Consumers now have seemingly endless options when deciding where to shop. Businesses not only have to get them in the door the first time, but they have to keep them coming back. Customer loyalty programs have become more innovative and customer-focused.
Companies generally used the ‘Buy X, Get One Free’ method for customer loyalty (remember the stamps and cards from Subway back in the day?). Now businesses are getting more creative – and increasingly depending on each other – to retain their customers.
Airlines have tried to gain loyalty through points systems for years. Some passengers who don’t fly often can get frustrated with expiring miles and lengthy waits for real rewards. Virgin Airlines addresses that issue with a tiered reward system, so customers can start seeing benefits (decreased wait time, discounts on parking) right away.
Starbucks rewards its customers multiple ways. Customers can add rewards by purchasing coffee, food, bagged coffee in stores, and completing different tasks online. Starbucks has become so successful with rewards that some coffee shops in Washington D.C. have developed an anti-loyalty program. Twelve coffee shops in D.C. have banded together to encourage their guests to shop local. Coffee connoisseurs can use their rewards card at any of the twelve shops, and receive a free cup of coffee at any of those shops after six purchases.
One company that’s leading the way in customer loyalty is the Belly Card, based in Chicago. With Belly, consumers have a physical card and a free app. When they visit a business that uses the Belly Card, they can check-in, building up points towards rewards.
Businesses can customize their rewards any way they want to. Some creative rewards through Belly include:
A ride to and from class for a day (from an electric car company in Austin)
Picking the music in a fitness class (from a gym in Florida)
A date with a staff member! (This works for a cupcake shop in Chicago. If anything, it gives the customer and staff member a good story.)
When developing a loyalty program for your business, keep these ideas in mind:
Be creative. An innovative reward will stay in the mind of your customer base.
Reward early. Don’t make the customer work too hard to gain a reward. Give them something early so they’ll keep coming back.
Collaborate with others. Working with complementary businesses shows the customer you’re thinking of their needs and you have the community in mind. Win-win!
Next month, we’ll take a look at how online businesses are rewarding their customers.