If 2016 was the year of rewards blunders and program refreshes, 2017 is all about wiping the slate clean. Some of the biggest brands in the world, including Macy’s, Office Depot, and Air Canada, are ditching their clunky loyalty efforts for more holistic programs.
Ready to see what outstanding loyalty looked like in 2017?
Topps: Now Rewards
Topps went all in with their rewards program—and it’s paying off. The program includes point rewards for purchases, social media shares, and referrals, in addition to an exemplary VIP program. Topps Now is promoted effectively but not excessively on their website, which creates a friendly and inviting sign-up process for new users.
With the help of a well-designed explainer page, it’s easy to understand and participate in Topps Now.
The highlight of Topps Now is undoubtedly the VIP program—and that’s not just thanks to the charming VIP tier names. What really makes it stand out is the free monthly Topps Now card for members of the highest tier. It’s an exemplary use of VIP rewards to deliver a special experience for their most loyal customers.
Why Customers Love Topps Now
Top tier members are given the celebrity treatment with exclusive gifts every month.
VerizonUp delivers what appears to be the most intriguing rewards scheme of the year. In an interesting take on subscription rewards, Verizon delivers a points-based program that feels like a gamified VIP program—without all the bells and whistles. Unlike the majority of points programs where points are accumulated for every dollar spent, VerizonUp awards members just one credit after $300 in spending.
By setting a high bar for points earning, Verizon customers feel challenged to reach that threshold faster, just like in a VIP program!
Verizon has also made earning credits extremely valuable by offering some incredible rewards. In exchange for only one credit, customers can receive deep discounts on popular services and a variety of device upgrades. The program also promises to surprise customers with unexpected rewards on special occasions, such as on their Verizon anniversary.
Best of all, VerizonUp delivers incredible experiential rewards by giving members access to special events with Super Tickets and Dream Tickets. While the program may not be for everyone, the diversity and generosity of the rewards make this a program worthy of your attention.
Why Customers Love VerizonUp
Dream Tickets give members access to experiences otherwise out of reach.
Klova: Sleep Squad
Klova launched their program earlier this year with a bang. This points and referral program quickly became a reference point for other online reward programs, thanks to its incredible art direction and intuitive program format.
The first thing we noticed about Klova’s Sleep Squad program is it’s beautifully designed explainer page. The art direction and animations pop right off the screen, creating an inviting experience for visitors learning about the program. Klova also shows their dedication to the mobile rewards experience by providing a step-by-step guide to the Sleep Squad program on your mobile device.
Another standout element is Klova’s “Give $10. Get $10.” referral messaging. It’s catchy, concise, and best of all delivers obvious value for program members. This program structure, otherwise known as a symmetrical referral program, is especially effective because it delivers balanced value and is easy to understand.
Why Customers Love Klova's Sleep Squad
The beautiful explainer page makes the program fun and easy to understand.
Esther & Co: VIP Rewards
Esther & Co. VIP Rewards members earn points in a variety of ways, including purchases, referrals, and when they sign-up. The best part? They reward generously! At a glance reaching the highest tier in Esther’s program might appear to be difficult, but once you see how much they reward for social sharing you quickly realize that’s not the case!
Of all the sharing options offered, Esther is particularly focused on Instagram. Brands around the world are using Instagram to build brand awareness and loyalty because users are eager to share their latest purchases with their followers. Instagram is an especially effective platform for clothing retailers, whose customers look forward to posting about their outfit of the day.
Esther is betting on Instagram by giving customers 25 points per Instagram share not just one time but twice a week! These “micro-referrals” are intended to help Esther grow its audience while keeping customer acquisition costs low. It’s an interesting take on rewarding social shares, and it may just work for you!
Why Customers Love Esther's VIP Rewards
Members can earn points for social media twice a week, making it the perfect program for the modern fashionista!
Pizza Hut: Hut Rewards
Taking a page out of the Domino’s playbook, Pizza Hut finally launched a mobile rewards program this year to take on its biggest competitor. Just like Domino’s, Pizza Hut’s Hut Rewards members can only earn points towards a free pizza by ordering through a mobile application, incenting consumers to forego ordering over the phone.
The basic mechanics of the program are simple: members earn 2 points for every dollar spent and can redeem a medium pizza for 200 points, or upgrade to large for an additional 50 points.
The program is described as having “unlimited points” since it allows users to earn on every dollar, contrary to Domino’s Piece of the Pie.
Domino’s Piece of the Pie’s biggest weakness is Hut Rewards’ greatest strength. While Domino’s only allows users to earn a maximum of 10 points on every order, Hut Rewards’ earning potential is unlimited. In fact, if you watch the Hut Rewards video above, Pizza Hut takes a clear jab at their competitor, saying: “You don’t have to settle for just a piece of the pie.”
Why Customers Love Hut Rewards
Pizza Hut does it better than Domino’s by allowing customers to earn “unlimited points” on every purchase.
Lids: Access Pass
In 2017, this prolific headwear retailer launched their mobile-first rewards program to wide acclaim. Using the Access Pass app, users can find the nearest store, explore new inventory, and manage their rewards all on one intuitive mobile app. As a successor to their paid-only rewards program Lids Club, Lids hopes to expand its reach with a more accessible program.
The program also gets some serious points (pun intended) with their “freemium” tiered structure, offering a free tier with status-quo rewards, and a pay-to-join tier that delivers an enhanced experience at every touch point. Lids Access Pass members on the base plan earn 5% back in points, in addition to a birthday reward and early access to sales.
For a $6 annual fee, Lids Access Pass Premium members earn 10% in points and receive, in addition to 20% off hats and embroidery, 10% off apparel, and an exclusive quantity discount on in-store purchases.
Why Customers Love Lids Access Pass
Lids’ new mobile experience makes it easier than ever to discover new merchandise and to manage rewards.
Buffalo Wild Wings: Blazin’ Rewards
In June Buffalo Wild Wings launched Blazin’ Rewards, a point rewards program with an extensive roster of redeemable items. Contrary to other restaurant rewards like Starbucks and Domino’s, Blazin’ Rewards allows members to redeem different menu items at different point values.
Since members earn at a rate of 100 points per $10 spent, they have the option to quickly redeem 250 points for a free soft drink or to save 3,500 points for a large serving of wings. The flexibility in points redemption delivers a program that feels persistently rewarding and engaging.
Blazin’ Rewards’ true claim to fame, however, is a partnership with Activision earlier this year. As part of the rollout of Activision’s Call of Duty: WWII, Blazin’ Rewards members could redeem 50 points for a Call of Duty 2XP code. This code allowed players to earn double the “experience points” during gameplay for a set 15 minutes. Members could earn up to 10 hours of 2XP during the promotion—calling for a lot of chicken and a lot of gaming.
Why Customers Love Blazin' Rewards
A partnership with Call of Duty allows Blazin’ Rewards members to enhance the gaming experience.
Overtone: The Color Club
Beyond building customer loyalty, reward programs can help propel innovative products into the mainstream. Overtone’s hair coloring products deliver a healthy alternative to harsh hair dyes with its pigment-depositing conditioners.
In order to get the word out, they launched The Color Club, a tiered rewards program with exclusive perks that rival the biggest names in beauty and cosmetics. Customers can earn points on purchases, referrals, and their birthday.
Overtone also invites all members of the Color Club to have their say on what color Overtone should introduce next. Perks like this take customer relationships from transactional to emotional, as they show a commitment to the customer’s voice and opinion.
The lucky few in Overtone's highest tier, Extreme, gain early access to new colors as well, driving home the value of staying loyal.
Why Customers Love The Color Club
Overtone engages members by giving them a say in what products they should launch next.
L’Oreal: Worth It Rewards
Is the punchcard mentality on its way out? After shuttering their quantity-based L’Oreal Gold Rewards program, L’Oreal returned this year with Worth it Rewards.
The new program feels more akin to Sephora’s VIB program, with a VIP tier, welcome package, and free samples of new products.
As a distributor first and an online retailer second, L’Oreal had to get creative about point redemption. Customers can collect points in three ways: linking a retail loyalty card, submitting receipts, or shopping online.
Where Worth it Rewards truly makes its mark, though, is the opportunity for customers to donate rewards points to charities associated with L’Oreal’s Women of Worth honorees.
Why Customers Love Worth It Rewards
Members can reward themselves or the world by donating points to charity.
Cinemark: Movie Club
In an effort to compete with MoviePass, a disruptive cinema subscription service, Cinemark launched a new pay-to-join loyalty program called Movie Club. While MoviePass offers unlimited theatre tickets for a flat $10 monthly rate, Cinemark doesn’t promise unlimited movies. Instead, it delivers some surprising advantages over MoviePass.
For just $8.99 per month, users are given one free movie, a 20% discount on food, and $8.99 movie tickets for their entire party. At an average ticket price of $13, Movie Club appears to be a great option for casual moviegoers, as users will see greater savings if they go in groups, and only see one or two movies per month.
On top of that, Movie Club is integrated into the Cinemark brand, delivering a more polished customer experience.
Why Customers Love Movie Club
Movie Club was made with casual moviegoers and families in mind with savings that extend beyond the box office.
Looking Forward to the Future of Customer Loyalty
All in all, 2017 was a fantastic year for customer loyalty programs.
Through innovation and experimentation, brands like VerizonUp, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Cinemark were able to radically alter how we think about customer loyalty.
Others like Klova, Esther, and Overtone put themselves on the map with fully branded experiences, while Topps, L’Oreal, Lids, and Pizza Hut used reward programs to deliver more of what their customers want.
It seems more and more brands are realizing loyalty goes far beyond a transactional relationship. We’re expecting to see more diversified rewards and unique program formats in 2018.