5 Must-Haves for a Winning Customer Rewards Program

This post was contributed by Nadav Berger, VP of Marketing at Rise.ai. Rise.ai is the first proactive branded currency solution for Shopify stores, providing gift cards, rewards and store credit programs, as well as incentives that automate re-engagement. With Rise.ai, merchants can distribute real, stored value credit in real time, based on automated or manual rules and triggers, maximizing engagement and building customer loyalty.

It’s not about the money.

Seems counterintuitive, right? That’s because you’re thinking like a vendor, not like a customer.

While as retailers, we’re all in business to make money, nearly three-quarters of customers today want to spend their hard-earned cash with brands they feel a connection to. It’s not always about the money for them. You’re looking to earn a profit, but they’re looking to establish a relationship. And that means that your first priority should be earning their loyalty.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to design a rewards program that will help you build a loyal customer base – one that will keep returning and purchasing, so you can exceed your sales goals.

Customer rewards programs come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors – but all worthwhile programs should include these 5 basic elements.

  1. Keep it simple

Imagine a straightforward program where customers can earn rewards by purchasing, interacting with your brand on social media, viewing specific content, or completing any number of other predetermined actions. Points can be used to get discounts or free shipping. They can also earn rewards for referring friends, with every friend getting them closer to free gifts or discounts.

If that sounds great to you, think twice. Your poor customer’s head is probably spinning. If a customer feels like she needs a degree in operations management to deal with a rewards program, it’s probably not going to be a big loyalty motivator.

A successful rewards program should be simple to understand and easy for your customers to use. Less is more.

Which brings us to…

  2. Know your customer

What rewards do your customers want? If you sell cosmetics and your customer base consists of cutting-edge fashionistas, they may swoon over free trial sizes of next season’s products. On the other hand, if most of your customers rely on you to supply the same tried-and-true products they’ve been using for the last 20 years, they won’t necessarily see the value in trying new and exciting products. However, they might love store credit toward their next regular purchase.

Less is more, only when the “less” is what your customers actually want. So do the research and find out before deciding on what rewards you’ll offer.

  3. Be branded and beautiful

Unless you’ve got tons of capital to spend on developing a rewards program from scratch, you’re likely going to use an existing loyalty program application that will integrate with your store. (And even if you do have the funds, we could suggest about 200 other things to do for your store that are more worthwhile than a custom rewards program.)

But while you don’t need a custom program, you do need a customizable program. Your customers shouldn’t experience a generic look and feel. When they interact with your program – on your site, via email, on their phones or anywhere else – it should shout your brand: your fonts, your logo, your colors, your voice. Most of the good loyalty program solutions out there offer some degree of customization, but double check to make sure that it will allow you to capture the look and feel of your brand.

  4. Treat your customer like a king…but first, like a person

Who gets your loyalty as a consumer? Typically, it’s the brands you feel care about you – as a distinct individual, not as a dollar sign or a collection of data points.

Remember: your customer doesn’t need you. Even if they “can’t live without” whatever it is you provide, chances are, you’re not the only provider out there. In order for you to build and keep their loyalty, you need to recognize and respect their individuality, and develop a unique relationship with them based on that. That’s what will help set you apart.

Make sure you personalize any communication. Commemorate special dates – like their birthday or anniversary – with both acknowledgment and a reward. Remember their product and ordering preferences and use them to make your customer’s life easier.

 5. Stay top of mind

Does absence make the heart grow fonder – or forgetful? Your rewards programs should give your customer lots of warm, fuzzy, loyal feelings, but it can’t do that if your customer has forgotten about the rewards coming to her.

Don’t wait for your customers to check in with you – be proactive in reminding them about all the wonderful things waiting for them when they shop with you. Use every avenue at your disposal, from emails to texts to on-site notifications. (Obviously, make sure not to cross the line into pain-in-the-neck-land, or your customer may go AWOL permanently.)

A great rewards program means everyone wins

Combine those five elements, and you’ll have the kind of rewards program that customers are thrilled to be a part of – the kind that brings them back to your site time and time again.

In a nutshell? Make sure your customers feel like you know them, respect them, care about them and are doing your utmost to meet their needs and wants. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

And with customer loyalty programs, when you have the right cake, you get to eat it, too.