If it’s Tuesday, I have brown hair, and was born in the 70’s…..

 

Sometimes it feels like this when using loyalty cards – it can be difficult to get points, rewards, or incentives, and this can prove frustrating to customers.

 

I myself have been frustrated at times with loyalty programs – no matter what I do, it seems that I can not accumulate points to earn anything. In other cases, it is very easy and I find myself happily surprised when I have incentives coming that I didn’t even realize were waiting for me.

 

I was in line recently at a retail location and overheard a conversation between the customer and cashier. She handed over her loyalty card, making the comment that this time she was sure to get points because she was purchasing items that were noted in this week’s flyer. To her dismay, the points did not accumulate. She asked the cashier about this, and in looking at the flyer, the cashier noted that the customer needed to purchase three of the item in order to receive points. The customer was clearly frustrated and vented to the cashier, explaining that while she knows it’s not the cashier’s fault, she’s frustrated because she shops at the store often, but can’t seem to buy anything that falls into the required purchases. She made the comment that it seems like this is one of those programs that you only get points if “it’s Tuesday, I have brown hair, and was born in the 70’s.”

 

While the comment made me giggle, I completely felt her frustration. I shop at this store quite often, and, like her, don’t have many points at all to show for it. In doing some research, I’ve come to the conclusion that this loyalty program was designed for the most rewards given for making specific, store brand purchases and pharmacy transactions. Thankfully, my family and I are healthy and do not require prescriptions, so that leaves me with the store brand items. However, their store brand is limited with regard to what items they offer, and it seems that I never need what they have.

 

Loyalty programs, when designed properly, can increase loyalty and encourage customers to shop more often. However, if they become frustrating to the customer, their value will decrease dramatically. How can you be sure that your program is effective?

 

1. Make sure the goal is properly defined, yet not too limiting. While you want to make sure the loyalty program is driving customers to specific purchases (if that’s your goal), make sure you also offer other ways to easily redeem points too so that customers feel like there’s value. If they see points accumulating and they’re getting close to an incentive, it may drive them to make the purchases you want them to in order to push them over the edge of redeeming points. Similarly, if it’s a case like the above where prescriptions are encouraged, customers using the program will know this in the back of their head, and next time they need a prescription filled, they will probably sway toward your business over the competition.

 

2. Ask your loyalty card users for their opinion. Once a program is rolled out, there may be bugs to work out. Maybe it’s too limiting, maybe it’s not working quite the way you envisioned it playing out. While customers may complain to friends and family, or possibly a cashier, you may never hear about it. After an initial rollout, let a bit of time pass and then reach out to loyalty card users to gauge their satisfaction and ask for suggestions for improvement. Not only will this give you great insight into how customers use your card, but it will make them feel like a part of the process, and they may be inclined to be more invested in your program. This, of course, can lead to more sales.

 

3. Look to the analytics for clues. The backend data compiled with loyalty programs can shed light into the success of your program. Are you seeing a drop off or increase in usage? Are you seeing high volumes of purchases but few accumulated points? Reviewing the analytics on a regular basis can help ensure the program is running smoothly.

 

4. Offer a surprise they can’t pass up. Once in a while, it may be helpful (and fun) to offer loyalty card users a bigger, spontaneous, “just because you’re a member” incentive that is not tied to a specific purchase or task. It will definitely generate buzz, make customers feel as though being a member of the program is beneficial, and keep them coming back for more.

 

Does your company offer a successful loyalty program? As a customer, what are your favorite loyalty programs out there? Please comment below and start a conversation!

 

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