Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Loyalty or Disloyalty Programs!

Despite several new malls and stores opening up in the last seven years that I've been living in Pune, India, I've been a loyal shopper at one of India's pioneering retailer. Good ambience, adequate assortment of products, reasonable prices, and, above all, a loyalty card that gives me reward points every time I shop there - these are the main reasons why I've been  fulfilling almost 100% of my needs around clothing and electronics from this retailer for the past decade or so. In between, since I was living abroad, I hadn't visited this retailer for close to two years. But the first time I wanted to buy some clothes upon my return to India, I remembered this retailer and visited one of their stores. After picking up a couple of shirts and trousers, I reached the checkout counter and presented my credit card along with the loyalty card. Lo and behold, I was told that my loyalty card had expired due to non-usage for two years, and that I had to re-apply for another card. My immediate reaction was, when banks and others could offer the facility of reactivating dormant accounts, why couldn't this retailer do the same with their loyalty card? With the kind of choice that I now have, shouldn't they be glad that I thought of them first - and not any of the other stores - when I wanted to buy something that they sold? Did this retailer expect me to visit their store when I was abroad just to keep my loyalty card active? No prizes for guessing what I did: I dropped the goods at the counter and just walked out of the store. And, thanks to this retailer's foolish behavior, I got a chance to check out some of the other malls and stores that have cropped up on the scene during the decade that I was loyal to this retailer. Since I liked what I saw at these new places, I'm unlikely to ever return to this retailer in future. I can't miss the irony of how a loyalty program, when poorly managed, can breed disloyalty. UPDATE: Since writing this post, I've come across some retailers in the US leveraging mobile phones in novel ways to make enrolment to loyalty programs extremely frictionless. In one case, after making the payment for your purchase, you let the billing clerk know your mobile phone number. You receive a text message within seconds with an offer that you can redeem on your next visit. No form to fill. No nothing. The retailer has enrolled you to their loyalty program using your mobile number as the unique identifier. As simple as that! - Guest Blog (Contributed by S. Ketharaman)

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