Loyalty programs have been around since the early 1700s, but they really rose to fame in the 1980s with the birth of American Airlines’ Frequent Flyer Program. The Frequent Flyer program revolutionized customer loyalty programs for the modern era, and began customer loyalty arms race.
Big box stores and companies with deep pockets began to create card based loyalty programs to encourage customers to come back and shop again and again. These card based loyalty programs dominated the scene until the rise of ecommerce, then it all changed!
Online stores brought new loyalty possibilities and made loyalty programs affordable for everyone. The fortune 500 companies no longer have a stranglehold on great customer loyalty programs. In fact, today’s online loyalty programs are actually better, stronger, and surprisingly cheaper.
Why Online Loyalty Programs are Superior
In the past if you wanted to set up a card based loyalty program in your store it would take weeks maybe even months. Today it is much easier to set up a loyalty program for your online store. Implementation can take a few minutes on SaaS based platforms like Shopify and Bigcommerce, or a few days for larger hosted platforms like Magento.
No matter what ecommerce platform you are on there are online loyalty solutions that can be implemented faster than the loyalty programs of old. They are also much easier to set up. With Smile.io loyalty programs you can easily change and adjust how shoppers earn and spend points without the need for custom development.
An online loyalty program also avoids the need to have expensive plastic cards to keep track of shopper transactions.
Card based retail loyalty programs are great for rewarding points for transactions. They allow shoppers to earn points for their purchases, certain dollar amount spent, or specific items. These are great ways to entice shoppers but there is so much more out there.
An online loyalty program can reward points for those transactional actions, but also for a ton of other profitable actions that are impossible to do with a card based program. Online you can easily reward points for customer referrals, reviews, social sharing, and more.
The great thing about rewarding for actions like these, is that it drives value for everyone. Rewarding for actions like referrals and reviews gives value to your loyalty program members (points) but also drives value to the store through extended reach and visibility.
You can read more about how these actions drive additional marketing value by reading “Your Customers are Your Best marketing Agency.”
One of the best things about today’s loyalty program software is that the majority of it is SaaS based. This means that the software is stored in the cloud and is easy to download and get started. This cloud based software has a few key benefits.
First it makes customer loyalty affordable. In the past if you wanted to start a customer loyalty program there would be a huge cost associated with getting started. With cloud based software you pay a monthly subscription so you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg upfront.
It also allows you to always have the most recent version of your loyalty software. When you purchase software outright you have that software forever. But what happens when the next version comes out? You would have to purchase the software again. With cloud based software you always have access to the latest version of the software.
Online loyalty software allows you to create a program exactly how you want it, and branded to your store. Online you will never have a program dictated to you. When you start an online loyalty program you are in control.
Set up exactly what you want to reward for, how much you want to reward for it, and how much those points are worth. You also can name your program what you want and call your points whatever you want. With your online loyalty program you are in the driver seat.
What if I Have an Online and Offline Store?
Many online stores operate in the offline world as well. Your loyalty program can do the same. It is much easier to start with an online program and move it in store than it is to do the reverse. You can supplement a strong online loyalty program with in store earning and spending through POS integrations.
These types of integrations don’t require a loyalty card, the points are attached to a users account. That means your loyalty program isn’t dependent on them finding your card in their wallet that has 10 other cards.
The Benefits of an Online Loyalty Program
Today’s technology has made it easier than ever to start your own ecommerce store. Loyalty software has also followed suit. An ecommerce merchant can now easily implement a customer loyalty program that is as powerful and effective as the big box stores.
The best part is that you can customize and tailor the program to your liking and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If you are interested in creating a loyalty program just check out our features page to see what is available on your platform.