Are Connected Loyalty Cards a Step Forward or Backward?

carte de fidélité connectée

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Are they an enduring innovation or a temporarily trendy idea? Do they benefit customers or are they just another technological gadget? Each month, Bruno Auret, an expert on digital commerce and the founder and CEO of Blackwood Digital, takes a critical look at digital innovation in retail.

 

This month, he has chosen to break down and analyse connected loyalty cards recently tested by Kiabi with 20 customers in their Beauvais store.

 

Even though they were supposed to be spreading like wildfire for the last two to three years, digital in-store experiences have not taken off. Why? “Because they don’t do anything”, you might respond. While this statement is certainly a bit radical, it is essentially true. Eighty percent of digital innovations tested in stores in the last few years did not do much.

 

Though interesting at first glance, the connected loyalty card tested by Kiabi at the beginning of the year is, in my opinion, representative of what is happening now in the phygital world.

 

First of all, let’s examine the principle behind it and how it functions.  When a customer enters a store, they are instantly recognised through their connected loyalty card (with its RFID or NFC technology). This way, the customer receives shopping recommendations via a large screen display as soon as they enter the store and is greeted personally at the checkout, without the “Hello, [insert first name of your choice here]!” formula. In other words, it personalises the customer’s journey through the store through data collected in advance on the internet. However, while this approach may seem appealing, I do not believe it is the right one for several reasons:

 

The shopper is not an Internet user.

 

When you go shopping, especially at busy times, you are just one more anonymous person in a crowd of strangers. Now imagine that in this context, you walk into a store anonymously (or at least so you think), and there on a giant screen where everyone can see it, your name (and maybe even your picture) appears with recommendations based on your latest online purchases. Doesn’t this situation make you uncomfortable? There is a real issue with privacy. When it comes to speaking to me personally, it should happen in private sphere, not in front of everyone.

 

Far be it from me to say that we should not put on a performance with the customer in the store–we’ve actually stepped in this direction ourselves. Cap 3000 is the latest example of this. However, it is absolutely essential that the customer be an active participant who is in control of the information presented. In this case, the information is shown in spite of what they may want.

 

As far as the content of recommendations, will they be relevant? If yes, it means that the customer’s interests and previous purchases were tracked in advance, probably on the internet. In this light, a card like this one could be seen as a kind of harassment. We have all been in the position of looking for a product online, buying it (or not), and continuing to see the product suggested to us for several weeks.

 

The store is not a museum.

 

If the loyalty club works well, which we hope it does for Kiabi, it is easy to imagine that many people might get the loyalty card and they might come into the store at the same time. In this case, how would the display work? Who would get priority? Examining this scenario, it becomes clear that the concept was designed with one-to-one interactions in mind.

A system like this might work well in places with controlled flows of visitors, like museums, for example. In a store, however, people walk in all directions. There is generally a path customers are intended to take, but in the end, they will do what they want. And we all know how hectic a Saturday afternoon can be in a store, with all of the constraints of a real point of sale.

 

Just because technology can do something doesn’t mean it should.

 

Why not have a card that can communicate with a website and screens? But what does it provide? What benefit does it bring the customer? What does it do for the brand (in reality, not just the buzz it creates)? Technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself, or even an entrance key.

 

What if the value added of the Kiabi card lay in the fact that it is a physical object?

 

In the end, the true good idea in this new loyalty card ideas may be its old-school aspect. Kiabi is going against the current trend to go electronic by opting for a physical card. And why not? Why not have a few cards in your wallet again? A symbolic object for some or a status sign for others, a card can have real meaning. After all, every movement creates its own opposite. The more we move towards a paperless, electronic world, the more people will want to hang on to physical materials. The goal becomes: fewer, but better.

 

By Bruno Auret