I recently wrapped up my third evaluation of customer loyalty vendors, and the market has evolved slightly since 2013. First, the lines between loyalty technology and services are fading: vendors that were traditionally considered service providers continue to productize and improve their technology platforms, and pure-play loyalty technology platform providers are shoring up their professional services offerings. Second, on the user side, I talk to clients who are looking for more holistic solutions and including a combination of service providers, agencies, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology platforms in the same request for proposal (RFP).

Given the hybridization of the market and evolving customer demands, we took a slightly different approach and conducted two evaluations of end-to-end loyalty solutions: one for large organizations including Aimia, Bond Brand Loyalty (formerly Maritz Loyalty Marketing), Brierley+Partners, Comarch, Epsilon, ICF Olson 1to1, Kobie Marketing, and TIBCO Software; and one for midsize organizations including 500friends, a Merkle company; Aimia; Clutch; CrowdTwist; DataCandy; Deluxe Corporation; and Inte Q Global.

What did we learn?

  • Loyalty solutions are in demand. Improving customer loyalty is a key marketing priority for decision-makers at companies of all sizes. As a result, they seek loyalty solutions that help companies identify and track customers, reward behavior, and drive deeper engagement and relationships. In fact, the majority of marketing decision-makers at large and midsize organizations that are using marketing automation tech indicated that they are planning to, or have implemented customer loyalty technologies or services.
  • These are the top 15 vendors in a very crowded and convoluted market. The loyalty market is mature and the lines dividing various types of loyalty providers are blurring. The vendors we included in these evaluations all offer strong, purpose-built solutions for customer loyalty, with technology and services to support a full range of loyalty requirements, including strategy development and program design, customer and member data management, operational support, measurement, and analytics. As a whole, the breadth and depth of their capabilities varies based on target market needs. For example, solutions for large organizations offer more feature-rich solutions capable of supporting large and complex programs and integrations, while solutions for midsize organizations provide faster deployments, lower total cost of ownership, and more self-service tools.
  • Six leading providers for large organizations aggressively jockey for position. All of the Leaders in this evaluation — Brierley+Partners, Aimia, Kobie Marketing, Epsilon, Bond Brand Loyalty, and ICF Olson 1to1 — cater to organizations requiring support for large, complex loyalty programs, and all but one were Leaders in the last edition. From a current offering perspective, they bring mature loyalty strategy, management, and marketing capabilities to the table, and 10+ years of experience in the industry. With loyalty moving beyond the program, we see table-stakes capabilities like currency management move into active-maintenance mode while vendors strive for differentiation through investments in partnerships, expanding digital capabilities, and customer experience chops.
  • Three leading providers for midsize organizations offer fast, flexible solutions. All three leading providers in this evaluation — 500friends, a Merkle Company, CrowdTwist, and Aimia — bring flexible, easy-to-integrate platforms, and strong loyalty strategy, management, and marketing capabilities to midsize organizations.And, in some cases they are also starting to see traction among enterprise clients with their omnichannel and engagement-centric solutions.

For detailed strengths and weaknesses of each vendor, Forrester clients can find the full reports here and here. Please keep in mind that the written report just scratches the surface of the full evaluation. Download the interactive scorecard tool and use it to customize the Forrester Wave model for your organization’s needs. Or, if you’d like to discuss the findings or need additional guidance on a specific provider, please feel free to set up an inquiry.