MAR 2024

Loyalty Makes Meaningful Appearances at NRF 2024 

By Erin Raese

SVP of Growth & Strategy
Annex Cloud

This year’s NRF was electric. The energy, learning, networking and technology were overwhelming at times but incredibly stimulating. The themes this year were data and AI. Data collection is everything, then using AI to more efficiently use the data you collect.

While not a new topic, first-party data was mentioned on stage many times and heard throughout the exhibit area hallways. It seems everyone now knows they need to collect zero- and first-party data (the former a term coined by Forrester as a nuanced version of the latter—both coming directly from individuals).

What was refreshing for this loyalty marketer was hearing so many people talk about loyalty programs as a reliable way to collect this data—one moderator even referred to loyalty as ‘a data capturing machine’. Forrester analyst Brendan Witcher led a panel that included Abercrombie & Fitch, The Vitamin Shoppe and Sephora—each with a loyalty program and committed to collecting data and using it to deliver extraordinary customer experiences.

The CEO of Ulta (a favorite of mine) shared insights into their continued success—one pillar being their commitment to loyalty which she referred to as the “best investment we make”. Ulta boasts more than 42 million members and growing. Known for sought-after rewards, some key Ulta success takeaways include listening to their guests and keeping the core simple, then changing it up for high-level members. According to Ulta, loyalty allows them to know every customer while enabling them to become the most knowledgeable brand in the beauty market. This also allows them to deliver meaningful value to their brand vendors.

Hearing Ulta and Sephora share that 94% and 70 – 80% of all transactions respectively are made by loyalty members should light a fire under brands to see how they can more fully leverage loyalty to drive this kind of growth.