In uncertain times, loyal customers can mean everything to your business. Establishing a strong brand community from the get-go with your first customers is not only great for sustainable growth but can also solidify loyalty to your brand during difficult sales periods.

Like many things, loyalty doesn’t come for free: it’s a transaction between business and consumer. Having an amazing product and great customer service are a good start, but rewarding your customers for interacting with your brand can be the deciding factor between making or losing a sale. Investing in loyalty can result in a positive return on investment and play an integral part of your business strategy.

Although it’s never a bad time to start a loyalty program, rewarding your first customers right away can reap more benefits. Here’s why:

You can make long-lasting relationships with your first customers

Nurturing relationships is essential to growing your business - especially for new businesses. Without proven credibility, your first customers can be the hardest to acquire, however, they can also be some of the most important customers your brand will ever have. Your first customers could become your most loyal brand advocates. Ensuring their experience with your store is delightful will increase the likelihood of them becoming a repeat customer or sharing their positive experience with a friend or family member.

71% of consumers who are members of loyalty programs say membership is a meaningful part of their relationships with brands. Rewarding your customers right away will let them know that you want to form a long-lasting relationship that is mutually beneficial. A great way to achieve this is with sign-up bonuses or rewarding your customers based on dollars spent. Don’t forget to send follow-up emails this will act as a reminder of the points they now have, as well as add motivation for another purchase.

Olaplex uses their email marketing effectively by following-up with customers after each purchase notifying them of the points earned. This is a great way to let your customers know what else they received aside from the items in their cart and give them reason to return sooner than later.

If you shift perspective to think of customers as relationships to your business rather than transactions, it can help grow a stronger connection to your brand. Rewarding these relationships right away is the best way to kick-off a healthy and exciting new connection.

Loyalty is good for business

As a small business owner, business decisions that are low-cost for high value are ideal. Investing in loyalty can actually improve your bottom line. Keeping a current customer costs you 3-10 times less than acquiring a new one whereas returning customers are responsible for 40% of ecommerce revenue. They also spend double the time on your store than new customers, and the good news is you’ve already won them over.

Returning customers know what to expect. If you’ve already rewarded them for their first interactions with your business, they have points to earn, VIP tiers to strive towards and rewards to redeem. This additional incentive on top of great service and quality products will keep your customers coming back.

Focusing your strategy on return customers can increase profits, decrease abandon cart rates and help you build a solid customer base.

Stay ahead of your competition

With the level of competition present even in niche markets, the last thing you want to do is fall behind. There are 2.1 billion loyalty program memberships in the U.S. alone, so if you don’t reward your customers, you’re already behind those who do.

We’ve talked before about the dangers of investing in loyalty too late, and we stand by this. For Tim Hortons, being up against other coffee giants who have had rewards programs for years, what will make coffee drinkers change their ways now, especially if they’ve already accumulated tons of points towards another program? They fail in comparison with Starbucks specifically, who launched their Starbucks Card Rewards Program in 2008, over ten years before them.

86% of shoppers said they've joined a loyalty program to collect points for rewards.
- RetailTouchPoints

Rewarding your first customers right away will ensure that they start building their points (and loyalty) with you from their very first interaction. Keeping up with or ahead of your competition will help your business understand it’s competitive advantages/disadvantages, know when you need to iterate, and if you’re falling behind.

Gain insight into your customers

You can learn more about how people interact with your brand through your loyalty program. Monitoring these first interactions with your brand are key in understanding your customer. What incentives excite your customers? Who are your best customers? Which campaign was the most successful? Loyalty can give you insight into customer engagement and your overall customer experience.

Using this knowledge, you can discover who your profitable customers are vs. your non-profitable customers, and segment your communications toward the profitable ones. This will make a huge impact on how meaningful your interactions are with your customers and make sure that you’re appealing to the correct audience.

Using a best-in-class customer loyalty platform you can easily manage your members and access their points balance, referral URLs, VIP tier, and reward history. Smile Admin allows you to make changes to your program, manage your members, and see actionable program insights all in one convenient place.

With the insight you gain from your loyalty program metrics you can make impactful changes that will ensure that you make your customers happy while also benefiting your brand.

Acquire new customers while retaining your current ones

There are many ways to reward your customers through your loyalty program, and one of these ways is through referrals. This is particularly essential for a new business as it can increase the speed of your growth if your first customers refer others. Referrals are valuable because they reward the original customer and give your new customer a great first experience, becoming a successful way to build trust with your brand. Customers who are referred to your business are up to 5x more likely to make a purchase than customers who were not, since 84% of consumers trust the recommendations of others over any other form of marketing.

Who trusts referral marketing - generation trust levels

This can also help you build social proof when people refer your brand to their peers online. Referrals open up a new way for customers to engage with you beyond your website and products.

Smile rewards referral traffic over time analytics

With you can track referral analytics in real-time from traffic to revenue earned from referrals. This will give you a solid understanding of how successful your referral program is or if you need to make changes.

Leverage your loyalty program for maximum benefits! Referrals are just one method of gaining insight and organic growth through your loyalty program.


There are really no downfalls to rewarding your first customers right away. It’s the perfect way to jumpstart a harmonious business/consumer relationship, start building your brand sustainably, stay in line with your competition, better understand your customers, and have your business grow organically through your brand community.

Start building customer loyalty
Keep one time shoppers coming back with rewards