If I told you that customers are looking for more than discounts and coupons from a loyalty program, would you believe me? Surveys show that the average shopper is part of 9 loyalty programs, but what prompts them to join all of them? Is it really just to save money, or do they have other expectations?
With such a widespread adoption of loyalty programs, key features of successful programs have begun to emerge and these patterns tell us what customers really look for. We’ve managed to break these trends down into five major categories of expectations that customers have of your rewards program. If your business is able to effectively meet these customer demands, you’ll be well on your way to establishing strong customer loyalty.
Customers Expect You to Care About Them
One of the most common problems a loyalty program can have is not understanding what their customers are looking for. Many brands make the mistake of assuming that by simply rewarding them with discounts customers will become more loyal to their business.
This is entirely the wrong approach. Instead, the focus should be on creating an emotional connection between your brand and your customers. 79% of shoppers only consider brands that show they care about them, and building this connection makes it more likely that they will visit your store again in the future. By making customers your priority, you can build a program that anticipates and exceeds their needs as soon as they join.
A great way to show your customers that you care is by offering birthday rewards. This small recognition is a great way to personalize your rewards experience to every member, making sure that they feel special and recognized for their membership.
Protalus does an excellent job of this by offering loyalty members 500 points (equivalent to $5) every year on their birthday. By making this a central part of their earning process, they’re showing customers that they care about each member individually and want to recognize them accordingly.
Sephora has also mastered the craft of personalized experiences by recommending specific products that match each customer’s eyes, skin type, and complexion. This shifts the brand’s image from just another big corporation to a trusted advisor and friend.
Customers Expect to Save Money
While it’s true that customers want you to care about them, the biggest reason customers join rewards programs is still because they want to benefit financially. 57.4% of consumers have said that saving money was their primary reason for joining a loyalty program, which means your program should offer them opportunities to do so.
A points program is a very effective way to do this. Giving customers points that can be cashed in for discounts on future purchases creates a powerful switching cost that encourages them to keep shopping with your store. Camera Ready Cosmetics rewards their customers for engaging with their store in a number of ways, including purchases, social shares, and customer reviews. For every 100 points a member earns, they receive $1 off a future purchase that can be redeemed in different amounts.
Offering a simple way for customers to earn and redeem their points makes for a satisfying rewards experience for customers. You can even take this to the next level by running events where consumers can earn bonus points.
These events allow customers to get to the rewards they want faster and encourage additional purchases that may not have happened without the added incentive. As a result, these events are a huge benefit for both you and your customers, knitting your rewards experience and the value they’re looking for even closer together.
Customers Want to Choose Their Own Rewards
Even though most customers join a loyalty program to save money, they still like to have options. Choosing a reward is one of the best parts of being a rewards member, so it’s important to remember that not every customer is motivated by the same type of reward.
It’s like going to the arcade as a kid: some kids are happy to spend their tickets as soon as they win them on the small prizes like candy, while others have their eyes on the 7 foot tall teddy bear and are willing to save. By ensuring that customers can redeem their points on both large and small rewards, you make sure everyone is happy with what your program is offering.
A program that does a great job of this is “Who’s Hoo” by Evy’s Tree. They’ve structured their program in such a way that customers can spend as little as 500 points or as many as 4,000 depending on the type of reward they’re looking for. This generous spending range ensures their customers are able to redeem points in the ways they prefer, keeping everyone engaged at every stage in their rewards journey.
Customers Want to Feel Special
People always like feeling special, and your program members are no different. Part of the reason customers join loyalty programs is to feel like part of an elite group -- one that deserves special treatment. Rewards are the perfect tool for satisfying and meeting this expectation, especially when used in a VIP program.
VIP programs help you identify who your most loyal customers are and reward them accordingly. By setting up your program in tiers with increasing benefits, you’re able to drive customers to purchase more often and in greater quantities. The system allows only the most loyal customers access to the top tier, which acts as an incentive to continue spending to gain access to the best rewards.
SUBPAC is incredible at offering rewarding experiences to their three groups of loyal members. Their top tier offers behind the scenes access and events, as well as first access to new products. For tech fanatics like SUBPAC’s customers, these rewards are extremely motivating because it gives them a chance to be on the cutting-edge of a new technology. Recognizing these desires in their core customer base gave SUBPAC the leverage they needed to design a program that anticipates their best customers’ expectations and delivers an experience accordingly.
Not only are tiers are an effective way for you to identify who your best customers are, but they’re also great at encouraging customers to share their loyalty status. If brands like Sephora and Starbucks have taught us anything, it’s that customers love to brag about their program status. With VIP tiers you’re able to create powerful brand advocates that feel special and, as a result, expand your marketing reach.
Customers Expect a Beautiful Experience
Gone are the days of early 2000s web design. Nowadays, customers expect a beautiful, seamless brand experience when interacting with your business. This makes it essential that your rewards program is personalized and on-brand.
The first step to creating a cohesive and beautiful brand experience is putting some thought into how you name your program. Rather than naming your program something generic, you want to evoke an emotional connection between your customers and your brand. If you sell weight lifting supplements, you could build your program around the idea of strength and health with a name like “The Barbell Bunch.”
You can build on this by creatively naming your rewards tiers, personalizing your icons for each level, and making your customer panel match your brand. An awesome example of this is Mielle Organics. They deliver a brilliant experience for their loyal customers with custom colors, icons, and an elegant user interface.
Another way of taking your branded rewards experience to the next level is a clear and informative explainer page for your program. You need to make it easy for customers to see the value the program offers so that they can decide if it’s worth it to join. Few companies make this as clear as e.l.f.’s “Beauty Squad”.
The beauty brand’s explainer page clearly lets customers know what they will receive for joining the program, how they will earn points, and the rewards that they will enjoy after joining. The page also makes it simple for a new customer to join the program, with clear calls to action that keep them from having to search for an account creation page.
By building a beautiful rewards program you’re able to effectively convey your brand’s value to your customers. As a holistic part of your overall brand experience, your program treats loyal shoppers to a more immersive brand experience that leaves them impressed with your business.
The Customer is Always Right When It Comes to Rewards
By anticipating what customers expect from your loyalty program, you can optimize it to fit the needs of a diverse group of shoppers. The five expectations we outlined here are an excellent starting point for building your own rewards program or improving your current one.
If you’re looking for more advice, go straight to the source! Asking your customers what they want will not only help deepen their relationship with your brand but will also ensure they fall in love with your loyalty program right away. That way, you’re not just meeting expectations -- you’re also exceeding them.