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What is the Best Loyalty Program App for Small Businesses?

Written by 
Brad Davis
July 30, 2019

Are you looking to set up a loyalty program for your small business that helps you achieve a solid foundation of loyal customers?

With so many great loyalty programs available, it can be overwhelming figuring out which is the best loyalty program app for a small business.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut best loyalty program app for small business. Which loyalty program best suits you ultimately depends on your specific brand.

A good place to start would be to answer these questions, as it will narrow down your search for the ideal loyalty program for small business.

1. What kind of business do you have?

beauty inustry loyalty program examples
Customer in a hair salon

A loyalty program app that works well for an independent clothing store might not work for a liquor store. A family-run cafe might have huge success with a loyalty program while the smoothie bar down the street doesn’t enjoy any success with the same program.

Why? Because your specific business’s most ideal loyalty solution depends on things like:

  • What kind of products you sell? Are you selling $5 coffees or $1000 household furniture?
  • How are transactions are made? Are customers physically walking into your shop or are they paying online and having your product delivered?
  • How many stores do you have? If you have multiple outlets, do you want your loyalty program to be perfectly synchronised across all locations?

If you’re a clothing store that sells everything from $5 socks to $250 jackets, a “Buy X, Get X Free” model probably won’t be ideal for your business. There will be too much variety in the price of your products.

However, “Spend X, Get Y Free” could be effective. For example, spend $200 and get a $20 discount off your next purchase.

On the other hand, a coffee shop would easily benefit from a “Buy X, Get X” model. For example, buy 8 coffees, get your next one free. Make sense?

2. Who are your customers?

analysing customer behaviour
Customer on a mobile device

At the end of the day, your customers are the most crucial part of your business. So who are they? Which type of loyalty program will best suit their needs?

It’s no secret that the older generation generally aren’t as tech-savvy as millennials and Generation Z, for example. So with that in mind, if the majority of your customers are aged 60 years or older, a highly interactive loyalty app definitely isn’t the way to go.

On the other hand, if you own small independent cafe in an up-and-coming residential area with lots of one- and two-bedroom units and apartments, chances are that your new loyalty app is going to be embraced with open arms by the community and encourage a boost in your sales, social media presence and general status in the community.

A whopping 80% of millennials are already members of at least one loyalty program, and their main priority in regards to loyalty programs is convenience – being mobile-based, for instance.

Read more about how brand loyalty differs between each generation.

3. How much effort are you willing to put into the setup?

Customer Loyalty Card App
Customers in a cafe

Are you prepared to integrate your loyalty program into your POS system? This means:

  • software installation
  • training staff on the new system
  • asking every customer for their full name, phone number and other details in order to sign them up to the program
  • ongoing maintenance and updates from the provider

Loyalty programs that are fully integrated into POS have their upsides, but they require a lot of time, effort and resources to set up.

If you’re a small independent retailer or corner-shop snack bar, these POS-integrated loyalty programs might be slightly overkill.

If you’ve been using a paper punch card system for years, perhaps moving to a digital punch card app is the easiest way to transition, both for you and your customers – the process is the same, the rewards are the same; you’re just digitalising it.

Then later, you can start introducing extra features like Birthday Club and Scratch & Win, for example… but more on that in a sec!

4. What is your budget?

how much is a loyal customer worth
How much does a loyalty program cost?

Obviously, budget plays a huge role in deciding which loyalty program suits your small business. Loyalty apps come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. If all you’re looking for is a simple “Buy X, Get Y” or “Spend X, Get Y”-based model for your loyalty program, you shouldn’t have to break the bank at all.

However, the more you spend, the more you get in regards to valuable customer data insights, targeted marketing, extra features and all the other bells and whistles.

Read our article on how much a loyalty program costs to get a clearer idea of what sort of program you can get for your budget. Keep in mind that most loyalty app providers operate off a monthly subscription fee, so having a monthly budget in your mind is the easiest way to work out the cost effectiveness.

For example, Loyalty Gator integrates into most POS systems and allows both card and card-less options for the merchant. Because of the program’s many robust features and flexible options, it’s one of the pricier options, starting at $88 per month.

For some small businesses, this program may be over the top by offering a wide range of features that won’t be of any value to the average independent retailer.

Stamp Me, starts at just $43 per month for a basic digital punch card program. This makes it a more suitable loyalty solution for small businesses wanting to run a simple and affordable digital loyalty program, without all the bells and whistles.

The monthly cost increases to $74 if you would like additional features (such as Birthday Club, Scratch Card, Push Notifications & Customer Data). Have a read of the pricing & plans for the Stamp Me Loyalty App.

5. How would you like your customers to accrue and redeem their rewards?

There are various mechanisms for operating a loyalty rewards program.

Point of sale
Point of Sale

Do you want your customers to enter their phone number into a tablet as they are paying for their purchase at POS? Or would you prefer they tap their smartphones against a “paywave”-style pad that adds a stamp or points to their loyalty app?

Or maybe you want to print a unique code onto their receipt, which they can scan through an app on their phone to accrue their rewards points.

Every loyalty program app uses a different system for getting customers’ rewards points added to their accounts and for redeeming those points for rewards.

QR code on a Stamp Me app
QR code scanning on Stamp Me app

By figuring out which system is most convenient for you (and your customers), you can drastically narrow your search for the best loyalty program app for your small business.

6. What extra features would you like to offer your loyal customers?

instant win on a loyalty app
Instant incentives on a loyalty app

Any decent loyalty app will offer additional features to help gamify your loyalty app and engage customers better.

Nearly 90% of American retailers intend to harness gamification techniques to engage their customers by 2022. More than 70% of the top 2000 companies are already doing this.

This might be Birthday Club, where customers receive a surprise discount or rewards offer on their birthday, or something like a Scratch & Win or Shake & Reveal promo where customers have a 1 in 5 (or 1 in 10, or 1 in 3, etc.) chance to win some kind of reward.

As an example, Stamp Me offers a Scratch & Win feature where merchants can choose a prize and the ratio of winners. These can be sent to all loyalty members’ phones automatically during promotion times and other triggers.

This is definitely worth having a think about, as these small interactive games inject a bit of fun into your loyalty program and entice customers to sign up.

In summary, do your research, and choose wisely.

customer feedback in blog posts
Business evaluation and research

Of course, there are other things you should keep in mind when considering what the best loyalty program app for small business is. We suggest choosing one that offers a free 30-day trial (like ours does) to ensure you get to “try before you buy”, so to speak.

It’s also worth noting that regardless of which loyalty app you choose, it is not going to achieve astronomical success overnight. Even the best loyalty programs need time, effort and a bit of initiative in order to grow into a vital part of any small business.

  • Educate your staff on how the program works so they can promote your program to customers,
  • Put up signs and brochures to promote the program, especially at the point of sale (POS) and toilets.
  • Advertise the loyalty scheme via your social media channels - how about a teaser video?
  • Make the signup process as simple, convenient and enticing for your customers as possible.

The main point we’re trying to make with this article is that there isn’t any “one-size-fits-all” best loyalty program app for small businesses – every small business is different, and while some loyalty programs are better than others, the most ideal option for you ultimately depends on your specific business.

The best thing you can do is create a checklist for yourself based on the questions mentioned above, and keep it handy while reviewing the various loyalty program options out there.

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