For many loyalty program members, soft benefits are just as valuable as monetary rewards because they don’t cost brands much and still have a high perceived value.
“Soft” loyalty benefits, which are non-monetary rewards you can offer members of your loyalty program to elevate engagement, can be anything from early access to new products to exclusive experiences.
By offering soft benefits, you show your members that you appreciate their loyalty and you’re committed to giving them memorable experiences.
This article will focus on 13 examples of soft benefits you can offer your members that won’t cost you a lot and will create emotional connections and long-term loyalty.
Insider Panels Help You Get Your Loyalty Program Members More Involved
One way to give your loyalty program members a sense of involvement with your brand is to offer opportunities for them to participate in insider panels.
Customers who participate in J. Crew’s insider panels also complete surveys and polls, attend exclusive events and product launches, receive priority customer service and host members-only events.
J. Crew uses insider panels to allow its loyalty program members to get a preview of the next season’s line and vote on it.
They are groups of enthusiastic J. Crew customers who are invited to share their feedback and insights on the brand’s products, services and overall customer experience.
J. Crew officials use the feedback from the insider panels to inform their decision-making process and improve the customer experience. For example, the panels’ feedback has been used to develop new products, improve the fit of existing products and create more engaging marketing campaigns.
This gives members a sense of ownership over the products and makes them more likely to purchase the products they voted for, which can increase sales for J. Crew.
An Extended Return Policy Helps Remove Friction From Shopping
Offering your loyalty members an extended return policy is a great way to retain them as long-term customers.
It shows you’re willing to do everything you can to provide a great member experience.
Members of the IKEA Family program can take up to 365 days to return items while non-members only have up to 90 days.
If you have proof of purchase, you can return unopened products within 365 days for a full refund. You can also return open products within 180 days with your proof of purchase for a full refund.
IKEA’s generous return policy for members goes a long way toward customer retention.
A Product Launch Event Gives Loyalty Members a VIP Feeling
Product launch events are a great way for a brand to engage with its loyalty program members and introduce them to new products, build stronger relationships and collect feedback.
When a brand invites loyalty program members to a product launch event, it creates strong bonds and emotional connections.
Product launch events give loyalty program members a feeling of exclusivity because they get to see and touch new products before they’re released to the general public. Members also feel like they’re part of a special brand community at a product launch event.
Lululemon uses product launch events as part of its loyalty strategy. The events are usually held at select stores and feature new product releases, live demonstrations and special promotions for loyalty program members.
Loyalty program members are invited to the event in advance via email, social media, or the Lululemon app.
At the event members are given early access to the new products. Lululemon officials attend product launches to answer questions about the new products and help customers find the right fit.
Loyalty members also receive discounts on new products, free gifts or early access to future sales.
Exclusive Experiences Lead to Memorable Experiences
Offering exclusive experiences can be a powerful way to create long-term loyalty with your loyalty program members because they create lasting memories and emotional connections that go beyond simply receiving a discount or free product.
REI’s brand is all about the outdoors and it offers exclusive experiences at special pricing for its REI Co-op members.
Members can choose from a lengthy list of 150 experiences around the world.
REI Adventures offers multi-day adventure trips around the world, led by experienced guides. These trips include hiking, backpacking, cycling, kayaking and other outdoor activities.
The Yosemite National Park Family Adventure is a popular trip. It’s six days for families with children ages 6 and over. Activities include hiking, camping and exploring the park’s waterfalls and granite cliffs.
Members are more likely to remember experiences than they are to remember physical products. As a result, they’re more likely to become brand advocates and long-term customers.
And when they take these memorable trips, they share on social media channels and spread the word about your brand.
Personalized Rewards Make Members Feel Understood
When you offer personalized rewards to your loyalty members, it increases customer retention, customer engagement, lifetime value and elevates their brand advocacy because they feel special and appreciated.
Sephora’s Beauty Insider program offers members points for every purchase, which can be redeemed for products, services and exclusive experiences. In addition to general rewards, Sephora offers personalized rewards based on a member’s purchase history and preferences.
For example, a member who frequently purchases skincare products may receive personalized recommendations for new skincare products to try or they may be invited to exclusive events featuring skincare experts.
Priority Customer Service Makes Loyalty Members Feel Valued
Your loyalty members are more likely to feel valued when they receive priority customer service.
Priority customer service is a great soft benefit to offer your members because it leads to increased loyalty and helps them resolve their issues quickly and efficiently.
When this happens, you build trust between members and your brand.
Diamond members of Ulta Beauty’s Ultamate Rewards loyalty program receive priority customer service.
This is a great benefit because it shows your members that they’re special and valued.
Diamond members gain access to an exclusive phone number to call a dedicated customer service line for faster, more personalized assistance. They also receive priority assistance online through chat or email.
In-store Diamond members can skip the general customer service line and receive priority assistance at any Ulta Beauty store.
To become a Diamond member, you must earn 1,200 points in a calendar year. You can earn points by shopping at Ulta Beauty stores, online or through the Ulta Beauty app. You can also earn points on purchases made with the Ultamate Rewards® Credit Card.
A Global Community Lets Your Loyalty Members Connect With Other Members Around the World
Many consumers are drawn to loyalty programs that make them feel part of a community and ones that do good around the world.
A brand’s global community extends its loyalty base by allowing members to connect with other members from all over the world. This creates a sense of belonging and community that is important for all members.
Loyalty program members can share their experiences and advice and learn about new products and services that they may be interested in.
Members can then give feedback to your brand about their experiences. If you allow your members to connect and learn globally, you can create a more engaged member base.
The Starbucks Global Community Impact program is special for loyalty program members in a few ways.
First, the program supports initiatives that benefit communities where loyalty program members live and work. For example, the program has funded the construction of schools in coffee-growing communities, provided scholarships to young people and supported disaster relief efforts.
Second, the Starbucks Global Community Impact program gives loyalty program members a way to get involved in their communities. For example, loyalty program members can volunteer their time to support Starbucks’ community partners or they can donate their rewards points to support community initiatives.
Third, the Starbucks Global Community Impact program helps to create a more sustainable future for coffee-growing communities. The program supports initiatives that help coffee farmers improve their livelihoods and protect the environment. For example, the program has funded the construction of water treatment facilities in coffee-growing communities and provided training to coffee farmers on sustainable agricultural practices.
Access to Community Events and Forums Gives Loyalty Members a Greater Experience
When you can provide your loyalty members with places to share their stories and experiences with other members, it creates a sense of belonging and heightens their brand engagement.
Community events and forums elevate engagement because they help form deeper connections between members and your brand.
They create a sense of exclusivity and community, give members a place to share and learn and somewhere to receive direct feedback from your brand.
NikePlus is Nike’s digital loyalty program that is free to join and offers a variety of benefits to members.
NikePlus members have access to a variety of community events and forums including running clubs, training camps and meet-and-greets with Nike athletes. These types of events are attractive to members and create brand advocacy.
Members have access to a community of other Nike enthusiasts and they can connect with other members through online forums, social media and in-person events.
The Nike Run Club is a free running app that offers NikePlus members a variety of features including training plans, guided runs and challenges. Members also have access to exclusive events and experiences through the Nike Run Club.
The Nike Training Club is a free fitness app that offers NikePlus members a variety of workouts including strength training, yoga and cardio. Members also have access to exclusive workouts and challenges through the Nike Training Club.
Acknowledging Loyalty Members Via Social Media Strengthens Customer Relationships
Publicly acknowledging and rewarding your loyal program members on social media shows your commitment to them and appreciation for their continued support.
If your brand recognizes your loyalty members on social media it goes a long way toward building lasting two-way relationships.
And if you’re meeting your loyalty members where they are on social media, it encourages them to spread the word to others about your brand. It also inspires them to share positive experiences with your brand via social media.
While acknowledging your loyalty members on social media gives them a sense of community, it highlights the human side of your brand. This creates deeper trust between you and your loyalty members.
Interacting on social media with your members can’t be sporadic if you hope to achieve success. It’s about building genuine connections with your loyalty program members by engaging with their comments and responding to their messages.
Sephora regularly posts photos and videos of Sephora Beauty Insider members on its social media pages and features them in its social media campaigns and promotions.
Also, Sephora hosts contests and giveaways for Sephora Beauty Insider members on social media. For example, the brand recently hosted a contest on Instagram where members could submit photos of themselves using Sephora products for a chance to win a gift card.
Sephora provides loyalty program members with early access to new products and information on social media. For example, Sephora often posts sneak previews of new products on its social media pages before they are released to the public.
Allow Your Loyalty Members to Vote on New Products and Marketing Campaigns and Be Heard
When you allow your loyalty program members to vote on new products and marketing campaigns, it gives them a sense of empowerment and an exclusive type of engagement.
Through its Target Circle loyalty program, Target allows members to vote on products and marketing campaigns by visiting the Target Circle website or app.
Members are presented with a variety of products and campaigns to vote on and they can cast their votes by clicking on the product or campaign they like best.
Voting on new products and marketing campaigns gives Target Circle members a voice in the company’s decision-making process.
Members may also be eligible to receive special rewards for voting like discounts on products or exclusive access to new products.
By truly giving your loyal customers a voice, you can gain valuable insights into their preferences and pain points. You can identify potential issues and make sure your offerings align with customer expectations.
Offer Members-only Products and Services to Heighten Engagement
Members-only products and services provide loyalty members with exclusive perks and privileges that are not available to the general public.
They make members feel valued and give them a feeling of exclusivity.
It could be early access to new products and services where loyalty members are the first to try out new products and services. And you can add special discounts for members also.
Members feel like they’re getting something extra for their loyalty.
Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program has three tiers: Insider, VIB and Rouge. VIB and Rouge members receive members-only products and services as part of their benefits.
Those benefits can include early access to new products where VIB and Rouge members get early access to new products before they are released to the general public.
Exclusive events are also offered where VIB and Rouge members are invited to product launches, workshops and parties. Members can learn more about new products and meet other beauty enthusiasts.
VIB and Rouge members receive free samples with their purchases which is a great way to try out new products without having to commit to a purchase.
VIB and Rouge members receive free birthday gifts as well.
Offer Express Checkout for Loyalty Members to Enhance the Customer Experience
Customers always want to save time so offering your loyalty members express checkout is an enticing benefit.
Through its Nordy Club loyalty program, Nordstrom offers its loyalty members express checkout that allows them to skip the checkout line and pay for their purchases quickly and easily. This saves members time and is especially appreciated during the holiday season.
Overall, express checkout adds convenience to your shopping experience and gives members a sense of exclusivity.
Express checkout also can help you increase sales, reduce checkout times and improve long-term customer loyalty.
Any convenience you can provide your loyalty members is always welcome because it enhances customer relationships and your brand image.
Surprise & Delight Rewards Deepen Customer Relationships
Keeping your brand top-of-mind among your loyalty members in between purchases can be challenging.
One way to do this through your loyalty program is to offer surprise & delight rewards because they strengthen customer relationships, increase engagement and elevate brand advocacy.
You could send your loyalty members birthday surprises, offer exclusive access to events or provide personalized product recommendations. The key is giving them something they don’t expect.
Macy’s Star Rewards loyalty program offers its members surprise and delight rewards like free gifts that could be makeup bags, jewelry or home décor items.
Members also receive early access to sales, invitations to exclusive events and exclusive experiences like a trip to New York City or tickets to a Broadway show.
Macy’s delivers surprise & delight rewards in the mail, in-store, online or through the store app.
If you offer surprise & delight rewards to your loyalty members, they will exceed customer expectations and make them feel valued. They also help you collect key customer insights through feedback on your surprise & delight rewards by uncovering hidden preferences and interests that members may not express through surveys or direct feedback.
By observing how members respond to different types of surprise & delight rewards, brands can gain better insights into their preferences.
Loyalty Program Members Value Soft Benefits
There’s no denying the fact that loyalty program members will always appreciate transactional benefits like discounts and free shipping.
But unlike transactional benefits, soft loyalty benefits are experiential, don’t cost your brand a lot and have a high perceived value.
Soft loyalty benefits make members feel special and valued and they’re more likely to become brand advocates.
If you’re interested in learning more about creative ways to add soft rewards to your loyalty program, contact us here.