“With today’s savvy consumer, it’s crucial that brands focus on how to better interact with them,” that is how we opened our discussion with WeiChee Lee, CEO of CheQQme, as he joined our Hard Talk session at SME Innovation Stories #5 few weeks ago. “With today’s savvy consumer, it’s crucial that brands focus on how to better interact with them,” WeiChee urged businesses to build stronger relationships and ensure that they generate trust and meaningful engagement over time.
Thomas Cheah: Many customers find the loyalty program offered by merchants are boring and lookalike. Why is this happening? What are the potential business risks of running an obsolete loyalty program?
WeiChee Lee: Running an obsolete loyalty program is like sustaining a car that isn’t functioning, not only it’s an eyesore but also it takes up valuable energy, time, space, effort in sustaining that. A lot of Merchants are focusing only on extrinsic values of the loyalty program, and ‘discounts’ are the easiest no-brainer to run a campaign. However, with the new generation of more sophisticated and educated users, they are seeking a higher purpose and reasons why should they be aligned to a brand. This call for deeper ‘soul searching’ for the business, on what’s their business vision and mission, and how they can get the message out to their users and get them aligned.
Thomas Cheah: We keep hearing today’s customers are increasingly harder to retain and lack of brand loyalty. Is that true? What are the top reasons for today’s customers to stick to a brand?
WeiChee Lee: Personally, I find this to be true, as again, it’s due to more educated and sophisticated users nowadays, especially with information available at the click (or touch) of a finger. As long as users don’t find brands that align with their values, it will be tough to build brand loyalty. This is compounded with the shorter concentration time of a user, where brands need to make a timely impact of their positioning, branding message towards their target users. Another possible reason might be where users got immune with all the discounts and offers, that it’s short-lived.
Thomas Cheah: Many companies tend to focus more on finding new customers and less on keeping and growing the ones they already have. Do you see any problem with this approach?
WeiChee Lee: Eventually, companies will need to explore new customer segments or go into price war to continue to find new customers. It will be costly for businesses, and resulting in lower values (and eventually quality) for customers. In the long run, it will also be more costly to continue finding new customers, as quoted in many business research where it is 5 times more costly to get new customers compare to maintaining an existing one.
Thomas Cheah: You mentioned that today’s loyalty program need to incorporate some fun elements that engage their customers continuously. Based on the gamification marketing campaigns that you have seen, what are the key attributes of an engaging marketing campaign?
WeiChee Lee: Everyone likes having fun, that is human nature. When we are having fun, we put down the natural “defense” barrier, and this is why marketers find it the best time to deliver a marketing message is when users are enjoying themselves and having fun. Moreover, with the presence of social media layers, it also helps in propagating a message faster, easier. In gamification, we also try to build the community aspect, where users compare and challenge among themselves, achieving higher ranking – which can be engineered towards achieving a business’s goal.
Thomas Cheah: What is the future of customer loyalty? How does your technology address them? What does your road map look like?
WeiChee Lee: We can see that brands need to dig deeper into their values and positioning, and ensuring the whole organization is living by their values. This will answer the big ‘why’, on why their targeted customers should be buying from them instead of their competitors, and how they differ and stand-out between competitions. With this answered, it will be much easier for the rest of the marketing campaigns to fall in place – including loyalty programs. Technology such as geographical location tagging, smartphone outreach, and social media virality will help in heightening the efficiency and stickiness of customer loyalty. At CheQQme, we are incorporating big data analysis and also AI technology to shorten the path to action and introduce further automation. This will generate more values to our Merchants, and allowing them to not only further understand their target segments but also roll out highly engaging loyalty programs.
What is SME Innovation Stories Series?
This is a talk series that shares and analyzes case studies of digital transformation projects in the SMEs. The objective is to provide inspirations for SME business owners and CEOs on variety of ways they can innovate their business. The discussion will be presented in storytelling form of real-world projects, instead of theories and concepts.