Loyalty programs succeed when they don’t make customers do too much for too little.
By Richard Pachter
There’s a store near my office where I occasionally shop for probiotics. It’s a little overpriced compared to some of the online venues but it’s a convenient alternative. Invariably, at checkout, one of the shiny, friendly clerks asks me if my phone number is in their system. It’s as rapid a turnoff to me as when the late, lamented Radio Shack’s proto-geeks solicited my address when I tried to buy a jack, a plug or a battery. Then and now, it’s an annoying disruption to what should, in my mind, be a seamless, relatively friction-free experience.
Recently, after a few such encounters — and polite refusals from me to give up my info — I went to the store’s website to see what I might be missing. Not much!
Points that accrued (then disappeared after a few months) that potentially turned into dollars-off deals? Oh boy! Occasional discounts? That’s nice. Incessant emails and texts? Nuh-uh!
Now, this isn’t a terrible program, just not an exceptional one. But it’s further diminished in my mind because no employee ever presented it to me in an attractive or appealing manner. No one ever handed me a flyer or brochure or offered a trial or anything that might’ve made me think twice beyond reflexively wanting to run out of the store. Their passive-aggressive approach wasn’t gettin’ the job done.
Older readers may remember the late-1970’s promotion of then-unknown ATM cards by banks and other financial institutions. The natural suspicion one has of being scammed or fooled, or just the preternatural instinct for avoiding risk precluded immediate acceptance, at least for me. It’s hard to recall in our current, mostly cash-free society that credit cards were then the sole domain of professionals not proletarians, when use of mobile payments, debit cards and other instruments are now the rule and not the exception. But the ease of use afforded by debit cards was demonstrated repeatedly, so their acceptance was universal.
Their adoption triggered a never-ending surge of loyalty and affinity opportunities but if they weren’t useful and appealing, they never would’ve gone anywhere. Their adoption offers a lesson.
Loyalty can be tricky, but there are a few obvious things that are not always in the mix.
Immediately demonstrate value: attention spans are short and getting shorter. The “what’s in it for me” factor remains undiminished.
Make it easy: You’ve got my debit card in your hand or in your system while I’m checking out. Offer me an immediate discount for enrolling, then and sign me up on the spot; don’t give me a homework assignment! Eliminate as many obstacles as possible.
Be mobile: Build a great app and seamlessly integrate your loyalty program into the user experience. Listen to app users and customers before adding or removing features.
Make it special: Sure discounts and discount offers rule, but experiential perqs can be much more meaningful and sticky.
Bottom line: not everyone is as excited about your program as you are. Think about the experience and feelings you want to elicit and work from there.
Richard Pachter is Editor at Large for The Wise Marketer