How to Make Your Loyalty Program Stand Out from Competitors
July 28, 2021
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It used to be that having a loyalty program was enough to distinguish your business from your competitors. These days though, loyalty programs are a standard component of most brands’ business models – without one, you risk losing customers to competitors that can offer a strong emotional connection and a more wholesome customer experience.
So in a market where consumers have so many options to choose from, how can you make your loyalty program stand out from the competition?
Here are 12 techniques for how to make your loyalty program stand out from its competitors – some are tried and tested classics, and others are relatively new concepts that are rapidly changing the loyalty space.
1. Surprise and delight your customers
A LoyaltyOne survey revealed that 95% of respondents say Surprise & Delight improved their perception of a company, 56% told their peers about it, and 34% gave the company more business as a result of this positive experience.
It doesn’t take much to keep your loyalty program members surprised and delighted. Offer customers an upfront reward just for joining your loyalty program – this immediately boosts signups, and from here you can surprise them with things like birthday gifts, signup anniversary offers, and even the occasional “just because” reward.
Remember, these gestures don’t have to be elaborate or excessive. A simple discount or freebie will show that you value their business, and it keeps your brand front of mind.
2. Incorporate value-add marketing into your loyalty program
A HubSpot study revealed that 47% of buyers view 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep, while 82% of marketers report actively using content marketing in 2021 – up 70% from last year.
In a nutshell, value-add marketing is the process of sharing helpful content with your customers, which helps them to get the most out of your products or services.
The idea is to establish your brand as a reputable source of information, and strengthen the emotional connection between your business and its customers by demonstrating that you care about their experience with your product, even after you’ve made the sale.
IKEA’s blog is a great example of how the global furniture retailer provides its customers with expert advice and recommendations for absolutely free.
Assuming your loyalty program requires a customer’s email address to join; a bold, vibrant and well-structured e-newsletter is a highly effective way to engage your highest-spending customers with informative content that enhances their brand experience without asking for anything in return.
If your business sells homewares, offer your loyalty program members some interior design tips. Grocery stores can dish up a variety of delicious recipes each week, while an online gaming shop might keep its members updated on exciting industry news and expert reviews on the latest gaming chairs, headphones and so on.
The trick is to determine what information would benefit your customers, and give it to them in the most engaging way possible – think videos, quizzes and blogs with eye-catching images.
3. Take your loyalty program’s personalization to the next level
Bond Brand Loyalty found that 87% of US consumers are willing to have various details of their activity tracked in exchange for more personalized rewards and brand experiences.
Personalization is nothing new to the customer loyalty world – in fact, it’s one of the best benefits of having a digital rewards platform that’s capable of segmenting customers into specific categories for a tailored experience.
However, the extent to which these platforms can personalize the loyalty experience is rapidly increasing; to the point where it’s mind-boggling! Depending on your digital loyalty program provider, you may be able to send customers heavily targeted communications directly to their mobile devices, based on previous transactions and spending habits.
If you’re serious about your personalization tactics, you’ll even offer tailored rewards that appeal to each individual customer – free shipping for the customer who regularly buys coffee beans online vs. unlimited coffee refills for the digital nomad vs. skip-the-queue perks for the busy commuter, for example.
4. Give your customers social currency, with experiential rewards
According to Forrester Research, 39% of active loyalty program members report being interested in redeeming their accrued points for experiential rewards.
An experiential reward can be anything from exclusive access to pre-season sales or free tickets to a product launch, to complimentary in-store cooking classes, hairstyling workshops or networking meetups.
A few years ago, I booked an Etihad flight from Australia to the UK and received two free nights’ accommodation in a five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi. The airline offered it as an incentive for passengers to extend their stopovers and boost tourism to the region.
Etihad paid for my two nights’ accommodation, and in exchange I’ve spent the last three years telling peers about the experience, and advocating Etihad for anyone who is flying through the Middle East. I also posted plenty of content on social media while I was there, which was then seen by my followers – thus free marketing for Etihad!
Especially in this COVID era, people crave experiential rewards. By giving your customers something to brag about on their social media pages, you’re tapping into an excellent resource for reaching a wider audience with minimal investment.
5. Make sure your loyalty program is aesthetically pleasing
San Francisco State University conducted research that found aesthetics play more of a role in acquiring a customer’s loyalty than factors like functionality and price.
When figuring out how to make your loyalty program stand out from competitors, a visually sleek design is essential. A cluttered or overwhelming interface will instantly put people off, and a good rule of thumb to work by is the classic “less is more”.
Rather than opting for text-heavy chunks of information to explain how the loyalty program works and the various perks, benefits and side promotions; instead focus on professional photographs, video tutorials or image-based instructions, and sleek branding in general.
Especially in regards to mobile loyalty apps, a simple and straightforward design is much more likely to maintain its real estate on a customer’s phone!
Once you’ve put some thought into the visual side of things, it’s time to make sure your loyalty program provides an efficient, convenient and streamlined experience that is consistent across all channels.
By this, I mean that a customer should be able to enjoy the same optimized loyalty experience whether they’re using your mobile rewards app, logged into your website’s member portal, or even interacting with your staff in-person at point-of-sale.
Then there’s the other touchpoints, like instant messaging support, 24/7 chatbots and so on. Consider how your various touchpoints synchronize with each other, and make sure your loyal customers are enjoying a seamless and cohesive experience.
7. Gamify the customer loyalty experience
Deloitte found that media companies which successfully gamify their marketing strategies notice a 30-40% increase in their online customer interactions. Meanwhile, 40% of millennials say there should be games within loyalty programs.
From earning bronze, silver or gold trophies for our progress learning languages on Duolingo, to being told that our LinkedIn profile is only 17% shy of being fully complete; we all respond to gamification.
In loyalty, this technique involves taking standard functions of a typical rewards program (like accruing points, redeeming rewards or progressing towards the next “tier” of VIP status) and applying the fun or competitive components of gaming to the process.
If creating brand ambassadors is the primary objective of the marketing funnel, then user-generated content (UGC) is the Holy Grail of loyalty marketing.
After all, what business doesn’t want to have its customer posting favourable reviews, helpful instructional guides, engaging YouTube tutorials and simple Instagram snaps of its products and services online?
Not only is it free advertising, but it’s likely to make much more of a positive impression on people than standard marketing. But instead of waiting for customers to create UGC out of the kindness of their hearts, why not reward them for it with double points and enticing freebies?
Incentivizing UGC is a remarkably effective method for building hype around your brand online; and rewarding people for writing blogs or posting photos of your products is a sure-fire way to make your loyalty program stand out from your competitors’ loyalty programs.
9. Hold exclusive competitions just for loyalty program members
In addition to your standard rewards, consider running incremental prize draws with experiential rewards to boost engagement and set your loyalty program apart from others.
As an example, our Stamp Me digital loyalty app features a Scratch & Win function that allows businesses to send their customers spontaneous competitions via SMS, email or push notification. Canadian food chain Kinjo Sushi Bar & Grill regularly uses this feature to hold instant prize draws, exclusively for loyalty program members.
10. Re-engage lapsed customers to stand out from the competition
According to Moosend, 45% of abandoned cart emails get opened, 21% inspire a click-through to the abandoned cart, and 11% result in a completed transaction.
Your ability to win back lapsed customers is a clear and undeniable reflection of whether or not your loyalty program is managing to outdo your competition. Abandoned cart emails are a very low-maintenance way to potentially win back a loyalty program member who was drifting uneasily close to your competitors, but there are various other techniques you can employ.
Try sending automated offers at pre-set durations of zero loyalty program participation, to see if that entices them back.
Alternatively, you can reach out to remind them of their current loyalty status, perhaps with a gentle nudge to let them know how close they are to their reward (and what they need to do to get it!).
If all else fails, you can still ask them where you fell short of their expectations. At the very least, you might gain valuable feedback on how to improve your loyalty program, which will help you stand out from your competitors in the future.
11. Good Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives help to set your loyalty program apart from competitors
Cone Communications found that almost 90% of consumers’ shopping habits are influenced by which brands stand up for the issues the customer cares about.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – brand loyalty boils down to establishing an emotional connection. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more effective mechanism for developing a strong emotional connection with your customers than fighting for a worthy cause together.
By investing in a good cause that aligns with your brand’s core values – and then clearly conveying to your customers how their participation in your loyalty program contributes to this cause – you give them a distinct reason to choose your business over your competitors’.
The trick is to make it as simple as possible for your customers to make a positive change in the world – just like UNICEF donation bins at the airport make it easy to donate your leftover currencies when travelling.
A common technique is to give rewards program members the option to donate the financial equivalent of their loyalty points to a charity of their choice. American Express offers this service to its cardholders, resulting in millions of dollars going to Save the Children, Breast Cancer Now, The Global Fund, NSPCC and more.
12. Stand out from your competitors through exceptional customer service
As is the case for any business in every industry, the best thing you can do to distinguish yourself from your competition is to deliver impeccable customer service and support.
Thankfully, this process becomes much easier when you have a quality digital rewards platform, because you gain the ability to automate and even personalize the customer support experience.For example, by providing your customers with a mobile loyalty app, you give them a direct line of two-way communication with your business. This is ideal for streamlining individual customer support incidents, while the data captured by the rewards platform provides convenient insights to previous purchases, interactions and anything else that might help improve your service.
You can even build feedback forms into your loyalty program as a standard feature available in the digital rewards app, where customers can earn points just for submitting helpful feedback.
Rewards members who have already lodged a complaint before might have their frustrations alleviated with a “no questions asked” returns policy, while customers who take the time to review your product (regardless of whether it’s a positive or negative review) can be surprised and delighted with a message along the lines of:
“Hi there [name], we appreciate the review! Here’s a free [reward] on us, to show our appreciation. See you soon!”
A digital loyalty app allows you to send this message directly to their mobile device via push notification, for a more personal customer experience.
How to make your loyalty program stand out from competitors
While tried-and-tested techniques like gamification, value-add marketing and experiential rewards are always an effective way to provide customers with an unparalleled experience, there’s no limit to how you can make your loyalty program stand out from your competitors’ loyalty programs.
It’s important to keep a close eye on what your competition is offering, to ensure that your own loyalty program isn’t falling short in any key areas.
Similarly, it’s worth paying attention to emerging trends and developments in the customer loyalty space – this ensures your brand is always among the first to embrace these innovations, thereby staying ahead of the game!
To discuss how Stamp Me can provide your business with a highly engaging digital rewards program that will retain more customers, boost brand loyalty and firmly set you apart from the competition, get in touch with our professional team today.