Apple has created it’s own brand of customer loyalty through product innovation, a creative approach to brick and mortar retailing, and excellent customer service. Over time, Apple has fulfilled the scenario predicted by Fred Reichheld in his early writings, where he postured that customer loyalty can result in price premiums and sustained product demand from consumers. We also know that fierce loyalty can insulate brands from service interruptions and inconvenience. Just think about how we all put up with crowded Apple stores and Genius Bar “appointments” that still land you in a long “Q” and you get the idea.
The irresistible nature of the Apple product line up is acutely in evidence as iPhone 5 becomes available to the market. Not just consumers are excited however, as I heard Sprint CEO Dan Hesse interviewed this morning, citing the launch of the new iPhone as a reason for hope that Sprint will more effectively compete with ATT and Verizon for wireless customers in the next few quarters.
Mr. Hesse’s interview made me think of a new term for the compound effect one brand with strong loyalty can have on its partners – META LOYALTY.
Steve Jobs has been memorialized as saying that he had a “Passion to change the world”. The first product released following the passing of Mr. Jobs on October 5, 2011 was iCloud, thought by some to represent the “final loyalty play” for Apple. iCloud automatically stores photos, songs, and other files on servers at Apples data centers and sync them with the entirety of Apple devices owned by the customer. It provides an easy and reliable way to make sure all of your digital “stuff” is kept safe. In turn it clearly is a retention device, as the benefits of iCloud will make uses think twice before straying to another personal media platform.
If iCloud was the final loyalty play for the device itself and the importance of iPhone itself is capable of creating META LOYALTY, then the screen shot at the right has to represent a META LOYALTY effect for the loyalty marketing business. If you’ve downloaded the iOS6 software update for iPhone, you have already seen what Passbook represents for consumer loyalty. The mobile wallet just became a reality and brands wishing their loyalty programs to be front and center with consumers will surely want to find a way to make sure their programs are easily compatible with Passbook.
One would suspect that mobile loyalty application development will have to change as well. Do we build apps for iPhone and Android, or is it Passbook and Android? Does Passbook become a development environment for mobile loyalty apps, shifting focus from development of bespoke apps to Passbook? And, do you not agree that Android MUST create a similar sandbox to accommodate loyalty sponsors in its world? This is one case where being a blatant copy cat does not matter as much as creating a competitive response to keep pace in the big loyalty game.
META LOYALTY – its here.