purpose, it allows them to connect with customers in more meaningful ways, helping to meet high consumer expectations and driving emotional connections.

7. Chico’s bridges the online & in store experience through personalization

Chico’s recently launched their Client Book technology and connected the company’s Endless Aisle to all stores. Through this, store associates can use the technology to personalize their customers’ experiences by offering a personalized online storefront and style board of customized, curated merchandise based on their prior purchasing behavior.

It also allows customers to interact with personal stylists online, digitizing one of Chico’s most loved aspects of the brand – amazing personal service.

Why It’s Innovative

Bridging the gap between online and in store experiences makes customers feel valued and understood, and encourages consumers to interact with them in various ways. This in turn allows the brand to gather more information on their customer to help with personalization in the future.

Conclusion

2018 has shown a huge shift in consumer expectations. Brands stepped up to this challenge, with many new industries investing in loyalty solutions and traditional industries leading the charge toward new innovation. 2018 proved that simply having a loyalty program was not enough. Brands must be constantly improving their offerings, trying new things and staying ahead of the pack to ensure they can set themselves apart from the competition and drive continued loyalty with their customers. Download  our e-book, “2018 in Review: The 7 Biggest Trends That Impacted Loyalty” to learn more about the biggest trends that impacted loyalty this year.

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