Program Case Studies

Rewards Case Study: Indigo’s plum PLUS Rewards

indigo plum plus - baby reading

Growing up with a teacher for a mother, reading was never really a choice for me. I was going to learn to love reading and that was that. Lucky for me, that’s exactly what happened. I love the feeling of starting a new book and escaping into its world for a little while. Personally, there’s no better place to discover my next great read than at an Indigo or Chapters. 

Walking down the aisles searching for my next story makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop. And seeing as Indigo is one of Canada’s favorite and largest book retailers, I know I’m not alone in this. Indigo recognizes that their most loyal bookworms are constantly shopping for new novels. With the launch of their new plum PLUS Rewards program, Indigo introduced many enhancements to their former plum rewards program including free shipping, discounts, and VIP access to exclusive events. 


Will this program revamp keep Indigo’s customers turning to the next page or have them shutting the cover for good? Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of the new fee-based membership program and find out.

The PLUS side 

With all the change that Indigo’s rewards program underwent, there are a lot of new benefits that customers new and old alike will get to experience. 

Low barriers to entry

Making any type of change to your loyalty program presents the risk of upsetting your loyal customers. “Does this change mean I will lose all my hard-earned points? Can I still earn the same rewards? Do I need to sign up again?” These are just a few of the questions that will be running through your program members’ minds. Whenever you update your program, it’s best to make the switching process as easy as possible to ease some of your customers’ worries.

indigo plum plus - irewards

The launch of Indigo’s new plum PLUS rewards meant the retirement of their previous subscription-based iRewards program. This program offered a $35 annual membership in exchange for discounts both online and in-store on books and other products. While it offers a lot of the same benefits as the plum PLUS program, it lacked one of the most attractive features - a points program. Indigo’s customers were forced to join both the iRewards program and plum rewards in order to take advantage of both the discount and points program. After years of listening to customers’ frustration, Indigo mobilized the feedback into the creation of the plum PLUS program. 

Plum PLUS rewards offers all of the benefits included in the former iRewards program, along with all of the current rewards of the free plum rewards program. However, many iRewards members had recently renewed or signed up for the old program, so along with assuring these customers that their memberships were valid until expiration, Indigo simplified the upgrading process by offering them the opportunity to convert to a plum PLUS membership at no additional cost for 12-months. 

This not only eliminates that risk associated with starting a new program for customers, but it allows Indigo to immediately start building better relationships with their brand community through rewards.

indigo plum plus - upgrade

With the plum PLUS program being a VIP-version of plum rewards, Indigo has also made the process of switching between these two programs very straightforward. Plum rewards members can upgrade their account at any point by paying the $39 membership fee to receive all of the same benefits and more. Additionally, when upgrading their account they are able to take their points with them! 

The same is true for the reverse - plum PLUS members are able to switch back to a free plum rewards account at any point and keep their points. This points guarantee creates very little risk associated with signing up for a plum PLUS account, which acts as a powerful motivator for loyal customers to try out the new and improved program. 

Starting a new rewards program, or even updating an old one, can be scary for both you and your customers. The best way to reduce the risk with this is making the conversion process easy and hassle-free! 

More ways to earn rewards

Whenever you change anything about your brand (including your loyalty program), there needs to be a reason. For Indigo, that reason was that customers were demanding more value out of their paid-subscription program. By offering more value out of the membership, customers have even more ways to earn rewards. 

indigo plum plus - plum vs. plum plus rewards

One of the biggest benefits of upgrading to the plum PLUS program is the discounts offered on almost everything. Whether you’re an avid bookworm or you can’t get enough of their cute home decor, Indigo gives shoppers the chance to save more with every order, encouraging repeat purchases. These discounts help customers recognize the short-term value of the program, helping with customer acquisition, while their points program and rewards demonstrate the long-term benefits. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the plum PLUS program is free shipping on every order with no minimum order value requirements. This allows Indigo to compete with Amazon’s free two-day shipping when coupled with the program’s additional benefits. For frequent purchasers, the shipping and delivery savings alone make the $39 membership fee worth it. It’s all about knowing what motivates your customers and giving them rewards that they truly value. 

indigo plum plus -  recommendations overlap

Another unique opportunity for members to earn points is presented through their recommendations section. As a book lover, I am constantly reading reviews and seeking out recommendations to find my next great read. Plum PLUS rewards uses data from previous ratings and purchases to suggest custom recommendations for each customer. If that isn’t valuable enough, customers can actually earn up to 10 points every day for rating their recommendations. Not only does this satisfy them with extra point-earning opportunities, but it gives them a more personalized experience, allowing them to discover products they’ll love faster. 

Offering a subscription-based rewards program can be a great strategy as long as you give your members more value out of that program. 

Engaging omnichannel reward experience 

Offering both retail and ecommerce channels is a great way to accommodate many of your different customers’ behaviors. Giving your customers the chance to earn points wherever they shop creates a positive experience for all types of shoppers. 

You might even have customers who shop through both channels depending on the type of purchase. I know I’d be more willing to buy a book online than some of Indigo’s fashion products. For example, when I’m buying a new wallet I like to pick it up and see it in person before buying it. With plum PLUS rewards, I’m able to earn discounts and points on whatever I choose to buy - wherever I choose to buy it!

indigo plum plus - app program listing overlap The plum rewards app makes it easy for users to take advantage of the program wherever they go. By being able to scan your card at checkout, check your points balance, and track your orders on your phone, Indigo gives members an integrated mobile experience that customers expect. Giving your customers access to rewards at their fingertips lets you stay top-of-mind when they’re making purchase decisions. 

Successfully engaging with your community requires a devotion to catering to their behaviours. Coordinating your online and in-store rewards program is a great way to bring even more value to your customers. Lucky for you, we happen to know of a tool that lets you offer in-store rewards with Shopify’s point-of-sale platform. ;)   

The Drawbacks 

There is no denying the value that plum PLUS rewards offers its members, but there are still several areas that could benefit from a new-and-improved edition.  

Rewards details are hidden at the back of the shelf 

The motivation behind every loyalty program lies in the rewards that customers are able to earn. So how motivating can a rewards program really be if customers can’t find information about the actual rewards? According to expectancy theory, one of the keys to motivating customers is instrumentality or the relationship between performance and outcomes. When rewards are confusing or there is a lack of information about them, this link to inspiring motivation is missing.

indigo plum plus - explainer page

This is where my biggest issue with plum PLUS rewards lies. While their explainer page is easily accessible through their navigation bar, it lacks an explanation of their reward tiers. Customers are forced to scroll all the way down to the FAQ section to find this information. 

Additionally, the page does little to distinguish between the plum rewards and plum PLUS programs. Instead the program details are buried away in the fine print at the bottom of the page. Updating your explainer page to promote new features is just as important as updating your rewards program itself.

indigo plum plus - events listing

The program also offers “VIP access to promotions and exclusive events” on their explainer page. However, this is the last customers hear of this on their website. These exclusive events are so exclusive that members aren’t even able to find them unless they are frequently checking their inboxes for Indigo emails, which several customers (including myself) opt out of. This raises the question - what is the point of offering VIP access to events if they’re not being promoted properly? 

When you are creating your rewards program you need to ensure that customers know what they are working towards in order to be truly motivated. 

Earning rewards takes lots of time and money

The next issue might just be the reason why Indigo has hidden their rewards so well - plum PLUS rewards’ tiers are so far apart that customers have to invest significant time and money to earn any rewards at all. Making your points program so hard to reach can turn away members or discourage customers from joining in the first place.

indigo plum plus - reward tiers

These exact same rewards are also offered to standard plum rewards program members. With no differentiation between the free and paid memberships, this points system offers little incentive to upgrade and pay those $39 a year. Customers who are paying to join that VIP community expect additional value, and simply aren’t getting it. 

While plum PLUS aims to offer points as a long-term retention strategy, the emphasis may be a little too long-term. Even with earning 5 points per dollar spent, customers still need to spend $500 for a $5 cashback rewards, a return of 1%. For those who buy hundreds of books per year, this may be motivating and valuable, but for most of us who buy less than 20 books a year, we probably won’t earn enough points to get that first reward. 

Making your rewards this hard to reach will more often than not get customers to shut the book on your loyalty program. Offering a variety of ways to earn points is only worthwhile if you make it easy to redeem those points. 

Rewards program information isn’t up-to-date 

As much as change can be exciting, it can also be confusing and overwhelming. It’s your job as a brand to make your customers as excited as you are so that they continue to support your brand. If you choose to change your loyalty program to better reflect your community’s values, make sure your web experience reflects those changesindigo plum plus - program comparisons overlapThis is another area where plum PLUS rewards could use a re-write. For starters, their website and app are still branded with the former iRewards program links. While Plum PLUS is brand new, this is still misleading and leaves new customers confused about what Indigo is actually offering. By directing a customer to a program that no longer exists, you risk confusing them and ultimately jeopardizing your credibility as a brand. 

Another problem area is that despite being able to redeem and earn points both in-store and online, customers are currently only able to sign-up for plum PLUS rewards in-store. Many customers choose to shop online because it’s easy and convenient and fits in with their busy lifestyle. I can’t remember the last time I went shopping at a mall, but I know I bought new shoes online last week! The inconvenience of having to physically go to the store, wait in line, and tell a cashier all of the information to sign up for a membership is enough to deter customers from joining in the first place. 

When you make changes to your rewards program, be sure to update every place your customers will interact with that program, and make joining it as low-friction as possible.  

Plum PLUS Rewards could use some editing 

While Indigo’s plum PLUS rewards offer some great benefits like free shipping and online and in-store discounts, the program is far from perfect. 

With a name that represents value and elite status, the points program doesn’t seem to measure up. Offering the same points and rewards for free and fee-memberships doesn’t create much incentive to upgrade. More valuable earning opportunities or more frequent rewards for VIP members would provide motivation for sustainable retention that it just doesn’t have yet. Offering more rewards is a great way to retain customers, but only if they know about it. Plum PLUS rewards could definitely use a few edits, but its ability to cater to customer needs through personalized recommendations and accessibility could still make this program a best-seller. 

Understanding what your customers want is the first chapter.
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