A loyalty program, of course, will not increase a customer's loyalty, so that should not be the overriding goal. "A loyalty program, no matter how well it's run, is not going to make [a customer] more loyal to a company," asserts Rick Ferguson, editorial director of COLLOQUY, which comprises a collection of resources devoted to the global loyalty-marketing industry. Rather, the purpose of the program is to demonstrate the company's loyalty to a good customer, and often that surfaces in economic value like discounts, gift certificates, points, etc.
"Equally important is the emotional element, the recognition element. 'I, the operator, value you as the customer, as a person, so I'm giving you some special pricing, or come to a location and meet this celebrity,'" illustrates Ferguson, who says that it's that combination of economic and emotional benefits that really impresses the customer.
Here are three such effective combinations.
1. Make Special Events Extra Special
Expand a special event from a single-day event to a week or longer, or infuse an event with extra entertainment. That's exactly what Caesars Pocono Resorts in Lakeville, Pa., does with its self-mailers. "Valentine's Day used to sell out, so now we make it the 'Month of Love' and promote it heavily through our Forever Lovers loyalty program," says Maura Foley, the brand marketing manager. Meanwhile, mentioning big-name entertainers who will perform at the resort always boosts response rates among the loyalty mailings.
2. Give Them the Inside Deal
While that may be obvious in some sectors, it's rarely been attempted in magazines. That's what makes Real Simple's e-mail loyalty program all that more unusual. "A lot of magazines have tried to create loyalty programs, but no one has had great success. It doesn't make sense to consumers who can't make that leap in their minds," explains Kim Miller, marketing director of Real Simple for Time Inc.
"We've gotten around that by telling subscribers that we've put them on our customer loyalty e-mail list, the Real Simple roundtable," she describes. These e-mails feature inside deals, such as discounts to the Container Store, or special events in subscribers' areas.
3. Make It Mobile
IKEA, the home furnishings retailer, recently launched a mobile loyalty program to build a database of consumers interested in receiving discounts. In order to drive more traffic to its stores, this text-to-enter loyalty program (using bCODE, a mobile marketing services company based in San Francisco) helps IKEA begin a dialogue with involved customers. Immediately after opting in, consumers get their first coupon and are told to bring it into the store to scan it at an IKEA mobile kiosk, which then prints out a physical coupon.