A sale is so much more than a sale. You never know when a walk-in can turn into one of your most loyal customers. It’s time to engage with your customers and show them that they are what make your business successful.
Building strong and lasting relationships is paramount in today’s competitive business landscape, where customer loyalty can be the difference between thriving and surviving.
In this article, we’ll delve into the art of cultivating customer loyalty, exploring strategies, tips, and best practices to transform casual buyers into dedicated advocates.
What is a customer loyalty program?
Customer loyalty programs are simply one of the best tools to help your customers stick with your brand. A customer loyalty program is a strategic marketing initiative designed to encourage repeat business and foster a sense of allegiance between a brand and its customers.
At the heart of any loyalty program are rewards and incentives offered to customers. These can come in various forms, including discounts, points, cashback, free products or services, exclusive access, or early previews of new offerings. Many loyalty programs require customers to become members by signing up or making a purchase.
Some programs also incorporate tiered structures, where existing customers can earn their way into higher tiers by demonstrating greater loyalty, usually through increased spending or engagement.
Amazon prime membership is a popular example of a customer loyalty program. It is a loyalty program that offers subscribers benefits such as free two-day shipping, access to Prime Video and Prime Music, exclusive deals, and more. It has been highly successful in retaining customers and driving sales.
A customer loyalty program serves the following benefits:
Reduced churn rates and increase customer lifetime value
Incentivize customers to make repeat purchases, increasing their overall spend
Fosters a sense of attachment and brand loyalty
Generate valuable data about customer behavior and preferences
The various types of customer loyalty programs
Customer loyalty programs come in various types and each type serves a different purpose. while some maybe point based loyalty programs, others may build customer loyalty using experiences. Let’s discuss all of these types of loyalty programs in details.
Points-based loyalty programs are a popular strategy where customers earn points for each purchase, which they can later redeem for rewards like discounts, free products, or exclusive items.
These programs motivate existing customers to return for more purchases, creating a customer loyalty. They also offer tangible benefits that customers appreciate. Points-based programs are great way to collect valuable customer data, enabling businesses to personalize offers and enhance the customer experience.
Popular airline brand Delta’s SkyMiles program is a great example of a point-based program. Under this program, travelers earn miles for each flight they take. These miles can be redeemed for free flights, seat upgrades, and other travel-related perks.
In a tiered loyalty program, customers are categorized into different tiers or levels, often with names like Silver, Gold, Platinum, etc. These tiers represent varying degrees of loyalty or spending, with higher tiers indicating more significant levels of engagement.
Customers start at the lowest tier and have the opportunity to advance to higher tiers by meeting specific criteria, usually tied to their spending or activity within the program. For example, they may need to reach a certain purchase threshold or accumulate a certain number of points to move up bottom line.
Sephora, a leading beauty brand, offers a tiered loyalty program where you progress from insider to the rouge title. Naturally, the benefits keep increasing as you progress. Sephora offers loyalty benefits in terms of samples, savings and experiences.
Paid membership program
In a McKinsey report, it has been found that customers are 62% more likely to spend more on a brand after joining a paid loyalty program.
Fee-based loyalty programs offer customers instant and continuous perks in exchange for a participation fee, which can either be a recurring charge or a one-time payment. While these other paid loyalty programs may necessitate the demonstration of their value to attract sign-ups, they can ultimately lead to increased customer value for the business.
Costco, a wholesale retail giant, offers an Executive Membership program that customers can join for an annual fee in addition to the standard Costco membership fee.
While the standard membership grants access to Costco stores and discounts on bulk purchases, the Executive Membership provides several additional benefits like earning a 2% cash back reward on most of their Costco purchases.
Punch card program
Punch card programs, also known as stamp card or loyalty card programs, are straightforward yet highly effective tools for encouraging repeat business and fostering customer loyalty.
Businesses provide customers with physical or digital punch cards. Each card typically has a set number of empty spaces or slots, which represent the number of purchases required to earn a reward.
Once the customer accumulates a certain number of stamps or punches (completes the card), they become eligible for a reward. This reward can vary and often includes a free product, discount, or another enticing benefit.
Experiential loyalty programs are a unique approach to building customer loyalty by providing memorable and exclusive experiences that go beyond traditional tangible rewards. These programs aim to create strong emotional connections between customers and the brand.
These can range from VIP access to events (e.g., concerts, sporting events, movie premieres) to behind-the-scenes tours, private chef dinners, or personalized services.
Unlike points or discounts, experiences tap into customers’ emotions, creating memorable moments that leave a lasting impression. These emotional connections often lead to increased brand loyalty and advocacy.
How to set up a customer loyalty program?
Here is step by step guide on creating loyalty programs.
Define your Goal with the Loyalty Program
Setting clear objectives for your customer loyalty program is essential as it aligns your strategy, focuses your efforts, and enables measurable outcomes. Well-defined goals also help customize the program to your specific business needs, hold teams accountable, and demonstrate value to both employees and customers.
If your primary goal is to increase customer retention, your loyalty program should focus on rewarding and incentivizing customers to continue doing business with your company over the long term.
If your goal is to encourage larger orders or higher-value transactions, your loyalty program should be designed to motivate and reward customers enough to increase their order size or frequency. If your objective is to collect valuable customer data, your loyalty program can serve as a means to gather insights into your B2B customers’ behavior, preferences, and needs.
When elaborating on your program objectives, it’s important to make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). This means setting clear, quantifiable targets, and establishing a timeframe for achieving them.
Choose the Loyalty Program Type
The next plan of action is to choose the type of loyalty program you would like to go for. We’ve mentioned the four main types above and each type serves a specific purpose. So, you must choose the one that serves your purpose.
Identify your main loyalty program goal – whether it’s retention, sales, data, or another objective – to guide your program type selection.
Analyze your B2B customers’ preferences, behaviors, and motivations, including buying patterns and spending habits.
Evaluate your business model and offerings to ensure alignment with the chosen loyalty program type.
Different loyalty program types have varying costs associated with setup and management. Ensure your budget aligns with the chosen program type.
Based on these considerations and others you may have, pick a loyalty program type you will go forward with.
Set Program Rules and Structure
Defining rules and giving a structure to your loyalty program is essential to ensure that your objectives are being met with the loyalty program. Setting program rules and structure includes:
Eligibility Criteria: Determine which customers are eligible to participate in the program. Consider factors such as customer type, purchase frequency, or spending thresholds.
Program Structure: Decide on the core elements of your loyalty program, such as earning and redemption options.
Reward Offerings: Choose the rewards that participants can earn. These can vary widely, from discounts on future purchases to exclusive access to resources or services.
Point Accumulation: Determine how customers will earn points or rewards. This could be based on factors like purchase volume, frequency, or loyalty tenure.
These might not be the only considerations so it is a good idea to spend an ample amount of time deciding the loyalty program structure.
Tip: Prioritize simplicity and transparency when setting up your rewards program, rules and structure. Clear and straightforward guidelines will make it easier for B2B clients to engage with your loyalty program, resulting in higher satisfaction and participation rates.
Select Loyalty Program Software
Choosing the right loyalty program software is a crucial step in the process of creating a loyalty program. This software will be the backbone of your program, helping you manage customer data, track rewards, and execute marketing campaigns efficiently.
Ensure that the software you choose aligns with your program’s objectives and complexity. Check whether the software can integrate seamlessly with your existing CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, POS (Point of Sale) system, and other relevant tools.
Lastly, opt for software that is user-friendly for both your team and clients. An intuitive interface makes it easier to manage the program and encourages engagement from participants.
Create a Marketing Plan
Creating a marketing plan is a critical component of launching and sustaining a successful B2B loyalty program. It involves developing a strategy to promote the program to your target audience, educate them on its benefits, and continuously engage participants.
Tailor your marketing plan to address their specific challenges and highlight how your loyalty program can provide solutions. Develop a multichannel marketing strategy that leverages various platforms such as email marketing, social media, your company website, and even offline channels like events and direct mail to reach your audience effectively.
Create informative and engaging content that explains how the loyalty program works, how to earn and redeem rewards, and the benefits of participation. This could include video tutorials, blog posts, or downloadable guides.
Use promotional campaigns to kickstart program enrollment and engagement. Offer sign-up bonuses, exclusive rewards, or limited-time offers to incentivize participation.
Launch the Program
The launch of your loyalty program is a critical milestone that requires careful planning and execution. It represents the moment when you introduce your program to your target audience, inviting them to participate and reap the rewards.
Consider hosting a launch event or webinar to introduce the program to your clients, answer questions, and provide a platform for initial sign-ups. Make it an engaging and memorable experience.
Ensure that the enrollment process is smooth and user-friendly, whether it’s done through your website, an app, or through customer service channels. Test the process thoroughly to iron out any issues.
Choose an appropriate launch date that aligns with your business calendar and industry trends. Avoid launching during busy or peak seasons when your clients may be overwhelmed. Establish feedback channels for clients to share their thoughts and experiences with the program. Use this feedback to make necessary adjustments and improvements post-launch.
How to measure the effectiveness of your loyalty program?
Here are four key metrics or indicators to measure the success of your loyalty program:
Customer Retention Rate: Customer retention rate measures the percentage of new customers, who continue to do business with you over a specified period. A higher customer retention rate indicates that your loyalty program is effectively retaining and satisfying customers.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): CLV calculates the total revenue a customer generates over the entire relationship with your business. An increasing CLV suggests that customers are not only staying but also spending more, which is a positive outcome of your loyalty program.
Program Engagement: Monitor the level of engagement within your loyalty program, including participation rates, points earned, and redemptions. Higher engagement metrics indicate that customers are actively involved and finding value in the program.
Net Promoter Score (NPS): NPS measures customer satisfaction and their likelihood to recommend your business to others. A rising NPS score suggests that your loyal customers are becoming advocates, which can have a positive impact on your brand’s growth and reputation.
These metrics provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your customer base and loyalty program and its impact on customer relationships and business growth.
The tips for you to get started
Provide a unique value
Craft a loyalty program strategy that delivers exclusivity. People tend to stick with things they find valuable. You have an edge because you know your customers, products, and services inside out. Use that knowledge to create an exceptional and valuable experience for your customers.
Include a variety of rewards
Include a variety of rewards in your loyalty program. Instead of just discounts, consider different options like giving away event tickets, running contests, offering free product subscriptions, or other perks. Depending on your business and industry, offering a mix of loyalty programs can help you attract and retain more loyal customers.
Set up plans for engaging with your customers
Create plans to engage with your customers. Make sure they’re aware of the loyalty programs you have in place. You can use various methods like emails, mail, text messages, social media, and ads to keep them informed. Since customers often forget about their earned points, remind them to use the rewards programs often. Choose a strategy that works best for your business to execute these efforts effectively, as the execution is a critical part of any process.
A loyalty program is an opportunity for you to keep customers coming back to you. Make sure you are not sleeping on it. Incorporate the advantage of successful customer loyalty program into your business and start creating your loyalty programs that are ideal for you today.
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