Consumer behaviour is a constantly changing phenomenon, with the events of last year being a perfect example of how quickly it can change. As a result, the way in which brands retain customers and foster brand loyalty is constantly changing as well.
So if you’re interested in finding ways to improve customer loyalty in 2021, check out this list of current trends and emerging techniques that are changing the way companies engage their customers – from small independent businesses to huge global brands.
The Ultimate Guide to Customer Loyalty Programs
Learn how to create a successful loyalty program that retains customers and boosts sales.
1. Offer an Upfront Incentive
Let’s start with the most obvious tool at your disposal (loyalty programs), and how to entice customers to sign up to it in the first place. An attractive upfront incentive is a sure-fire way to persuade customers to take a few moments to register. For the customer, it feels like “something for nothing”; and for the business, it’s an investment in developing an emotional connection.
From the signup process, to points accrual and rewards redemption; keep your customer loyalty experience as simple and straightforward as possible. Countless loyalty programs fail because of complex registration processes, a cluttered range of options or a generally overwhelming experience. That being said…
3. Ensure There is Variety in Your Rewards Offering
Your customer loyalty experience can be simple yet flexible at the same time. By offering a variety of rewards for customers to choose from, you increase the likelihood that each customer will remain enticed by your rewards, as you are offering something that appeals to them specifically.
4. Partner Up for a More Expansive Loyalty Experience
Another way to increase the variety of your rewards and appeal to a wider audience is to partner with another business that typically shares much of the same customer base – a cinema and a fast food restaurant, for example, or a hotel chain and an airline.
By joining forces, both businesses are able to offer their customers a much more diverse and enjoyable loyalty experience.
5. Consider Using a Tiered Rewards System
Depending on the type of business you have, tiered loyalty programs can offer a whole host of benefits. It allows you to appeal to customers of varying loyalty simultaneously, while constantly motivating lower tier customers to strive for a higher status, where they can enjoy the VIP perks and benefits of “gold class” members.
6. Social Media Offers Multiple Ways to Improve Customer Loyalty in 2021
With social media, you can create hype around your brand and its loyalty program by:
For examples of how to gamify a loyalty program, look no further than Starbucks Rewards’ hugely popular menu challenges. There is no shortage of ways to increase loyalty program engagement by adding gaming components to it. Nike+ is another fantastic example.
But gamification doesn’t need to stop at the loyalty program itself. It can also be used in digital marketing, in direct communications with individual customers, or even in the product delivery process – Dominos is a pioneer of this strategy, with its iconic DOM the Pizza Bot.
8. Give Your Customers Social Currency, with Experiential Rewards
Perhaps one of the most powerful ways to improve customer loyalty in 2021 is through “bragging rights”. What better way to encourage your customers to post content around your brand online for you, than by giving them social currency?
As younger generations are increasingly concerned with experiences over material things, a customer is much more likely to post images, blogs or videos about an experiential reward over a freebie or a discount.
Experiential rewards include (but definitely aren’t limited to!):
9. Incentivize Referrals
Use your existing customers to acquire new ones, with enticing referral rewards. Many businesses have even started rewarding both the referrer and the newly referred customer, as the long-term value of referred customers is well worth it.
10. Offer a Seamless Loyalty Experience Across Multiple Stores and/or Online
If your business operates across numerous locations and sells products online as well as via brick-and-mortar stores, it’s crucial that you ensure your customers enjoy a cohesive experience across all channels. Some digital loyalty providers (like Stamp Me) are capable of functioning across numerous stores at once, as well as boasting Shopify integrations for online transactions.
11. Contactless Loyalty is a Key Way to Improve Customer Loyalty in 2021
It goes without saying that contactless loyalty has become a priority in the last 12 months, as entirely touchless transactions became the norm. Thankfully, most of the common ways in which businesses execute their loyalty programs are completely free of person-to-person contact anyway.
If you are operating a digital loyalty app, you might choose to use:
12. Ecommerce Loyalty
As mentioned above, a recent shift towards online shopping has made ecommerce loyalty programs increasingly essential. However, you don’t necessarily need to invest in a fully integrated ecommerce loyalty program solution.
Another nifty way to ensure your online customers are earning points and redeeming rewards through your standard digital loyalty program is to introduce receipt scanning as a validation method.
This means that customers use a digital loyalty app to scan their receipts, and earn points for every purchase. This solution works for both your in-person shoppers and your online customers, with very little in the way of implementation costs.
13. Omnichannel Engagement
If your loyalty program spans numerous locations, platforms and channels; why can’t your communications span these various mediums as well?
When you consider which brands are most successful at developing an emotional connection between the brand and the customer, it’s the ones that communicate with their customers via email, text, push notification, social media and so on.
Loyalty programs that reward customers for feedback, social media engagement and other behaviours are then able to communicate with these customers through various channels, for a stronger brand experience.
14. 24/7 Support
Of course, one of the best ways to improve customer loyalty in 2021 is through damn good customer service. Whether a customer has a query before committing to a purchase, is experiencing delays with their delivery, having issues with the product or otherwise; 2021 brings an expectation of instant gratification.
While larger companies might have 24/7 support staff, AI chatbots and other useful resources to assist customers any time of the day or night, smaller businesses don’t necessarily need to be available round-the-clock.
A simple automated message can be enough to provide peace of mind or ease frustrations. Perhaps something along the lines of, “Thanks for your query. We will provide a prompt response tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, perhaps you’ll find the answer to your question on our FAQ page”.
It’s also crucial these days to assign “social media monitoring” duties to keep an eye on customers’ comments, posts, tags etc. related to your brand, so that you can respond to them directly. Larger companies will even assign someone to carry out this role full-time.
15. Customer Data Provides Valuable Insights
To put it simply, a digital loyalty program gives your business access to the “who, what, where, when and how” of your highest-spending customers. This data allows you to assess and analyze areas of the business that are performing well, and areas that are not. It allows you to make pivotal changes to your internal operations, sales campaigns, and more.
This is the other way in which customer data can be used to provide an exceptional brand loyalty experience for your customers. A decent digital rewards platform will take note of each customer’s spending habits, and use this information to offer tailored recommendations via targeted communications.
17. Feedback is a Highly Effective Yet Often Overlooked Way to Improve Customer Loyalty in 2021
Of course, there’s another more direct way to gain an insight to what customers are thinking and feeling about your business and its products, services and loyalty experience… ask them!
In 2021, customer feedback is more important than ever in figuring out how to exceed your customers’ expectations and keep them happy.
18. Incentivize User-Generated Content
Why spend money on advertising, when you can use enticing rewards to motivate your loyal customer base to promote your products for you?
Brands like Sephora have successfully created global communities of ambassadors who are heavily active on social media. These brand ambassadors create blogs, vlogs, reviews, tutorials and other content that is seen by all of their followers, who are far more likely to trust this form of peer endorsement over traditional advertising.
19. Surprise & Delight
Have you ever received a spontaneous gift from a brand you shop with? How did it make you feel?
These “happy surprises” are no accident – it’s a highly effective marketing technique where you build hidden rewards into the customer journey, so it catches the customer off-guard and leaves a lasting positive impression.
20. Leverage that Feeling of Being in the “Right Place at the Right Time”
Many businesses that offer customers a digital loyalty app are now using geo-targeted marketing as a way to entice customers who are in the nearby vicinity of a store. For example, a burger chain might set a radius of 1 mile around each of its restaurants.
Whenever a customer with the digital loyalty app enters one of these “zones”, they will receive a text or push notification with an exclusive offer for “Buy One Get One Free” or something similar. They might also receive a special offer right around lunchtime, or just as they are considering what to pick up for dinner.
21. Go Mobile
It’s no coincidence that many of the techniques listed above require a digital loyalty app. In recent years, digital loyalty apps have exploded onto the scene as an affordable yet highly effective way to engage customers and foster brand loyalty.
From out-of-the-box SaaS subscription models to highly sophisticated enterprise solutions, digital loyalty apps are now within reach of small independent businesses as well as larger corporations.
And with 54% of global internet traffic now taking place on mobile devices, more and more people are shopping from the palm of their hand; further cementing digital loyalty apps as a permanent replacement for traditional loyalty programs.
Don’t stop there – devise your own innovative ways to improve customer loyalty in 2021!
As I mentioned at the very beginning of this article, consumer behaviour is a constantly changing phenomenon. The best way to consistently maintain a loyal customer base and continue to offer an unparalleled loyalty experience, is to regularly update your loyalty program.
Carry out incremental assessments of your customer loyalty initiatives, and keep a close eye on emerging trends in the industry that you can embrace. By staying on top of what customers want from their brand loyalty experience, you can ensure that you continue to exceed their expectations.
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