We talk a lot about brand love – customers feeling a visceral connection to the values a business embodies. Far from jargon, it’s a very real, highly prized force. How does it relate to a loyalty program, though?

Well, in today’s deeply interconnected world, shoppers are making more informed, value-driven decisions than ever before, and credibility is now a brand’s primary oxygen supply. (Explains David Attenborough’s record-breaking Instagram debut).

To survive, businesses need to prioritise trading in meaningful emotional currency on a cellular level, because a good deal alone won’t win customers’ trust – not anymore. 

That’s where the loyalty program steps in. What better way to foster connection than to recognise allegiance with genuine, value-aligned rewards?

The benefits of a customer loyalty program

More than 70% of us are likelier to recommend a business if it has a great loyalty program. A quiet yet potent driver of brand-shopper bonding, its impact extends far beyond a nice punch card and a free cup of coffee.

Here are 3 reasons why:

1. It deepens the brand-customer relationship

As we’ve mentioned before, emotionally engaged customers have a 306% greater lifetime value to brands. The thing is, building any meaningful relationship takes time80% of customers state that they develop brand loyalty incrementally over time, thanks to positive experiences with good service, products, feedback, and more. 

A loyalty program is a perfect vehicle for keeping customers connected at each stage in the buying cycle, gradually elevating the union beyond what is merely transactional and incentivising continued commitment. It gives you every excuse to keep the conversation going.

Handshake

By offering rewards that chime with shoppers’ values, you provide them with more than a product or service: you instil a sense of participation and mutuality

2. It generates social proof

A loyalty program motivates customers to become promotional mouthpieces, from telling family and friends about the perks (and referring them) to writing authentic, persuasive online reviews.

We know how crucial social proof is to winning new customers, with recommendations from personal acquaintances being deemed the most credible form of advertising – 88% of us trust online reviews just as much.

3. It saves you money

Winning a new customer can cost you five times more than nurturing and retaining a current one, so it pays to make your audience feel special. After all, 77% of customers have remained in committed relationships with their favourite brands for a decade or more. 

Customer reviewing a loyalty program

A loyalty program taps into our innate sense of reciprocity – when someone does us a favour, we feel duty-bound to do something decent in return.

By rewarding your customers each time they shop with you, you give them a reason to keep coming back – again and again. Better still, you cultivate plenty of user-generated (and totally free) marketing, in the form of glowing reviews and ratings.

Creating your own customer loyalty program 

Not all loyalty programs are created equal. To make yours a success, consider the following:

Provide genuine value

Ideally, rewards will tie in with the values driving your brand as a whole – the same values that drew customers to you in the first place. For example, an ethical beauty company could complement a fair, points-based reward system with bonuses such as donations to select environmental causes and partnerships that allow for discounts on aligned eco-friendly brands. 

Customer loyalty program gift

Cater to different customers

Personalisation is now a pre-requisite for a satisfying customer experience 84% of us say that being treated like a person, not a number, exerts a tectonic influence on the degree of loyalty we feel to a brand. 

It’s smart to tailor your rewards to fit shopper tastes; this can be done in several ways, from offering targeted discounts or gifts to providing early access to new products.

Construct clear visual and written cues

Points aren’t particularly appealing unless their value is tangible – no smoke and mirrors. If you’re including points in your loyalty program, clearly communicate their monetary worth, so customers enjoy the satisfaction of knowing what they’ve earned each time they shop with you.

Visual signifiers such as physical or digital loyalty cards and displays of points on customer accounts help enhance a sense of concrete value exchange. 

Starbucks loyalty card

Give it a memorable name

Able to swing the pendulum from indifference to interest, the name of your loyalty program is far from insignificant. In fact, it’s a critical selling point. 

Customers are borderline immune to the basic promise of offers and discounts – they’re bombarded with less than valuable ‘deals’ every day. To inflect your offering with a touch of genuine intrigue, pick a compelling name that speaks of more than generic perks.

Be flexible with your rewards

A consistent, multi-channel experience is now the baseline for strong branding – customers expect it. It makes sense then that rewards should flex to recognise the range of actions a shopper could take, from referring a friend to sharing a blog post or downloading your app. Try to acknowledge engagement in all its forms. 

Loyalty program card payment

Make joining easy

Welcome discounts, email marketing, free trials, push notifications… try to build loyalty program enrolment into your customer journey wherever you can. 

Ensure copy and visuals are exact and impactful, outlining the perks of joining and facilitating easy sign-ups. 

Getting started on your loyalty program

If you’re looking to instil brand love in customers and prospects, a well-conceived loyalty program can act as a solid building block.

Not sure where to start? We can help. To discuss next steps, please get in touch.

Written by. Amalie Bleackley

Amalie Bleackley