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Three User Experience Improvements That Will Increase Brand Loyalty

If it’s true that we have to give in order to get…

Have you examined recently what type of experience you’re giving your customers?

The user experience has always been important for ecommerce merchants but today- thanks to heightened competition and lower digital barriers to entry– the user experience is under the microscope in unprecedented ways.

With overall loyalty on the decline, brands are trying to earn loyalty by offering rewards programs- meaning they’re increasingly part of the default user experience.

The experience you offer customers via your loyalty program is crucial.

Just look at how easily consumers are willing to abandon your brand. In fact, research suggests brand loyalty is often fickle and fleeting:

  • As many as 30% of consumers are willing to switch brands in one evening of watching commercials
  • 74% of consumers buy outside of their favorite brand

Not convinced or having difficulty making the connection to your rewards program?

Take a look at the reasons millennials quit restaurant loyalty programs:

Image via Software Advice

Image via Software Advice

Besides the poor quality of rewards being offered, more than half of the reasons cited relate to a poor user experience.

It means the rewards program you employ to earn brand loyalty must add value to the user experience.

A loyalty program that detracts from the overall customer experience or that is conspicuous or difficult to navigate can erode loyalty and make it more difficult to retain customers- which is one of the key determinants of high performing ecommerce brands.

How do you win the war for loyalty?

In this post we’re providing a behind the scenes look at three user experience improvements you can make to increase brand loyalty:

Improvement #1: Spotlight Your Loyalty Program Prominently & Throughout The Customer Journey

By nature, we don’t generally like to work any harder than we have to…

Unless you’re an outlier, people generally behave like water or electricity; they seek the path of least resistance and do just enough to get what they want.

Ecommerce shoppers are no different.

It’s why smart ecommerce merchants like Brian Lim, founder of iHeartRaves, offer a user experience that makes it extremely easy for shoppers to find exactly what they want. In the case of iHeartRaves, Lim offers a mens and womens tab at the top that instantly switch the homepage banners and thus the gender of products being offered:

Image via iHeartRave

Image via iHeartRave

Why not display your rewards program just as prominently and make it just as easy to use?

Let’s say that you’ve created a loyalty program that ranks at the top of its class in regard to some key metrics by which loyalty programs are routinely judged:

  • The program meets the members needs and does what the brand promises it will do
  • The program is enjoyable and inspires enrollees to actively engage

What’s the point if you don’t make the program easy to find and use?

It’s why to improve the user experience- and give your rewards program a real shot at succeeding- it must be prominently displayed on your site and have a dedicated page members can find in the top navigation menu just as Swell Rewards customer Kopari does:

Image via Only Growth

Image via Only Growth

Prominently displaying your loyalty program and making sure it is easy to access helps communicate the program’s value to customers without words. Be mindful however that spotlighting your loyalty program is just the start.

The idea is to prominently feature your loyalty program throughout the customer journey. For instance, your loyalty program may be used to lift conversions and give consumers the nudge they might need to add an item to their cart when shopping on a product page that also clearly illustrates how many rewards points they stand to earn:

Or consider a consumer who has browsed your site from top to bottom. Spotlighting the ability for that customer to earn rewards or refer a friend, as the outdoor subscription box seller Cairn does, provides the customer another reason to continue shopping or to learn more about your program’s value proposition:

Image via Cairn

Image via Cairn

Not sure whether weaving your loyalty program through each step of the customer journey increases loyalty?

The results of Cairn’s loyalty program, which is powered by Swell Rewards, include:

  • 20,000 referral link clicks
  • 1,000 points redemptions
  • 100% increase in referrals

The loyalty you can earn by weaving your program throughout the customer experience can not only boost engagement among members, but also act a key customer acquisition tool:

Improvement #2: Make It Easy For Customers To Earn Points, Check Their Balance, & Redeem At The Checkout

Rewarding customers can actually hurt you…

That is if you offer users an experience that makes it difficult to redeem points. In fact, your conversion rate can actually decline significantly if the user experience makes it difficult to redeem points as frustrated customers will simply abandon cart without finishing the checkout process.

The truth is a significant number of customers enrolled in loyalty programs never wind up redeeming their points:

If twenty percent of your members never redeem their points and are 2.3X more likely to quit your program, the time and treasure you spent implementing the program will have been wasted and may reduce sales as those customers look to your competitors.

It’s why offering users an experience in which it’s easy to earn and redeem points is key.

When you improve the user experience by prominently displaying your loyalty program throughout the customer journey as we laid out in detail earlier, you give the customer multiple opportunities to easily visit your dedicated rewards page to investigate all of the actions for which they may be rewarded.

For example, check out all of the ways Vanity Planet, an online seller of beauty supplies, incentivizes behavior it deems valuable:

Image via Vanity Planet

Image via Vanity Planet

Likewise, notice how Rhone, a manufacturer of premium odor fighting activewear, not only offers customers a myriad ways to earn points but also the ability to instantly engage in the desired behaviors:

Image via Rhone

Image via Rhone

Easily earning points is important but so is allowing participants to check their balance as the number of points a customer possesses dictates the size of the discount to which they are entitled and can influence the speed of their next purchase.

Vanity Planet makes it extremely easy by prominently highlighting customer points balances whenever a customer is logged into their personal Rewards page:

Image via Vanity Planet

Image via Vanity Planet

 

Even more important though- and something many merchants fail to do– is to seamlessly integrate their loyalty programs with their customer checkout experience. Nothing angers members faster than earning points they can’t redeem when they want to make a purchase.

In the case of Vanity Planet, customers logged into their personal rewards page can click a link just beneath their points balance and and go directly to the checkout and redeem their points:

Image via Vanity Planet

Image via Vanity Planet

Importantly, customers who have earned points should also be given flexibility when it comes to applying their points. Specifically, an optimal user checkout experience not only allows customers to instantly check their rewards balance but also select from a drop down box the size of the points discount they’d like to apply to their order:

Image via Only Growth

Image via Only Growth

Want proof that ease of redemption is important in earning loyalty?

Ease of redemption is the fifth most important factor when it comes to customer satisfaction with their loyalty program. More importantly, merchants who make it easy to redeem points at the checkout are keeping a promise to their customers and earning trust- something nearly two thirds of rewards program participants say is lacking:

Improvement #3: Offer A Personalized Rewards Experience That Adds Value Beyond Discounts

The reality is members don’t love the loyalty programs to which they belong…

In fact, research indicates less than a quarter of members are deeply infatuated with their rewards programs:

Why then are so many rewards programs unloved?

One reason is that too many merchants offer customers a one-size-fits all plug-in rewards program that blends in with others and treats everyone the same. In other words, merchants simply aren’t personalizing the experience to the degree customers expect.

The problem, according to research, is worsening:

Improve the customer experience by showing customers you care about them as individuals and truly want to reward them in ways the deem valuable. Not only does this entail offering customers their own personalized rewards page that they can easily access to check their points balances, but it also requires that merchants allow customers the freedom to decide how they’d like to be rewarded.

For example, here’s how Swell Rewards user Allies of Skin greets new customers when they sign up as program members- note that even the CTA copy is customer-centric:

Image via Allies of Skin

Image via Allies of Skin

Instead of simply offering a points for purchase model, pay attention to the variety of ways Allies of Skin allows customers to earn points. Rather than forcing a member to make a purchase to earn points, the company allows members to earn points by referring friends or by leaving a thoughtful review:

Image via Allies of Skin

Image via Allies of Skin

You can take personalization a step further though as Rhone does by offering members points for completing the company’s lifestyle survey. Not only does the survey offer customers a unique way to earn points, but it also provides Rhone with valuable data that helps it know its customers more intimately and better tailor the overall customer experience:

Image via Rhone

Image via Rhone

While points are extremely important and research suggests 66% of members modify the amount they spend to maximize the points they earn, the data also suggests Rhone’s personalization efforts beyond just points will likely be rewarded:

Want additional inspiration regarding personalization and going beyond points?

Consider how Kids Shoes, an online seller of kids dress shoes and boots integrates its loyalty program with technology to offer an ultra-personalized customer experience that provides added value for both the company and customer.

Kids Shoes operates in a vertical that’s notorious for size-related returns. It’s why Kids Shoes created a unique iPad application parents can use by placing their child’s foot on the tablet to ensure they order shoes that fit perfectly:

Image via Only Growth

Image via Only Growth

Incentivizing parents to use the iPad sizing application by offering rewards provides additional value for all parties involved well beyond the points earned. Rewarding parents who use the tool to ensure that shoes fit the first time they are ordered yields happy parents and a more profitable company by reducing costly returns.

Want proof this type of personalization will increase brand loyalty?

Here are two impressive results from the Kids Shoes loyalty program:

  • 3,000 desired customer actions taken
  • 5X ROI in just three months

Personalizing the rewards experience beyond points makes the user experience more valuable and enjoyable- which, according to research, is the third most important driver of loyalty program customer satisfaction. Doing so will also help differentiate your brand and help you increase loyalty as research suggests the majority of brands offering loyalty programs are not making participants feel special:

Make The Experience Count

Just because you offer a loyalty program doesn’t mean you’re earning loyalty

Be sure the user experience associated with your rewards program is one that inspires members to engage with your brand in ways that are valued by both parties by:

  • Spotlighting your loyalty program prominently and throughout the customer journey
  • Making it easy for customers to earn points, check their balance, and redeem points at the checkout
  • Offering a personalized rewards experience that adds value beyond discounts

By improving the user experience you’ll differentiate your program and allow it to stand out in ways that increase brand loyalty.

customer experiencecustomer loyaltyecommerceincrease brand loyaltyrewards program

Nikhil Naidu • April 6, 2017


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