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Get to Know Leaders in Loyalty | Ascendant Loyalty Marketing, David Slavick | Q&A

Updated: May 11

Meet The Man of The Hour


David Slavick is a strategic advisor to companies that seek to create a loyalty program or improve the loyalty program that they have in place.


As the Co-founder and Partner of Ascendant Loyalty Marketing, Slavick explains that they are 100% focused on customer relationship marketing, loyalty programs, and all operations that involve those assets.


"If you think about it, loyalty touches the customer directly. It drives personalization, communication, offer development, incentives, customer experience, two-way dialogue with the and even finance decisions because one essential key is the overall cost-benefit analysis for a program," he says.


And that's the thing Slavick finds most exciting about loyalty, the fact that it impacts the entire enterprise.


"The thing that excites me as an advisor is that when you're solving problems in the clients’ business, you get to see cause and effect. You're able to do test and learn. It's a great space and we truly enjoy it."


Let’s Get Down to Business : It’s Q&A Time


Q. What is one commonly held belief of loyalty that you passionately disagree with?


A. "I would disagree with the statement that some would make that points are dead or some level of currency is not relevant to today's consumers.


I respect this point of view because it challenges the precepts of what a program concept is all about. It challenges the thinking, either on the consulting or client-side. People want something that's differentiated in the marketplace, which will be meaningful, compelling, motivating for consumers, and ultimately is going to solve their business problems.


When people say points don't matter or points are old school, what they're doing is causing people to stop and think. Perhaps raising their hand and saying, "I've got a points program, and I always felt that it was 'me too.' Can you advise me on re-designing my program, launching it, and doing it in a completely different way?"


However you arrive at a winning program design, as long as that design is understood by the consumer and easy to play - you win. But it's not true that points don't matter. Whatever the currency is or the value proposition, so long as it's motivating and compelling, that’s what matters."


Q. What's one thing that everyone in loyalty should stop doing?


A. "I think they could stop doing bonusing, and they would still succeed. I believe that consumers are very aware of that game, and I'm not seeing as much of a response to bonus points from an incremental lift standpoint. For example, shops that select hours online and buyers get double or triple points; you don't see that much anymore.


Those levers have become passe, and at the same time, the finance department doesn't appreciate this tactic because it adds to overall liability and markdown expense. I think the whole multiplier concept will go away in favor of personalized merchandising and marketing and offer development."


Q. What's one thing that everyone in loyalty should start doing right now?


A. ​​"Everyone in loyalty should start reinforcing how to participate in their program. Too often, program managers welcome you into the program, provide a graphic that shows where you land as a member, show the tiering structure, show the benefit differentiation based upon your level of engagement with the brand, and then they walk away.


They don't come back a few months later and reinforce the program. And it's not like buyers are sitting there memorizing every single aspect of what it is that they get. Nobody has that kind of retention.


I would say that the one thing that people forget about is that education is important. It's important as it relates to being a program owner and reinforcing how the membership benefits you each and every day as an active consumer and perhaps brand advocate.


Another way to reinforce commitment is with unique promotions like celebrating an anniversary as a member. That doesn't happen very much. Brands provide a birthday offer, which may be eligible for five days on either side of a consumer's birthday. That's cool, birthdays people get. It's an effective trigger and an effective one-time promotion during the calendar year, but things like celebrating an anniversary are also options.


To give you one example, at American Eagle Outfitters, we sent the best customers a $10 gift card to thank them for being a member on their anniversary. Then we sent the rest of our membership base a $5 gift card. We had a 90% redemption rate on the $10 gift cards. The average spend on that $10 gift card was 35% higher than the member's normal AOV. So by sending them $10 free, they treated themselves in celebration. That goes to show you how much consumers appreciate you celebrating them as a customer."


Q. When heads of digital and loyalty talk about their problems around taking full advantage of personalization, things boil down to three areas that are “the problem”- data, data science, and scale. Which one do you think it is or is it something else? How would you solve that?


A. "I believe the problem is options and lack of integration. If you want to call that scale, that's the biggest challenge.


Many companies do not have visionary IT leaders that can look at where their martech stack is today and achieve the kind of synergies and efficiencies that make things easier for the marketing organization to do what it needs to.


There's a lack of unified vision, and everybody's always looking for that bright, shiny penny to fix issues. However, they still have to understand how to bring that solution in and have it work optimally with the current stack and company goals.


If they can operate under one unified vision and work cooperatively, they can achieve the efficiencies and effectiveness that companies aspire to achieve.


Some companies are doing it better than others, and some are doing it poorly. Most of the time, they're doing poorly because there's a lack of leadership or vision at the executive level.


Lastly, they bring in the big four consulting companies to solve that dysfunction. Whoever it is, they have a process and methodology to sort through everything and get departments talking, working together, and get companies on the same page- goals wise and technology wise."


Q.You've seen a lot of things in loyalty but what's one loyalty experience positive or negative that has had a major impact on you?


A. "I would say the most recent experience was taking out the Verizon Visa card for the first time. It's a beautiful card, heavy, and feels like quality. The packaging was gorgeous. It was in this beautiful black box, and it was like you were opening up a gift from Tiffany's, except the box was black and not iconic egg blue.


The experience of receiving the card was positive and impactful, and the overall benefits and point transfers fit my current lifestyle. For example, today I don't need more airline miles.


I would say that one of my most rewarding experiences, at least in the last two years, is switching over to that co-branded Visa card and earning enough cash back to pay for my next cellular phone at a corporate Verizon store."


Close of Business


As Slavick explained, loyalty programs can be composed of many different factors. Above all, however, your company must have the same vision for your customer loyalty program. Getting on that same page involves working together and figuring out how to get the most out of your data to provide customers with a valuable program.


And with that, we're now in business!