The idea of a loyalty program is to reward customers who repeatedly support your brand.
With so many businesses offering loyalty and rewards programs today, you have to stand out if you want your customers to hold onto your loyalty card or app, and keep coming back.
The hard truth is that loyalty programs are no longer a novelty, and they can quickly become an irritation if they don’t add genuine value to people’s brand experience.
So, if you don’t want your card to get binned or your app to be deleted, you have to put your customers at the centre of your brand’s reward experience.
What do we mean by this?
Firstly; understand your customers’ wants, and then evolve with them – always!
If your rewards program is not data-driven, it’s not going anywhere. And if people cannot access your rewards program on their mobile devices, your brand will be obsolete.
Technology is an ever-evolving sphere and people’s expectations keep pace with technology. So, to stand out from the rest, your rewards program must be variable and active in real-time.
Let’s dive into 5 trends that are currently driving successful customer rewards programs:
1. A data-driven approach:
Estimates and thumb-sucks don’t cut it anymore!
A data-driven approach to knowing what your customers want is the only way to individualise and personalise reward experiences.
You must be able to measure the success of your rewards program, and more importantly, you must be willing to implement change if it’s not increasing customer satisfaction and retention.
Regular customer surveys, measuring customer retention, negative churn, customers who do or don’t recommend your brand and must be monitored and remedied where necessary.
2. Omnichannel rewards:
Because people are connected on multiple platforms simultaneously, omnichannel capable reward programs are the only answer.
When you offer customers online, mobile app, telephone or face to face interactions, you are allowing them to interact with your brand in the way that suits their lifestyle.
This immediately tells customers that your brand cares.
Customers want a seamless shopping experience that offers them options like paying by credit card, same day shipping and the ability to earn points with every purchase.
Gift cards are also important to today’s customer. It’s all about convenience!
3. Socially relevant and responsible customer rewards:
The rise of socially relevant and responsible rewards is what today's customers want.
Factor in that millennials represent the largest generation in the global workplace and marketplace.
The Deloitte Millennials Survey in 2014 confirms that millennials are charitable and keen to participate in public life.
It found that 63% of millennials donate to charities, 43% actively volunteer or are members of community organisations, and 52% have signed petitions.
In addition, a recent Harvard Business Review study found that 85% of people are more likely to recommend a company with a strong social awareness purpose.
I am sure that by now you feel that your brand cannot afford to ignore these statistics.
4. Social influence is key:
Social influence weighs in heavily on brand loyalty, as well as buying decisions, so it is vital that you drive social media traffic through your reward program and marketing campaigns.
People buy into brands that they resonate with. A converted customer is likely to buy more often and spend more than a new customer.
That’s not all…
Loyal customers will share their positive experiences with their families and social networks through social media and word of mouth.
By driving social media traffic through your reward program and marketing campaigns, you activate your loyal customers to evangelise your brand on your behalf and recruit new customers.
5. Customer rewards should connect meaningfully:
Your brand values must be aligned with your reward experiences because people are easily put off by superficial grandstanding.
People are loyal to brands that they resonate with on an emotional level, and if your reward experience does not mirror your brand values, your customers will leave.
Once a customer has moved on, no amount of marketing or persuasion will make them return, and most people will share their unhappy experience with your brand via their social network.
Be innovative with your customer rewards program
There can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to any customer loyalty program simply because brands and their target markets differ vastly.
Successful brands hone in on their target market and work to keep that market sector happy and coming back. They also ensure that their reward programs are uncomplicated and easy for their customers to manage and earn rewards for repeat business.
Many grocery stores have refined their online shopping and points systems perfectly.
Customers earn points based on purchase value, and points can be converted into cash or discounts against future purchases.
This results in real cash savings for customers and that matters, especially in tough economic times.
Easy collection or delivery options not only save your customers’ time, but monthly specials for loyal customers means that these rewards programs are very well supported, bringing in repeat business and new customers.
So who is getting those customer rewards right?
They opted for an upfront fee for customers to buy into their Prime loyalty program.
For a $99 annual membership, regular shoppers get free two-day shipping on eligible purchases, unlimited streaming of movies and shows with Prime Video, and they can borrow books free of charge from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Amazon is said to be losing about $1 to $2 billion a year on Prime, but what they lose in costs is more than made up by increased sales.
Research shows that Prime members spend on average $1,500 a year on Amazon.com compared to the $625 per year of regular customers who are not Prime members.
Another success is Sephora who offer their customers a points-based loyalty program called Beauty Insider.
The stylish card appeals directly to their target market and every dollar spent earns the member one point, and accumulated points can be redeemed against purchases at checkout.
There are different programs offered, each at a different tier, and each tier comes with different benefits.
Top tier benefits include free makeovers, beauty classes and free monthly gifts. The success of Beauty Insider engages and appeals directly to their target market by giving them what they want.
And finally …
Successful loyalty programs engage with their customers at a level their customers understand, so knowing your target market is essential.
Offer tangible benefits and align your brand value and rewards with your customer base.
Customers want to know their brand, so regular blog posts, social media posts, detailed specials sent to customers’ email addresses, gift card options, and different program levels or tiers allow customers to earn points in a way that suits them, are all ways that add value.
Planning, analysis and a willingness to make changes if necessary are what makes a customer rewards program successful.
About Emma-Jane Shaw
Emma-Jane Shaw is the Chief Content Strategist for a digital marketing agency based in Cape Town, where she fuels her passion for writing, strategy and social media.