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Loyalty Strategy

What is "Surprise and Delight" and Why is it so Effective?

Written by 
Brad Davis
July 30, 2020

If you’re wondering what surprise & delight is, this personal experience of mine sums it up.

On January 1 of this year, I walked into my local cafe. I pop in every second or third day, and always enjoy a bit of banter with the staff. Sometimes I get a quick takeaway coffee, and other days I sit in.

On New Year’s Day, I walked in and ordered a takeaway coffee. When I went to pay, the girl behind the counter smiled, waved away my card and said, “No, not today. Happy New Year!”

It completely caught me off guard. I protested a few times, but she insisted that this coffee was ‘on the house’. In the end I gratefully accepted my coffee and left.

The owner of the cafe was in earshot of the entire transaction, and there hadn’t been a single moment while I was in the café that the two of them had a chance to exchange words. What I’m saying is, the employee who served me hadn’t consulted the boss before informing me that my coffee was free, and nor was she worried about the boss hearing this take place.

One can only assume that the boss had instructed all staff to give every familiar face a free coffee that day, as a New Year’s Day treat.

For those of you wondering what is Surprise & Delight, this story essentially sums it up. I left the cafe that day feeling grateful for my free coffee, appreciated as a loyal customer, and closer to the staff (and the cafe in general).

What is Surprise & Delight?

The term “Surprise and Delight” started popping up in marketing circles in recent years. It has now grown to become an essential part of any serious marketer’s customer retention strategies.

To surprise and delight customers is to exceed their expectations; improving their overall brand experience with spontaneous offers of kindness.

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To be clear, we’re not talking about “Buy One Get One Free” style offers, or standard loyalty program rewards.

Surprise & Delight doesn’t refer to special promotions or exclusive deals… there is no “catch”. Customers are simply treated to something of value, completely out of the blue, with no strings attached.

notification phone free coffee

Doesn’t sound like an ideal business model, does it… giving away stuff for free? But this tactic is not without its motives on the brand’s side of things.

Why is it an effective strategy for increasing customer loyalty?

A recent Loyalty One study assessed what kind of response Surprise & Delight gestures have on consumers. Here are the three key takeaways from the study:

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Surprise and delight strategies increase customer loyalty, which in turn leads to repeat purchases, larger basket-sizes and increased brand engagement. When utilised properly, surprise and delight can be extremely good for business!

For example, many companies adopt the Surprise & Delight approach to trialling new products and services. Not only are loyal customers more willing to be guinea pigs for new marketing experiments, but they’re also far more comfortable with giving honest feedback afterwards.

Surprise and delight existing customers with free products that you are trialling, or exclusive VIP access to a new service you are considering implementing. It’s a remarkably efficient way to troubleshoot prototypes.

Starbucks does this with its Starbucks Rewards members all the time, cross-selling new menu items or coffee flavours as a means to test the market. Learn more about Starbucks’ secrets to loyalty success here.

Most business can divide their existing customer base into three categories:

  • Frequent customers
  • Infrequent customers
  • Lapsed customers

Whichever of these categories any given customer falls into, a small and random token of gratitude is going to catch them off-guard and encourage a stronger emotional connection to your brand.

Lapsed customers return to your business, infrequent customers become frequent customers, and frequent customers become brand advocates; promoting your business to their peers.

These days, consumers are savvy to all the standard customer retention strategies. While your classic “Buy X Get Y” offers can still be appealing and effective, they are no longer enough to retain customers on their own.

Competition is fiercer (even more so with online businesses), so loyalty marketing strategies must exceed expectations to attain customer loyalty.

The same way that gamification can be used to play on the consumer’s desire to have fun, Surprise & Delight can be used to play on the consumer’s desire for excitement, gratitude and individuality.

If you’re wondering how to apply this technique, read our other article about how to Surprise & Delight your customers, or you can read our industry examples of Surprise & Delight tactics for some inspiration.

The Stamp Me loyalty app makes it easy for you to Surprise and Delight your customers. Learn more about our loyalty app here or speak with our friendly team to find out how we can help you grow your customer loyalty today.

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