A loyalty program is meant to retain more customers and boost their profitability when they become members. But you still need to optimize your loyalty program just like every other marketing initiative you run. You want to maximize the number of people who join (attract), number of people who participate (maintain), and keep members from leaving (retain).
In this post we will be going over some best practices that will keep your loyalty program running at its best. When you focus on the three pillars (Attract, Maintain, Retain) you are ensuring that your program is top notch!
Attract More Loyalty Program Members
We can apply some pretty simple logic here. Give your shoppers what they want from a loyalty program and they will join. Miss the mark, and they will join someone else’s program.
Here are the two biggest drivers for someone to sign up for your loyalty program.
Stats from eMarketer
These two criteria are the backbone of almost every loyalty program out there, both in retail and ecommerce. The key take away is that they want to earn “points” for their purchases. They are not looking to earn cash back. Your shoppers prefer the allure of a different currency than what they are used to.
Because shoppers prefer a different currency than money, you want to make sure you get their attention with your points. That is why I recommend you don’t call your currency points, you should call them something that matches your brand and what you sell. For example Starbucks’ program calls their currency stars. You can also give your program a name to make it even more enticing.
Earning points and giving discounts on purchases can be done with almost every loyalty program software, including Smile.io. With both of the main reasons to join a program covered it should come as no surprise that getting a customer to join is the easiest pillar to construct.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that the average person is joining more and more programs (13.3 on average) but they are actively participating in fewer each year. This is great for attracting members but makes it more difficult to get the benefits of a loyal customer.
Maintain Your Member List
Now that you have convinced them to join your program, you now need to convince them to actively participate. The value of a loyalty program comes when shoppers are actively participating and engaging with the program.
According to research by Forrester an active loyalty program member will spend 30% more than a traditional customer and will rate their customer experience as better than non-loyalty members. This is just the beginning of all the benefits you will see when creating loyal customers.
You will not see these benefits when you first attract a member. You need to encourage your customers to earn and more importantly spend points. Your members will begin to become loyal when they experience the pleasant emotions of getting a reward with their points. According to eMarketer there are two main factors that drive program participation. It needs to be easy to understand and offer relevant rewards.
Stats from eMarketer
The easiest way to make a program easy to understand is by having a loyalty program explainer page. This is an area of your store that is dedicated to showing members all the ways they will earn points, and what they can redeem those on.
Our Bigcommerce and Shopify loyalty programs come with pre-built explainers, but you can make a more detailed one if you like. Gongshow’s explainer page (Magento) is an example of what you can do to showcase your program.
The second part of maintaining participation is to offer relevant rewards. As stated above the most desired reward is a discount on your product, but there are some variations you can use. If your customers like to save and get big rewards you can offer a reward schedule that makes it advantages to save points, like the example below.
If your shoppers have very short attention spans you may want to make it extremely easy to get the first reward. You can make it so that if they sign up for your program they will immediately get enough points for their first reward. With some programs you can also introduce more exclusive experiential rewards.
Be sure to study your customers to discover what will be the most motivating for them. If you want them to participate they have to be motivated to do so. I would recommend conducting a simple survey to see exactly what your customers are looking for.
Retain Your Loyalty Members
When I tell clients that they need to focus on retaining customers in their retention tool, I usually get a funny stare. This is because most people think that you can start a loyalty program, set it, and then forget it. If you take this approach your program will get old fast. When your program seems dated your customers will stop using it.
The two biggest reasons I see people leave or stop using a program is because they are not monitoring the program effectively, or they are making it way too hard to earn/spend points.
Stats from eMarketer
I know that every time you send out an email campaign you meticulously check your open and click rates. When you run an Adwords campaign you are checking performance daily, and I know you spend a good chunk of time in Google Analytics. So why would you start a loyalty program and then ignore it?
Not paying attention to your programs results is a surefire way to start losing members. If you don’t care then why should they? You should be checking on your program and customers monthly to see what is working and what you can add to retain them.
The second big factor in why your program members leave is because you are making it way to complicated for them. This is usually because you are trying to limit costs which usually limits a program success. You want to put your customers interest in mind before your own.
While only giving points for orders above $50 dollars on your house brand items during the holiday season looks good financially, it is too hard for members to understand. If you want to retain customers you need to make it easy for them to earn and spend points. If they find it to be a chore they will just leave.
How to Maintain An Online Loyalty Program
This post has shown you the three pillars of a successful online loyalty program. It is impossible to build a successful loyalty program if you are missing or lacking in any of these areas. You must first attract shoppers to join your loyalty program. They cannot possibly see value if they never join.
Next you must maintain their interest in your program. You need to make your program easy to understand and provide relevant rewards for your customers. Lastly, you need to retain members. Your program is not providing value if more people are leaving your program than are actively using it.
This is meant to act as a framework to cover the basics of loyalty program strategy. If you are looking to truly become a loyalty expert you can check out our resource center. It is full of ebooks, loyalty research, and case studies to make you a retention expert. You can also subscribe to the Smile.io blog for weekly loyalty articles!