Make your loyalty program everyday exceptional

As consumers, we’ve come to expect receiving offers, discounts and promotions from the loyalty programs and brands we follow for pretty much every holiday. We also expect a discount or offer in celebration of our birthday. And, even another offer right after we’ve made a large purchase, to try and get us to shop again. There’s usually no lack of offers or promotions when it comes to loyalty programs. While some of these loyalty engagement tactics do work, they’re also expected and anticipated. They also don’t necessarily make customers feel valued, appreciated, respected or grateful- which are four of the six positive emotions that drive loyalty, according to Forrester Research.

Celebrate the unexpected

What about the unexpected, unanticipated moments of engagement or the non-holidays? How can we make the “everyday” an unexpected celebration for our loyalty members? According to Foresight Factory, 42% of US consumers love any excuse to have a celebration, rising to 53% by 2025. And, that one in two consumers feel the need to find more excitement in their lives. You can see this trend throughout social media, where consumers find almost any reason to post and share almost any personal milestone. The brain finds unexpected pleasure more rewarding than ‘expected rewards’ and subconsciously as humans, we desire the unpredictable experience over the experience that we believe we prefer. Surprise activates curiosity, excitement and wonder, which are key elements to absorbing information (Emory University).

Starbucks is capitalizing on this trend with Starbucks Happy Hour. While not just for rewards members, these invitation-only offers give customers reasons and ways to get what they love from Starbucks. The company’s promotional strategy was to strengthen digitally enabled customer engagement beyond its Starbucks Rewards™ loyalty program.

And, Amazon found a way to celebrate the everyday with Amazon Prime Day. Introduced in 2015 to celebrate Amazon's 20th anniversary, Amazon Prime Day provides members-only access to special deals for Amazon Prime customers.

So maybe Starbucks customers and Prime members now expect these promotions going forward, the point is Amazon and Starbucks found ways to create unexpected celebrations for their customers. They also found ways to emotionally connect with their customers through marketing and personalization tactics announcing these promotions.

Ways to create everyday exceptional

As loyalty marketers, we know that loyalty members want and expect appreciation and recognition. In fact, according to surveyed customers who felt valued, 92% plan to stay with the brand, 88% will increase their spending and 91% will advocate for the brand, according to Forrester Research.

While brands certainly appreciate the monetary value of their rewards members – do brands actually do a good job of showing authentic appreciation to their members in return? Brands can capitalize on the everyday exceptional trend while also showing their members the appreciation they deserve. Here are a few tactics to consider- which can range in type and complexity, but all have the same goal in mind – to enhance emotional engagement with your brand.

1. The good old fashioned thank you

Sure, we’ve all gotten a thank you message right after making a purchase. But, consider sending members a genuine, non-promotional “thank-you” message simply for being a member of your program. Genuine is the key word which can help to instill trust with your brand.

2. Raise them to the top

Why not upgrade some of your members to the next level or tier of your program before meeting the upgrade criteria. For example, target some of your more valuable members by using Value-Potential segmentation and modeling.

3. Give a little gift

Many brands have designed their loyalty programs to reward members with gifts. Sephora’s Beauty Insider rewards program is a well-known example of this model, which works. But, members expect these gifts. While, not a new concept, surprise and delight gifts are a tried and true appreciation tactic. True surprise and delight strategies are unanticipated by members at unexpected moments. The gift should not be in the form of a discount or offer, but, rather a no-strings-attached token of appreciation, such as a monogrammed bracelet, branded merchandise like a coffee mug, free complimentary service, donation to a charity on your behalf and so on.

4. Employee empowered discounts and acts of kindness

Empower your associates to periodically offer members of their choice a special discount on purchases. How awesome would it be to be checking out at the register and the associate says “because you’re such a valued customer I’m giving you an extra 15% off your purchase today”.

Empower your store and customer support associates to demonstrate random acts of kindness to loyalty members, such as: compliment, say something nice about your member, gift wrap merchandise for free, help them carry purchases to their vehicle or even ship to their home. A great example a colleague shared with me, is when Nordstrom came to her home to remove a security sensor left on an item she bought. Now that’s unexpected.

5. Ask for feedback, but differently

Ask members how they feel about your program and your brand at an unanticipated moment and in an authentic manner. Asking a customer to go online to take a “how did we survey” after a purchase isn’t authentic or effective. Many times it’s an open door to receive negative feedback or even decrease purchase behavior, according to the Mere-Measurement Effect. But, asking members for feedback in a way that solicits their expert opinion can create a sense of value, inclusion and trust. Consider asking members their thoughts related to product development or merchandising decision ideas (ex: “We know you have great taste and would love to get your opinion on our Fall Collection).

These are just few ideas that combine the power and element of surprise with authentic member appreciation.

Tips for creating everyday exceptional loyalty

As you’re thinking about how you can create everyday exceptional moments for your members, consider some of these tips:

· Ensure you have the right technology in place for your loyalty program and your member engagement strategy.

· Earmark marketing budget for appreciation strategies and campaigns. Many times budget for non-promotional engagement strategies can get deprioritized over programs that can produce an explicit ROMI.

· Harness the power of your rich member data. Get to know their motivations, expectations, behaviors and even habits to create actionable insights to inform your strategy.

· Segment your customer base to identify not only your best customers but your potential best customers. With Epsilon’s Value-Attrition-Potential segmentation, we can help you identify your loyalty members with the most potential value.

· Test and learn your way into the most effective strategies and tactics to understand the right messages that resonate with members using the right channels at the right times.

· Analyze and measure not only the long-term value (LTV) of members selected for these engagement tactics, but consider adding various engagement metrics to your loyalty program measurement plan to monitor online, mobile, email, social media behaviors.

· Evaluate the effectiveness of your loyalty program’s value proposition. Are you providing members with the features, benefits and brand engagement tactics they value? Epsilon can you help you optimize and even redesign your loyalty program strategy.

Strive to make your loyalty program everyday exceptional and remember to think ‘out of the box’. It’s important to remember how appreciation and surprise and delight tactics can impact your loyalty program and your brand by strengthening emotional connections with your customers. As we’re immersed in our 2019 marketing planning, take time to strategize on different strategies and tactics in which you can appreciate your members, who in return will continue to appreciate your brand.