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Loyalty Programs

How Long Does it Take to Implement a Loyalty Program?

Written by 
Brad Davis
February 4, 2021

When it comes to retaining customers and building brand loyalty, it’s no surprise that a well-structured digital rewards program is your ideal solution. But how long does it take to implement a loyalty program?

The answer you are looking for is “no time at all – you can create one today!”, right? And yes, this is true. But in reality, it’s more of a “how long is a piece of string” situation.

Depending on your specific requirements, it could take as little as a day, or as long as several months to create an effective loyalty program that caters for the needs and goals of your business.

So, to determine how long it will take to implement a loyalty program (as well as how much it will cost), you first need to make a few decisions.

How sophisticated do you want your loyalty program to be?

question mark in a hallway

It goes without saying that there’s a huge difference between Amazon Prime’s rewards program and your local barber’s “Get 50% Off Your 5th Cut” offer.

Side note: Even the world’s most sophisticated loyalty programs (i.e. Starbucks Rewards, Sephora Beauty Insider and Lululemon) are simple from the customer’s point of view. Simplicity is key to growing loyalty, and customers are quickly put off by cluttered, complex or confusing loyalty programs.

Quick option: Choose a SaaS loyalty app provider

If you are eager to roll out a loyalty program ASAP, then you can opt for a “Buy X, Get Y” style digital stamp card solution as early as today. There is a whole host of loyalty app providers out there that can provide your business with a convenient digital stamp card, ready for your customers to start using in just a matter of hours.

This loyalty program structure typically offers a single reward upon completion of the card, before resetting itself so that the same process can start over again. While the main goal is to incentivize repeat purchases, many loyalty apps contain some basic additional features.

As an example, Stamp Me offers a Lite, Pro and Elite version of our app with increasingly insightful functions to cater for companies’ varying needs.

H3: Longer option: Create your very own enterprise loyalty solution

Alternatively, you might require a more sophisticated and highly integrated rewards platform that is woven into the very fabric of your business – the likes of which we see in some of the world’s biggest brands.

This is referred to as an enterprise solution, and while it can’t be done overnight like subscribing to a SaaS provider, it is the ideal solution for large businesses with expansive customer bases across multiple markets.

Creating a custom-branded rewards platform that engages your customers through numerous touchpoints can take several months, but it can revolutionize your business.

For proof, look no further than athleisure giant Lululemon.

Lululemon recently trialled a new rewards program that involved charging members $128 per annum for access to a vast array of experiential rewards, including:

  • Free shipping
  • Regular ongoing discounts
  • Invitations to exclusive events
  • Free access to workout classes
  • Countless other experiential perks and benefits

The signup fee also includes a pair of pants or shorts from the Lululemon line, which usually costs around the $120 mark anyway, so the membership essentially pays for itself.

lululemon loyalty program

Image Source: Gartner

The trial has been a huge success in boosting loyalty, retention and engagement among Lululemon’s customers. Not surprising really; especially when you consider there’s a 73% chance that a customer who belongs to a free loyalty program will be willing to upgrade to the company’s paid VIP membership.

So from “out of the box” subscription services to fully integrated custom-branded options, there are a few variables when asking: “how long does it take to implement a loyalty program?”

Lululemon’s experiential approach to customer loyalty brings us to the next factor you must consider:

What kind of behaviour do you want to reward your customers for?

How Long Does it Take to Implement a Loyalty Program?

Gone are the days when a loyalty program’s sole purpose was to motivate repeat transactions. The modern day loyalty program rewards customers for a vast array of actions, including (but not limited to):

  • Referring friends and family
  • Sharing content online
  • Creating their own content around your brand
  • Providing feedback via surveys, quizzes, social media etc.
  • Birthdays, signup anniversaries and other customer journey milestones

Obviously, the more avenues in which you engage, communicate with and reward customers, the better – but these more sophisticated rewards programs also take much longer to develop and roll out.

If you plan to create this level of first-class loyalty experience for your customers, then you must first map out a clear rewards structure, and enlist the help of a decent third-party software developer.

It will take time, but you know what they say about all things worth doing...

Create your very own customized rewards program, or utilize a ready-made SaaS solution?

How Long Does it Take to Implement a Loyalty Program

There’s no question that it’s gotten far easier (and quicker!) for businesses of all shapes and sizes to implement a digital loyalty program.

According to the latest figures from StatCounter, more than half of all internet traffic now takes place on mobile devices.

So whether you are considering the overnight rewards program or the longer-game loyalty solution, one thing is for sure – your loyalty program should be optimized for mobile.

By having customers download your loyalty app and sign up in order to accrue points and redeem rewards, your business is able to gain valuable insights to each customer’s spending habits. This allows you to send targeted communications for a more personalized shopping experience, and this can do wonders for customer retention.

If your ambition is to simply give your existing customers an incentive to come back again and again, then you’ll find that an “out of the box” loyalty app solution will do the trick. Not only that, but you can have a digital loyalty app set up and ready for your customers to use by the end of the week (many providers even offer a free trial).

This solution will also provide your business with limited access to some nifty tools like automated birthday rewards, personalized communications via push notifications, gamified functions and more.

How Long Does it Take to Implement a Loyalty Program? Depends on the loyalty program

However, for businesses that really want to offer their customers a unique experience that offers “status” through experiential rewards and VIP perks, it might be worth taking the time to invest in an integrated enterprise solution.

Thankfully, Stamp Me can assist with both!

How long does it take to implement a loyalty program? When done properly, it should never be finished

And finally, once you’ve got a solid plan in place for the implementation of your digital loyalty program, don’t make the fatal mistake of setting it up and then leaving it!

Just like a car, rewards programs need regular maintenance to run smoothly. Pay attention to your customers’ needs, and make tweaks/adjustments/additions where necessary to ensure that your loyalty program continues to provide an exceptional brand experience.

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