If you are looking for unique ways to reward customers, then you’re probably already aware of the countless benefits that a loyal customer base provides.
For businesses that already have a loyalty program in place, there is no limit to the innovative approaches you can adopt when rewarding customers for spending, engaging with and advocating your brand.
If you don’t have a rewards program, don’t panic – there are still plenty of strategies you can implement today to reward your customers in unique ways. The following techniques will also help to build signups once you get your loyalty program off the ground.
The Ultimate Guide to Customer Loyalty Programs
Learn how to create a successful loyalty program that retains customers and boosts sales.
1. Gift vouchers to other local businesses
Obviously, the main motive behind any customer retention strategy is to – well, retain more customers. So it’s only natural for a business to reward its repeat customers with discounts and freebies for the business’s own products and services.
However, rewarding customers with gift vouchers to nearby coffee shops, hair salons, independent cinemas and other local businesses can be extremely effective in building brand loyalty.
It shows customers that your business cares about the community it operates in. It also demonstrates that you genuinely want to reward your customers with a gift that will improve their day, rather than transparently try to entice them back so they’ll spend more money.
2. Give your customers “firsts”
What do I mean by “firsts”? I mean first glimpses, first dibs, first say… first anything, really!
It could be that your highest-spending customers get first dibs on new products, by inviting them to trial prototypes for free and give their feedback. This does wonders for helping your customers feel heard and valued by your business.
Or it might mean offering loyalty program members early access to sales before the general public, so that they get first pick of discounted products and services. Depending on what type of business you have, free invitations to product launches and other industry events could also be applicable.
3. Hold regular prize draws for loyalty program members
People rarely have any objection to being part of a prize draw that requires them to do absolutely nothing, whilst putting them in the running for free stuff. So why not hold a daily, weekly or monthly (whatever best suits your business model) raffle-style prize draw exclusively for your loyalty program members?
Not only does this capitalize on the tried and tested “surprise and delight” gesture, but it will almost certainly create some social media buzz around your brand, which in turn attracts more signups and expands your database of loyalty program members.
This means more email addresses for your e-marketing campaigns, more phone numbers for tailored offers via text/push notification, and so on.
4. Periodically upgrade customers to a higher VIP tier temporarily
For businesses operating a tiered loyalty program (where customers enjoy different levels of VIP perks based on their brand spend and engagement), it’s always a good idea to show lower-tier members what they are missing out on by temporarily upgrading them to a higher tier.
Streaming services like Spotify and YouTube do this all the time as a way to entice customers to upgrade their subscription. In a loyalty program setting, it serves as a nice “surprise and delight” tactic, as well as a unique reward that is easily administered.
5. Name products after your most loyal customers
We’ve all heard of burgers and beverages named after celebrities, but have you ever heard of a restaurant naming its menu items after loyal customers? Or how about getting customers involved in the decision-making process, like Amazon Prime did with its Pilot Season campaign that allowed viewers to vote on which pilot seasons should be made into ongoing TV shows?
A Washington DC grocery store known as FoBoGro (Foggy Bottom Grocery) used to offer loyal customers the opportunity to invent their own sandwiches and add it to the shop’s menu for a week.
In fact, FoBoGro was quite a pioneer of unique ways to reward customers. In addition to heart-racing competitions where customers had 30 seconds to grab as many shop items as they could (all of which could then be taken home), other rewards included sit-down meet and greets with the funky independent grocery shop’s co-founder.
These kinds of rewards give the recipients something to brag about, and they will most certainly do so… via social media.
If you really know what you’re doing, you’ll offer bonus loyalty points for customers who post content about these experiential rewards on their social media channels and tag your business.
6. Acknowledge the anniversary of their loyalty program signup
This is an easy one, but it can make a world of difference in the eyes of your customers.
Configure your digital rewards platform to recognize the anniversary of each customer’s loyalty program registration, and automatically send a targeted offer that is tailored to their specific preferences based on previous purchases.
A decent rewards platform will also allow you to configure it to send Birthday gifts, an end-of-year reward for the holiday season, and basically any other occasion that you see fit.
This is a huge step up from generic “Buy 6, Get One Free” offers, as it acknowledges your customers as people – not sales targets! This display of empathy and humanity is very applicable for my next point.
7. Match the dollar amount equivalent of customers’ loyalty points with a charitable donation
The average consumer is increasingly concerned with corporate social responsibility – especially post-COVID.
Whereas customers’ key priorities used to be value, product quality and customer service; ethics now play a huge role in which brands we choose to shop with.
Don’t get me wrong – value is still crucial to customer retention, which is where loyalty points and rewards come in. But what if you link a customer’s loyalty points with a real dollar value of charitable donations?
Designer Shoe Warehouse has incorporated CSR into its loyalty program in the form of Soles4Souls, which offers members the opportunity to donate rewards and/or shoes to those in need.
Independent businesses can adopt similar procedures on a smaller scale – like a smoothie bar that offers customers a discount on today’s purchase when they bring back the glass jar from yesterday’s purchase, for example.
The trick is to align your brand’s values with your target audience’s values, and find unique ways to reward customers that also benefit these good causes.
8. Share your customers’ stories
Whether you are a small independent business or a multinational organization, any marketer will tell you that sharing your employees’ unique stories is an excellent way to humanize the business.
But what about your customers?
By issuing a few questionnaires, feedback forms and similar communications to your email list, you can accumulate a substantial bank of user-generated content to sprinkle through your social media channels. For instance:
“This is Jim. He has been a member of our cafe’s loyalty program since 2014. Jim shops with us because he likes to support local businesses, he appreciates what we do for the local community, and most importantly… he loves our coffee!
As a thanks for Jim’s ongoing loyalty, we’re treating him to a year’s supply of our specialty coffee beans, so he can enjoy our coffee at home during the week, when he doesn’t have time to visit our shop.”
Not only is this kind of campaign easily linked with the “prize draw” idea I mentioned earlier, but it integrates your customers into the very identity of your brand.
9. Partner up with businesses that complement yours
Image Source: Lyft
While loyalty program partnerships used to be a strategy that was exclusively embraced by airlines, hotel chains and rental car companies; it has since exploded into retail, hospitality and countless other industries.
With a well-structured loyalty program, you can provide customers with a pleasurable brand experience. But once you start partnering with businesses that share a large portion of your customer base, you create a wholesome loyalty experience that burrows deeper into the customer’s lifestyle.
A strategic loyalty program partnership provides customers with a cohesive and seamless journey that benefits all three parties… a win-win-win!
10. Tell them how to get the most out of your products, services and rewards
And finally, who doesn’t love to receive useful, engaging, no-strings-attached information?
Whether it’s straight to their inbox, sprinkled through their social media feeds, or just for those who bother to visit your website – give your customers something for nothing.
Write some instructional blogs on how to use your products. Post some videos on how to reuse, recycle or repurpose your products’ packaging. Make a podcast about the tricks and loopholes that allow customers to maximize their loyalty points and rewards with your program.
Whatever form it takes, just create content that helps make your customers’ lives easier, and get it out there. And with that, I have one final gem for you…
Don’t forget about the best method for finding unique ways to reward customers – ask them!
You would be amazed how many businesses fail to satisfy customers’ expectations of their loyalty programs, simply because they didn’t bother to ask their highest-spending customers what they actually want.
This advice extends beyond unique ways to reward customers, and applies to customer retention by and large. Ask your VIP customers what kind of changes they would like to see in order to enhance their brand experience, and they will tell you.
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