Evaluating your loyalty technology platform? Five tips to streamline the process.

Dec 3, 2019
6 MIN. READ
Here are several ways brands can avoid common pitfalls.

With wide-reaching impact and stakeholders in virtually every department, a loyalty technology implementation or migration can be one of the most complex enterprise sourcing exercises a large organization can undertake.

In our experience, there are a number of obstacles that organizations frequently run into. These issues can lead to unclear responses from vendors, misalignment on the scope of the project, significant delays in the sourcing process (which of course leads to delays in the project or program launch), or worst of all, picking the wrong partner. But we have also seen a number of organizations move through the process smoothly, on time, and with limited effort.

As your brand considers a new loyalty platform, you’ll also need to make decisions about the future of the program:

  • Which elements of the existing program should you transfer to the new program?
  • What new features or benefits should you offer?

It’s critical to capture and document this information for the assessment process, though explaining the full extent of your program’s technical, operational and functional reach can be a daunting task. Often, existing documentation is incomplete or faulty. Your organization may have changed since that initial program implementation. And stakeholders may resist changes to their day-to-day tasks.

These five considerations can help you streamline your loyalty technology partner assessment so you can focus on what matters most: your customers.

1. Drive internal stakeholder alignment.

It is vitally important to gather key stakeholders early and discuss their receptiveness to a platform switch. Typically, the core members of this group include representatives from marketing, technology, and operations. But it is also important to remember that your customers are stakeholders too. Your decisioning framework should include customer research.

Assuming your stakeholder groups are supportive of exploring new options, it is also important to invite them to take part in the search and selection process. Building internal consensus can be frustrating, but a broad group of voices and viewpoints will help to ensure a limited number of surprises once you have made your decision and started implementation. Broad stakeholder alignment can also help to “grease the wheels” in the event of an issue; things may go wrong or get delayed for various reasons (perfect launches are a rarity), so it is good to have allies.

2. Consider the primary motivations to make a move and share these with the vendors you are assessing.

Once you have collected broad stakeholder input, consolidate this information and determine the broader organization’s motives for moving to a new solution (or staying with current one). Consider whether your decision will be driven by:

  • Lack of satisfaction with your current relationship
  • Capabilities
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to scale or adapt
  • Cost

Whether it’s one of these factors, or all of them, or some combination, resolving these issues should be your North Star; any additional benefits a new partner and platform can provide are extra perks: important to consider, but should not influence your decision.

Another key is sharing these issues with the vendors you are assessing, because doing so will allow them to best present how they could alleviate these issues, which is a win-win. And, the incumbent provider may not have realized the depths of the issues you are currently experiencing and could take steps to mitigate them.

3. Consider if a new partner would be better positioned to succeed where the existing technology solution is struggling.

It is possible that internal issues may be driving your challenges with the existing solution rather than the incumbent solution’s shortcomings. This step should be the go/no-go decision point in the vendor assessment. If your team has gone through the first two steps and believes a new vendor would also fail, then perhaps it is worth considering pausing your search and trying to work things out with the existing solution.

4. If moving forward, compile and provide clear, detailed, and comprehensive system requirements for vendors to scope against.

This is paramount, and for some organizations, easier said than done. The goal of a well-run vendor assessment should be to arrive at accurate, complete, apples-to-apples overviews of product capabilities, experience, and costs. In order to arrive at this, it is key for all vendors to be working from a common set of detailed requirements and a shared understanding of what systems the customer data currently lives in and the technology integration points.

In the loyalty space, every solution has unique nuances and capabilities. Working from a common understanding of requirements, data and systems can help to cull these differences down and allow vendors to highlight true, relevant differentiation. While you should ask for features or capabilities that may stretch the capabilities of the vendors you are including, including potential features that are simply early ideas can be detrimental to your goal of an apples-to-apples estimate. A vendor guessing at your intentions helps no one.

Compiling these requirements can be a significant effort and it may be worthwhile to consider engaging an external vendor to conduct a discovery and migration planning project. Loyalty marketing firms have significant experience with these types of projects and can expedite and simplify the effort required. The money you spend on this effort will more than pay for itself because it helps you avoid scope misalignment and potential project delays down the road.

Once this project is complete, it is okay to ask for other vendors to scope to these requirements and proposed timing.

5. Once you have proposals in hand or have been presented to, keep in mind that if it sounds too good (or bad) to be true, it probably is.

You have arrived at decision time. Should you migrate to a new solution? Should you give your incumbent another shot? It is important at this stage to consider that when information from a vendor seems way off the mark, it’s always possible that something got lost in translation. Consider huge disparities in pricing a red flag: it’s not necessarily a huge win for your brand by going with the less expensive option. When you see this, be cautious and ask questions at both ends of the pricing spectrum. It is also important to ask vendors which of your requirements already exist in the product, which are in development, and which will be paid enhancements. Another red flag? Vendors who plan to use your money to build a large number of new features.

By making sure you ask the right questions and supply your vendors with the right information, your new platform implementation will stand the greatest chance of achieving the “on time, on budget” nirvana down the road.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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By Jim Mattson