eCommerce Insiders

Are Loyalty Programs Still Relevant Models For 2015?

In April of this year, eCommerce Insiders published an article that featured 4 loyalty programs that marketers should emulate.

Now, as marketers start turning their thoughts towards 2015 strategies, we present a refresher as to why loyalty programs are an important strategic decision, along with some trends for the new year.

Loyalty Programs: A Refresher Course

What are loyalty programs all about anyway, and why are they important? Are loyalty programs really worth the effort and the expense?

The best explanation I’ve found is within an Entrepreneur.com article: “Repeat customers are rewarded and businesses increase sales. It’s a basic but powerful strategy.”

It’s great to learn that you were able to attract a new customer, but let’s face it: It takes far more work to obtain new customers than it does to maintain the ones you already have.

Repeat customers are the lifeblood of any company. But, the ability to attract and maintain a long-term relationship with a buyer takes work. The relationship has to be earned, just as one would earn loyalty and trust in a long-term personal relationship.

That’s where loyalty programs come into play. They reward buyers for their loyalty to the brand. They inform customers that their business isn’t taken for granted, and they provide an incentive for customers to continue to direct their dollars towards the brand.

Implementing a loyalty program is not only the right thing to do in order to reward loyal shoppers, but it also provides a great method of attracting new shoppers into the brand’s marketing matrix.

Loyalty programs are the bait that captures the attention of shoppers who are searching for brands to invest in. And, they help to create a perception of brand relevancy.

Owen Shapiro, the author of Brand Shift: The Future of Brands and Marketing recently told Colloquy that, “these programs don’t mean (that) a retailer won’t lose customers to competitors, but a good loyalty program does mean that they are seen as relevant and top of the (brand) consideration set.”

What’s Coming?

If you’re one of the e-retailers who had the vision to implement a loyalty program, then you’re probably curious about trends and best practices for 2015.

The good news is that upcoming trends and best practices are easy to implement, and they incorporate many of the same best practices that have worked for 2014.

To that end, it’s best to continue down the same path that’s been working for you when considering the marketing platforms for your loyalty programs.

Email marketing to brand subscribers is still a crucial platform to use, and the use of discount email codes is a successful strategy that should be continued.

In addition to this, exclusive content should also be reserved for loyalty customers, along with contests that offer loyalists access to discounts and rewards above and beyond what they’d normally qualify for. But, while you’re assessing and implementing what’s worked over the last year, consider adding a couple more strategies to your 2015 loyalty program campaigns.

No More (Seemingly) Empty Promises

In the past, loyalty programs have taken a painstakingly long time to deliver the rewards. The thinking was that the longer the rewards took to kick in, the longer the customer would feel obligated to hang around in order to collect their rewards. Of course, this practically guaranteed that program members were forced to spend money and generate revenue for the company.

But, in time, savvy customers saw through the tactic and rejected both the loyalty program and the brand in question. In 2015, shoppers will no longer allow themselves to be strung along based on pipe dreams and empty promises. They want results, and they want them now. Loyalty program developers need to be ready to deliver the goods, or be prepared to be left behind.

If a company hopes to develop loyalty and long-term relations through their programs moving forward, then expediting rewards is truly their only option.

Failure to deliver immediate loyalty benefits serves to anger shoppers – they’ll feel duped, and they’ll quickly realize that they’ve been manipulated to spend money. Besides, today’s shoppers are busy and pressed for time. They don’t want to participate in a program that might reward them someday.

The Rise of Mobile-Accessible Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs in 2015 should become increasingly accessible via mobile devices. Today’s shoppers are increasingly gravitating towards an integrated shopping and program-redemption experience across mobile, website, and social media platforms.

Brick and mortar entities are already on-board with integration, allowing customers to gain access to exclusive content, deals, and rewards across all forms of media, including print.

As you might have gathered by now, loyalty programs are still relevant and worthy of their time and expense. They not only provide an excellent avenue of customer retention, but they also provide an avenue to attract new shoppers who intentionally shop with companies that offer rewards and loyalty programs.

Just as seasons and years change, implementation processes will change. But the need to reward your customers for their business will never change.

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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