As someone whose career has focused on loyalty marketing, it's interesting to note the 30-year anniversary of AAdvantage, the landmark loyalty program American Airlines launched in 1981. A fixture at virtually any grocery store or hotel property now, it's easy to forget that establishing a loyalty program was virgin territory back in the early 80s.
It could be argued that much of the innovation associated with loyalty schemes hasn't come from insights about those customers, but rather from more efficiently understanding the channels through which marketers reach their customers.
One illustration of this comes from email marketing, which, of course, got its kick start when businesses like CompuServe and AOL made phrases like "email," "chat rooms" and "you’ve got mail" mainstream. Companies had to then deal with the new problems of managing white lists, dynamically rendering emails, automating delivery, opt-outs and the countless other logistics that exist to get offers into the hands of consumers.
On email's heels came the online channel, with the dot-com boom/bust of the late 90s. This brought us new entities like Amazon and eBay that forever changed the landscape of how consumers consider and purchase products. As share of revenue became more and more significant online, more innovations were born and created to understand where customers were coming from, which pages attracted the most attention and the number of clicks any given online ad generated.
Now you can’t attend a marketing conference and not hear the word "social." Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr didn’t exist a few years ago. They're now consuming marketers who struggle to better listen, understand and react to customer sentiment.
Today's marketers have an abundance of mediums through which to engage consumers. Coupled with each of those channels is an abundance of technologies that can help deliver and measure the impact of communications within each medium. That's the root of a number of problems facing marketers today, including the following: