Random Acts of Appreciation
Rather than focusing on "the next big thing," I decided to keep in the spirit of the season and celebrate the little things.
A few weeks ago, I found an unexpected package on my doorstep. It was from an online retailer I shop frequently with. Inside was a lovely, living holiday centerpiece and a note of thanks. While uncommon, gestures like this aren’t unheard of. For example, Starbucks is well known for surprising its Gold Card members with coupons for free beverages. One Starbucks fan blogged, "I have never figured out a rhyme or reason to how Starbucks distributes coupons."
The difference between knowing that every 15 purchases gets you a free latte versus getting a freebie you didn’t expect is the difference between a transactional and an emotional relationship. A points program is purely a business exchange. The fact that you "earn" rewards clearly indicates this process is a task.
That's not to say that traditional frequency reward programs aren’t effective. But these programs have turned into a cost of entry for marketers in countless industries. In fact, the average U.S. household belongs to 14 loyalty programs. While they may be popular, points programs are hardly differentiators.
So, will performing random acts of appreciation for your customers make a difference? Absolutely.
Robert W. Palmatier, associate professor of marketing at the University of Washington, studies this effect in his article, The Role of Customer Gratitude in Relationship Marketing. He found that these incremental and unexpected efforts result in feelings of gratitude which, in turn, positively impact purchase intentions. The word gratitude sums it up beautifully.
Ready to give it a go? Here are three rules to keep in mind:
1. It comes out of the blue. The element of surprise creates impact. That’s why they call it "surprise and delight."
Related story: Showdown of the Holiday Gadget Wish List: Man vs. Marketer