The role of customer loyalty in B2B marketing is an interesting one. Loyalty programmes can often be viewed as the property of consumer facing brands, offering discount codes and early access sales in exchange for valuable data and pounds spent. 

Loyalty is, however, incredibly important in a B2B environment where the cost of customer acquisition is typically far greater and a client’s lifetime expected spend of much larger value. Marketing teams will naturally be tasked with keeping clients just as much as winning them. In fact, the latest insight (generated through the analysis of more than 30m customer interactions and 600 industry expert interviews as part of Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report 2024) indicates that retention is overtaking acquisition as a key focus for brands across all sectors.

Marketers are always keen to be ahead of the curve and be in a position to be market-leading through their campaigns, and B2B is no exception. In fact, the opportunities afforded by B2B loyalty programmes can often actually be more innovative and exciting than their consumer counterparts. We often find that our B2B customers develop multi-level programmes, which offer more complex rewards than straightforward financial incentives.

If you’re looking at redesigning or redeveloping a loyalty programme – as around 90% of businesses globally plan to do in the next three years – it’s important to future-proof it. So what are the key elements that you should be looking at incorporating into your B2B loyalty programme to make sure it’s fit for purpose by 2030 – and beyond?

Personalisation Remains the King

Just like in B2C loyalty programs, personalisation will become increasingly important in B2B loyalty programmes. This means tailoring rewards, incentives, and experiences based on the specific needs, preferences, and behaviours of individual businesses or clients. According to the report numbers, the average annual spend of members who redeem personalised rewards is 4.3 times higher than those who redeem non-personalised rewards

Focus on the data and how you can harness it

B2B companies will rely more on data analytics and insights to understand their clients better and to optimise their loyalty programs. By analysing transactional data, engagement metrics, and other relevant data points, companies can identify trends, predict future behaviour, and fine-tune their loyalty strategies accordingly.

Integration with your CRMs and other systems

The Antavo Global Customer Loyalty Report 2024 highlights that for program owners, nothing is more important for their tech than easy integration. However, integration with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and other business tools is even more crucial for B2B loyalty programmes. This integration will enable seamless tracking of customer interactions, better communication, and more effective management of loyalty initiatives.

Consider multiple levels to your scheme

We will start seeing more premium or paid loyalty programmes. Around a quarter (26%) of companies who plan to launch a loyalty program in the next two years say that they wish to introduce either a purely paid programme or a combination of free and paid loyalty programme. Adding a premium element to your scheme changes the dynamic and presents a wealth of additional opportunities for marketing.

Gamification isn’t just for consumers

The introduction of gaming to the loyalty space has created some really exciting loyalty programmes in the consumer space – like KFCs which rewards time spent playing its game with vouchers and prizes. But gaming isn’t just for consumer brands. Adding an element of fun and personality is a great way of making your brand memorable. IBM does this well – it’s VIP programme is challenge based and includes a leaderboard to encourage some healthy competition!

Increasingly diverse customer reward options 

Beyond traditional rewards and discounts, B2B loyalty programmes can offer value-added services such as access to exclusive events, industry insights, training resources, or consultancy services. Providing additional value beyond transactions can strengthen the relationship between businesses and their clients.

Creating a community

B2B marketers can use loyalty programmes to foster a sense of community and collaboration among participating businesses, creating brand ambassadors and cementing your business in the minds of customers. This could involve facilitating networking opportunities, knowledge-sharing forums, or collaborative projects that benefit all participants. A good example of this is Mailchimp, which offers an insider programme for freelance marketers giving them access to training benefiting their career, amongst other perks.

Harnessing the power of the emotional approach

Finally, the power of emotion is of vital importance in developing a loyalty programme with longevity. At present, around 64% of loyalty programme owners class their schemes as more rational than emotional, but over half (52%) of those planning to launch a new programme in the next two years envision it as more emotional than rational. Think about how your brand can offer more than purely transactional rewards and start to tap into your customers’ emotions instead.

Regardless of whether you are looking to build a B2B loyalty programme from scratch, assess an existing scheme’s performance or look at redeveloping or re-platforming a programme you already have, it’s important that marketers have clear sight of a few key things:

  • A thorough understanding of what you want to achieve
  • A clear picture of what your customers want and need, backed up by evidence
  • A plan for how you will provide the service
  • A map for the evaluation and adjustment of your loyalty programme.

Loyalty programmes represent big investments. The report shows that over a quarter – 27% – of a loyalty program’s marketing budget, on average, is dedicated to customer loyalty and CRM. This is a huge sum, but it’s clear to see why when we take into account the return on investment: nine in 10 companies report a positive ROI, with an average ROI of 4.8 times the original investment. The average annual spend of members who redeem rewards is 3.1 times more than the annual spend of members who don’t.

Whatever your plans for marketing your business over the coming years, putting a focus on customer loyalty and retention should not be overlooked. Loyalty programmes have a clear part to play and marketers in the B2B space have a great opportunity to do some really exciting work in creating programmes that appeal to their audience, drive brand engagements and help cement the business as a core part of customers’ daily business lives.

Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Antavo | Website | + posts

Zsuzsa has been instrumental in growing Antavo from a startup to a scaleup. As Chief Strategy Officer and Co-founder, she is transforming the company into a unique loyalty technology vendor, offering a next-gen, best-in-class solution to the loyalty sector. Listed by Forbes as one of Europe’s top 100 female founders in tech, she is focused on driving market share in the expanding loyalty market. She was instrumental in Antavo achieving 3x annual growth in 2021 and is now developing a global strategy to bring Antavo to loyalty professionals and systems integrators around the world.