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The Power of Social Impact Rewards in Loyalty Programs

Written by 
Brad Davis
August 28, 2020

It should come as no surprise that, as consumers’ priorities change, the customer loyalty landscape must also evolve to reflect this. In order to stay aligned with consumers’ changing values, brands must constantly consider their own values, and reward customers in exciting new ways… hence, social impact rewards.

As we discussed in our other article on how corporate social responsibility impacts loyalty programs, it’s no longer enough for businesses to simply weave socially responsible themes through their brand messaging and PR campaigns.

Brands must demonstrate that they are doing their part, through their actions.

Consider that almost 90% of consumers take CSR practices and policies into account when deciding which brands to shop with. A loyalty program that rewards sustainable and ethically responsible behaviour can be a powerful mechanism for creating an emotional connection with customers.

Meanwhile, a 2019 Insider & Morning Consult Survey revealed that Millennials are more stressed out about their finances than any other generation.

With Millennials holding such a huge share of global spending power, shouldn’t businesses be brainstorming ways to alleviate this financial stress through innovative rewards?

By incorporating social impact rewards into your loyalty program, you can simultaneously achieve the following goals:

  • Position your brand as a socially responsible business
  • Offer more enticing rewards that directly benefit your customers socially
  • Boost brand loyalty and increase customer retention

What are some ways I can integrate social impact rewards into my loyalty program?

1. Reward customers for recycling, repurposing or reusing products

repurposed cans for pot plants
Repurposed cans for pot plants

UK supermarket chain Iceland offers customers a special “reverse vending machine” that awards 10 cents per plastic bottle dispensed into the machine.

This has encouraged many customers to bring their recycling to the shop with them, and then use the accumulated coins to discount their subsequent purchases – sort of like a DIY loyalty program! Not only is this a positive, green and mutually beneficial initiative for the business and customers alike, but it requires very little maintenance from staff. The machines recycled over a million plastic bottles in just one year.

Cafe chains like Starbucks and Costa have been offering discounts for bringing in reusable cups for a long time now, and MAC Cosmetics rewards customers with a free lipstick of their choice for every six MAC primary packaging containers returned to any MAC counter, as part of its Back to MAC Program.

2. Reward customers for leading healthy, active lifestyles

nike+ social impact rewards athletics
Nike+ program for athletes - Image Source: Nike

Aside from being a highly engaging loyalty program for its clever use of gamification, enticing rewards and omnichannel approach (among other things), Nike+ stands out from the crowd because it was clearly created for athletes, by athletes.

Rather than simply rewarding customers for making repeat purchases, referring friends and becoming brand advocates, Nike+ actually rewards you for exercising.

In the leading sports brand’s own words: “Whether you run more miles through the Nike Run Club app or do five new strength routines in the Nike Training Club app this month, every time you stride or rep, your physical achievements trigger rewards.”

The rewards vary, but include experiential delights such as product launch invitations, early access to new fitness products, and the opportunity to rub shoulders with Nike experts who can assist with training regimes.

3. Reward customers with cashback towards their retirement funds

old couple sitting at beach

This is where my point about millennials being stressed out about their finances comes into play.

Shops like Atlas Van Lines, OK Tire, Wine Rack and Sport Mart have partnered up with Equity Retirement Rewards to offer customers cashback rewards that go directly into your retirement fund, with approximately 3-4 per cent of every in-store purchase being awarded.

Depending on the type of fund, a consumer who spends $5000+ in these stores every year could see upwards of $25,000 extra in their account by retirement!

4. Rewards that reduce utility bills, resulting in a lower cost of living

utility bills cashback rewards
Utility bills

Continuing the theme of financial stress, another tried and tested approach to incentivizing customers with social impact rewards is to pay a portion of their utility bills for them.

In addition to worldwide travel insurance, cinema discounts and mobile phone insurance, NatWest customers enjoy 2% cashback on various bills, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Gas
  • Water
  • Electric
  • Internet
  • Council tax
  • TV subscription packages

Currently, nearly two million NatWest customers enjoy having 2% of these bills paid on their behalf, resulting in average savings of $100 per annum.

5. Rewarding customers with cryptocurrency

Crypto currencies

These days, there is no shortage of brands incorporating cryptocurrency into their loyalty program rewards structure.

Aside from keeping your rewards innovative, varied and all-encompassing to maximise customer satisfaction, “crypto rewards” appeal to the rising number of consumers who are embracing digital coins and cryptocurrency as a means to cut out the middleman in bank transfers and business transactions.

So there you have it!

These are just a few examples of social impact rewards being put to good use; either to improve customers’ social lives, health and fitness, or encourage sustainable behaviours.

While the points listed here are perhaps the most common approaches to social impact rewards at present, customer loyalty is a constantly evolving industry, and the possibilities are endless!

Whether you are creating a new loyalty program from scratch or revamping an existing one, how you best reward your customers ultimately depends on your unique business, and its target demographic.

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