Loyalty programs work. The most successful ones — think My Best Buy and United Airlines' MileagePlus — are driven by effective promotional strategies that generate new leads and engage existing customers.
Whether it's on your site or in your communications with your customers, your rewards program is only going to succeed if customers are able to easily interact with it. In this post, we'll dive into detailed best practices when it comes to driving engagement with your rewards program.
1. Optimize Your On-Site Promotion
Customers love loyalty and referral programs. Forty-six percent of consumers would change brands to maximize loyalty benefits, and 67 percent of adults would supply companies with their personal information for better products and services. If you want to entice more customers to get involved with your promotions, the first step to take is including a link to the program on your homepage.
Show it on the Homepage
Vanity Planet, pictured below, prominently displays a link to their rewards page in their site header. This is one of the first places shoppers look when browsing through a store, especially new customers who when are still learning the breadth of products the store sells. With a link to their rewards program right in line with their product categories, customers are much more likely to notice Vanity Planet's rewards program, and click the link to see how they can potentially work towards earning discounts.
On the "less optimal" side, clothing giant Urban Outfitters includes a well designed link to their rewards program on their home page, but they don't do a great job maximizing its visibility; the image is located just below their site footer. A shopper would need to scroll all the way to the bottom of their home page to even have an idea that Urban Outfitters ran a rewards program, and you can be sure that most site visitors don't make it all the way there.
The program itself, UO Rewards, does a great job letting customers earn freebies, merchandise, and exclusive offers every time they shop with the store. Unfortunately, because the link is so difficult to find, many customers won't even learn that the rewards exist. All-important details about the program are hidden away, accessible only through an obscure link.
Airline operator Delta does a much better job promoting their menu visibly. Their program — SkyMiles — is easily accessible from the drop-down menu at the top of their homepage.
Skin Care Product innovator Allies of Skin does one better though. Their sleek, clutter-free website extends all the way to the customer account section, where they built a highly-customized rewards experience for their customers -- it's what they call "Allies Underground". Customers who log into their accounts can't miss this program.
A program that is more prominently displayed on a website will subconsciously carry more weight in a consumer's mind. As a shopper, seeing a link to a program through a small tab or a site footer indicates that the program isn't a priority for the store, and thus the rewards may not be worth the consumer's time to investigate; rewards can come across as an afterthought as opposed to a core element of a brand that truly cares about its customers.
By contrast, a link like Allies of Skin's "Allies Underground" conveys the importance of the rewards program to their brand.
Leverage the Account Page
The next important step to optimizing on-site promotion is listing information about your program on customers' account pages. This provides consumers with everything they need to know — point balances, referral links, discounts — and prevents them from having to contact you to ask questions about your program. Clothing retailer American Eagle does this perfectly. When customers log into their account, they can see how many points they have and how much each point is worth in dollars. Their rewards program — AERewards — comes with loads of exclusive stuff, too, such as members-only sales and events.
Use a Dedicated "Rewards Page"
Another must-have is a page which clearly describes how customers can earn points from your loyalty program for e-commerce. Boston-based restaurant chain Boloco has this down to a science. Their rewards page boasts: "Earn freebies," and includes a simple four-point list that details the benefits of signing up to their program. It's clear how customers can earn points, redeem points and spend points, making it a great resource.
GLD Shop is another example of how to set up an explanatory page properly, with details about points and prizes clearly listed for customers. When such detail is provided to customers, they can plan their purchases around your rewards program, making them more likely to bump up their cart size to earn some extra points. Using a rewards provider like Swell that gives you access to their full JS/SDK and API can go a long way to building a program that is well integrated with your site and highly visible to your customers.
2. Email Customers About Your Rewards Program
We've seen some pretty awesome loyalty and referral programs — Dropbox gives basic account holders 500 MB of free storage for every referral, for example — so it's always disappointing when a retailer doesn't let the world know about it.
Don't make the same mistake: increase the visibility of your promotion program through regular email communication. Why not send an email when a customer signs up for a new account? You can include details about rewards and referrals, and how consumers can claim and redeem points.
Remind existing customers about your program as often as every two to four weeks: any less and customers may forget about your brand and turn elsewhere; any more and they'll wonder why you're blasting their inbox.
At Swell, we feel it's particularly important to integrate with email marketing providers to make this process easier. Through our integrations with email marketing providers such as Klaviyo, these integrations allow you to coordinate and send your program related emails through your email marketing suite.
It's also the perfect way to personalize your emails, which in turn generates significantly higher transaction rates.
Email marketing works. Eighty-one percent of consumers who receive an email after a recent purchase are likely to place a repeat order. Moreover, emails drive more conversions than every other marketing channel, including search engine optimization. Sending an email to both new and existing customers to effectively promote your loyalty and referral initiatives will keep your customers active and engaged.
3. Use Social Media to Promote Your Incentives
Social media provides you with another way to advertise your rewards program, and conveniently doesn't require an expansive marketing budget. Facebook and Instagram typically work best — depending on your target market — because you can reach hundreds, if not thousands, of customers in one fell swoop. Abby's Lane's Facebook page is a masterclass in marketing. The company posts about their rewards program regularly, including a recent post: "Double point Tuesday for select orders today!".
Post about your program at least once a week. You could highlight different ways to earn points, for example, or feature a customer who received free merch after redeeming his or her points. Planning your content ahead of time is a great idea, especially when a long-term social strategy lets you engage with your customers over a period of time. Use your social posts to slowly move prospects through the sales funnel, too, and entice them with special offers that are only available if they sign up to your rewards program.
Starbucks is another example of a brand that has used social media to promote their loyalty initiatives. The coffee chain has a dedicated Twitter page for its incentive program — Starbucks Rewards — where it posts exclusive deals and retweets posts from program members. It lets customers know about upcoming special offers, too. "Members—you're on the VIP list for early access to the new Chile Mocha. Order 9/3-9/5 for a spicy-sweet #FirstTaste," read a recent tweet.
Rewards programs are so much more than just another "add-on" to your e-commerce store. Loyalty and referral initiatives should be a crucial component of your brand — a marketing exercise that can increases customer lifetime value and boosts retention. These programs let merchants express their gratitude toward regular, returning customers. They let companies and customers connect on a deeper, more emotional level. They create brand advocates and decrease churn rates.
And the more you promote it, the more it will reinforce the notion that you're dedicated to it. You can have the most enticing rewards set up for your customers but before you see a spike in return purchases and coupon usage, your customers need to know your rewards program exists. Make sure they find out on your website, through email, and on social media.