Even with a great loyalty strategy in place, if your brand doesn’t have the right loyalty platform to support it, the best intentions aren’t going to matter.
Research around loyalty programs shows that some of the biggest factors that consumers value are personalization, differentiation, tiers, options for reward redemption and subscription.
And for brands, features like security, the ability to integrate with existing systems, scalability, zero-party data collection and being able to incentivize program engagement are critical. That’s why choosing the right loyalty program platform can make or break your entire loyalty strategy.
You’ll want to learn what capabilities loyalty platform providers offer and how they can help you achieve your loyalty goals.
There are several types of loyalty platform providers, including those that offer end-to-end loyalty solutions and monitor and manage your loyalty program after it launches. Some brands don’t have the necessary internal resources or IT support to launch a loyalty program and that is a pivotal piece around what type of platform they might need.
Here is a checklist of 11 features to look for in a loyalty marketing platform.
Table of Contents:
- Can the Loyalty Platform Integrate With My Existing Systems?
- Can the Loyalty Platform Support Incentives to Collect Zero-party Data?
- Can it be Used to Personalize My Loyalty Program?
- Can it Support Tiered Loyalty Programs?
- Can it Support Subscription-based Loyalty?
- Does it Offer Multiple Ways to Earn and Redeem Rewards?
- Can the Loyalty Platform Support Incentivized Engagements?
- Does the Platform Provide Loyalty Program Analytics?
- Is the Platform Protected by Industry-leading Security and Privacy?
- Can it Flex With Your Loyalty Strategy Over Time?
- What Support is Offered Beyond the Platform?
1. Can the Loyalty Platform Integrate With My Existing Systems?
If you’ve read any amount of content about loyalty programs and what consumers want most from them, inevitably you’ve seen these three words: Seamless customer experience.
Those words mean a lot when it comes to giving your customers memorable experiences and impacting their long-term loyalty.
Connected experiences are what consumers enjoy most because every entrance to the brand – online, in-store or mobile—provides associates with the same information. It’s also important from a store associate’s perspective that they can look up a customer’s account and get updated, accurate information, which empowers them to better serve the customers.
To accomplish this, your loyalty platform must have an advanced API (Application Programming Interface) framework for seamless integrations with many third-party platforms your brand already. Examples might include Salesforce, Zendesk, PayPal/Venmo, Lexis Nexis and Swift/DaVinci.
APIs are incredibly important when it comes to a fully integrated experience, both from the consumer’s and the brand’s point of view.
2. Can the Loyalty Platform Support Incentives to Collect Zero-party Data?
As consumers and brands prepare for third-party cookies to go away within the next year, incentivizing your customers to collect additional data is a critical piece of any loyalty platform.
When your loyalty marketing platform allows you to collect additional data to create more comprehensive customer profiles, that greatly helps your personalization efforts going forward and increases engagement levels. But consumers are not always comfortable with or willing to give up their data.
How can you incentivize them to share it?
Some loyalty platforms support loyalty amplifiers, which are shareable incentives that drive interaction with repeat customers and elevate overall engagement. Using loyalty amplifiers like instant win games, UGC contests, sweepstakes and trivia helps your brand incentivize customers and encourage them to come back frequently.
Adding elements like personality profiles, quizzes and surveys to your loyalty program, and incentivizing members to fill them out by giving them rewards to do so, helps motivate them to do so. If you can collect more customer data through additional incentives, the better chance you will have to build lasting two-way relationships.
If you have solid relationships with customers, who provide feedback on a variety of things important to your brand, you will be able to adjust your loyalty program when necessary.
In exchange for an incentive, 66% of consumers are likely to provide brands with more personal information and preferences to better personalize their loyalty program experience.
Zero-party data is what consumers willingly share with your brand, so the more data you must personalize communications with members and offer additional incentives to engage, the better off you will be in the long run. And the zero-party data you collect from surveys, polls and quizzes helps you learn more about member preferences, such as what rewards or products they’re interested in, which can help you personalize and optimize over time.
It’s great to collect all of this data but the most important thing is actually putting it to use, which leads to the next question.
3. Can it be Used to Personalize My Loyalty Program?
So, now you have all this customer data, what do you do with it?
This is where personalization comes in and this is also what can separate you from your competition.
Personalizing communications based on purchase history and member preferences is a great way to increase brand engagement. So, having a loyalty platform that can support personalization is an important factor. While many brands might think they’re providing timely and relevant personalization to their customers, consumers think differently.
According to our 2023 Loyalty Programs Data Study, 90% of consumers agree that in general, when it comes to being personalized to their preferences, most loyalty programs have room for improvement.
So, when you have collected a large amount of customer data, getting personalization right is a huge piece of the loyalty puzzle. While consumers want personalization, they don’t want to be bombarded with communications that aren’t tailored to what they want. Consumers want to be valued and brands can achieve that through effective personalization.
For example, the Johnson & Johnson Care Club focuses on personalizing the member experience through the collection of first-party data.
To receive more relevant communications, J&J members update their profiles with data such as age, birthday, brand preferences, gender, number and ages of children, categories that members are interested in (Beauty, Baby & Child Care, Diabetes, Sustainability, etc.) and the J&J brands they currently purchase or want to hear more from.
Members of the Johnson & Johnson Care Club receive more personalized emails and offers for products based on their preferences.
For consumers, personalization remains a huge expectation.
Consider that among the top five things they would love to see from brand loyalty programs to offer a great member experience, nearly half (47%) of consumers want more personalization (more of the features, benefits and/or products that they’re most interested in versus being shown the same content everyone else sees).
And 35% of consumers want better communication from their favorite brands (the right amount of communication at the right time from the brand in your preferred channel(s) like email versus SMS).
4. Can it Support Tiered Loyalty Programs?
Consumers are different and it makes sense to offer them options when it comes to loyalty programs.
A tiered loyalty program is attractive from an engagement perspective because consumers can aspire to achieve a higher status. Finding a loyalty platform that can support multiple tiers gives your brand options as well.
Your benefits are especially important in a tiered loyalty program because they are more valuable to members as they advance among the tiers. Combining transactional and experiential benefits along the way is enticing to your members, with your very best benefits reserved for your VIP members.
Members of tiered loyalty programs engage more and receive a sense of exclusivity, especially when moving up tiers.
When a brand offers a loyalty program with exclusive, tiered benefits, members are driven to achieve a higher status. Lower-tier members have something to aspire to, while upper-tier members feel that they have earned exclusive benefits and are proud of their status. As members achieve new tier status, they feel privileged and want to hang onto it.
According to the 2023 Loyalty Programs Data Study, one of the top five things consumers (34%) would love to see from brand loyalty programs are multiple tiers that better align with their shopping habits.
Consumers want to work toward goals and gain satisfaction through achievement. That’s the appeal of tiered loyalty programs. Even if a consumer starts in your first tier, he or she can aspire to move up the tiers through increased spending and increased engagement to receive enhanced benefits.
Consider that 74% of consumers agree that they would engage more with brands that offered different tiers in their loyalty programs based on how much they spend per year.
If you’re building a tiered loyalty program, remember to use easy-to-understand tiers and include VIP tiers, paid tiers or a subscription tier. You can also include a premium tier where your best customers can opt-in to pay upfront for enhanced member benefits.
Consumers want choices and a tiered loyalty program offers them that.
5. Can it Support Subscription-based Loyalty?
Subscriptions have been on the rise for quite some time, whether it involves industries like fashion, health & fitness, wellness, cable, grocery, pet products music or radio.
And the subscription model applies to customer loyalty as well where members pay a monthly fee to receive various benefits that elevate engagement. Two types of subscription-based loyalty are paid enrollments and premium loyalty.
Paid enrollment subscriptions are fascinating incentives for consumers that are on the rise.
A paid enrollment is a type of subscription loyalty amplifier that allows your customers to receive exciting, limited-time benefits or offers in exchange for a fee. They offer benefits like the opportunity to purchase or win exclusive new products and/or VIP experiences that represent the best of your brand.
The limited-time offer aspect creates a sense of urgency among customers and increases engagement. This helps brands because they see incremental spending, brand advocacy and increased program enrollment.
For example, in 2022 Taco Bell launched the Taco Lover’s Pass, which was a subscription offer through the Taco Bell app. To participate, customers paid $10 and received one taco of their choice per day for 30 consecutive days.
Premium loyalty programs target your best customers who want to pay either a monthly or annual fee to engage at the highest levels with your brand in exchange for instant benefits and top-tier experiences.
The most popular premium loyalty program is Amazon Prime, which launched in 2005 and now boasts 200 million global members who pay either a monthly membership of $14.99 or an annual membership of $179.
And premium loyalty’s popularity continues to rise. 74% of consumers are likely to invest in a retailer’s premium loyalty program if they already belong to that retailer’s traditional loyalty program.
According to a 2020 McKinsey survey, members of paid loyalty programs are 60% more likely to spend more on a brand after they subscribe as opposed to free loyalty programs increasing that likelihood by 30%.
And our 2023 Loyalty Programs Data Study found that more than half (56%) of consumers plan to join additional premium loyalty programs in the next 12 months.
If your loyalty platform can support a subscription-based loyalty tier, you’ll excite consumers to join and engage with your brand and receive elevated transactional and experiential benefits. But the platform must handle subscription management and support recurring billing and enhanced security for credit card processing and other types of payment.
6. Does it Offer Multiple Ways to Earn and Redeem Rewards?
Finding loyalty program technology that allows consumers multiple ways to earn and redeem points is crucial.
A key point of our research focused on how consumers view loyalty program rewards and revealed some interesting stats. According to our 2023 Loyalty Amplifiers Data Study, 74% of consumers agree that loyalty program rewards often feel unattainable, they require making too many purchases or require too many points and take too long to earn.
And 71% of consumers want more attainable rewards (not having to save up large amounts of points for big-ticket items, but having the opportunity to redeem smaller amounts of points for smaller rewards). Consider nearly 90% of consumers said they engage with loyalty programs less often if they feel it takes too long to earn rewards.
Nearly 70% of consumers are likely to redeem smaller amounts of loyalty program points in exchange for rewards like the chance to win a prize, a customized digital product or a donation to a charity.
But it’s not just about what rewards customers can earn. It’s also about how they can earn them.
More than two-thirds (67%) of consumers want more options for what they can redeem points for besides just coupons and discounts.
For example, 19 Crimes has an intriguing loyalty program called Infamous Insider Rewards which focuses on member acquisition, advocacy and point burn.
The interesting thing about this program is 19 Crimes allows members to redeem smaller quantities of points for unique rewards instead of requiring large numbers of points to earn larger items.
Also, 19 Crimes makes the program engaging by giving its members various ways to earn points. For instance, members receive 150 points for joining the program, for taking a customer profile quiz to receive a free custom T-shirt or earning points for taking polls.
Most loyalty programs are points-based programs, but most of the benefits feel unattainable to consumers. Find a loyalty platform that is flexible enough to offer points for rewards that do not take long to redeem. Find a loyalty platform that can accommodate this for consumers because they won’t wait around to earn enough points to redeem them for a reward far down the road.
7. Can the Loyalty Platform Support Incentivized Engagements?
Statistics show that 83% of consumers belong to between one and six loyalty programs, but 72% of consumers use 50% or less of their free loyalty program memberships. Factor in that 31% of consumers use only 25% and you’re looking at about one-third of consumers using just a quarter of their loyalty program memberships.
So, what can you do to elevate engagement and make your loyalty program exciting for members?
Loyalty amplifiers are designed to increase engagement, excitement and interest in your brand. For example, a sweepstakes can offer your members a chance to win a grand prize, but also hands out several smaller rewards to keep the interest high. They can help you collect additional customer insights that can be leveraged in your personalization efforts.
Consider that 88% of consumers are likely to join your loyalty program if you offer them an incentive like a chance to win a prize by entering a sweepstakes. Also, the allure of a loyalty amplifier packs power among your members: 90% of consumers agree they’re more likely to engage with a brand if it offers incentivized engagements.
The key to offering a loyalty amplifier is giving your members something exciting to engage with that could impact their long-term loyalty to your brand.
8. Does the Platform Provide Loyalty Program Analytics?
Measuring and tracking your performance is key to optimizing your loyalty program.
The most challenging aspect of a loyalty program is monitoring, adapting and managing it after it launches. Optimization cannot happen unless your brand acquires actionable data.
That’s why it’s essential that your platform helps you track and take action on the following:
Immediate Insights: Loyalty marketing involves ongoing engagement and interaction with customers. Real-time dashboards provide immediate insights into how your loyalty program is performing at any given moment. This enables you to make timely adjustments, optimizations and strategic decisions to improve customer engagement and program effectiveness.
Data-Driven Decision-Making: Loyalty programs generate a wealth of data, including customer behavior, engagement rates, redemption patterns, and more. Real-time dashboards allow you to visualize and analyze this data in real-time, helping you make data-driven decisions to enhance your loyalty strategies.
Quick Problem Identification: If there is a sudden drop in engagement or a technical issue affecting the program, real-time dashboards allow you to identify and address problems quickly. This prevents prolonged periods of ineffective or inefficient marketing efforts.
Personalization and Targeting: Real-time dashboards enable you to see how different customer segments are responding to your loyalty initiatives. With this information, you can personalize offers and communications in real-time, enhancing customer experiences and increasing the likelihood of conversions.
Optimization of Campaigns: By monitoring real-time data on the performance of loyalty marketing campaigns, you can assess which campaigns are resonating with customers and which are not delivering the desired results. This information helps you optimize campaigns on the fly for better outcomes.
Competitive Advantage: In a fast-paced market, the ability to react quickly to changes and trends can provide a competitive advantage. Real-time dashboards allow you to stay ahead of competitors by adjusting your loyalty strategies based on real-time insights.
ROI Tracking: Real-time dashboards allow you to track the return on investment (ROI) of your loyalty marketing efforts. You can see how much revenue is being generated through the loyalty program, helping you evaluate its overall success.
Alignment with Goals: Real-time dashboards help ensure that your loyalty marketing efforts are aligned with your business goals. If a specific campaign or initiative is not contributing to your goals, you can identify it quickly and pivot accordingly.
Engagement Monitoring: Monitoring real-time engagement metrics, such as participation rates and redemption rates, allows you to gauge how effectively customers are engaging with your loyalty program. If engagement drops, you can take proactive measures to re-engage customers.
Collaboration: Real-time dashboards allow multiple groups access which means marketing, sales, customer care and fulfillment provide transparency within your organization regarding the performance of the loyalty program. This enables teams to collaborate more effectively and hold each other accountable for achieving targets.
9. Is the Platform Protected by Industry-leading Security and Privacy?
Finding a platform that can support that can help you collect a ton of customer data is critical because you can use the information to help you with personalization and sending relevant communications to your members. The next step is making sure your loyalty platform can keep all your data safe and secure.
A loyalty platform needs to provide security for your program data. Find a platform that hosts your program on non-public servers, which are more secure. When you have an online business, top-notch security should be a top priority. Find a loyalty platform that focuses on data privacy laws to secure your member information.
For example, at ebbo our ISO/IEC 27001 27018 and 27701 compliant platform offers industry-leading data management security and protection for both client and consumer data and privacy.
This ensures that your customers’ data is safe. Because the last thing you want in a loyalty program is a security breach, which places your customers and your business in jeopardy.
10. Can it Flex With Your Loyalty Strategy Over Time?
When you have a loyalty program you want to have it designed and built according to your customers’ needs and desires.
You also know that after you launch a loyalty program, that is only the beginning. If you listen to and understand your customers and want to keep your loyalty program fresh and engaging, chances are you will need to make changes along the way.
You want to have a loyalty platform that can easily adapt to program changes you want to make based on customer feedback and expectations. We have seen various brands make significant changes to their already successful loyalty programs.
This year Barnes &Noble, which always had a premium loyalty program, added a free tier and elevated its premium tier as well. The free program is called B&N Rewards while the premium program is called Premium Membership.
CVS and Best Buy are two other brands that added loyalty tiers.
CVS began with its free ExtraCare program and added a premium tier called CarePass. CVS officials wanted to give their customers enhanced benefits and services that would help them save time and they achieved that through its CarePass premium loyalty program.
Best Buy launched three membership tiers this year. The three tiers are My Best Buy, My Best Buy Plus and My Best Buy Total. The last two tiers (annual memberships of $139 and $179, respectively) are the premium tiers.
Best Buy officials launched the three tiers after listening to their customers and understanding different people want different types of loyalty benefits and adapted their program accordingly.
11. What Support is Offered Beyond the Platform?
While this is not technically part of the platform, many loyalty vendors offer strictly SaaS-based technology that does not offer any support services, all of which then falls on your in-house staff. Find a loyalty platform that not only builds and manages your loyalty platform but offers ongoing support and a variety of services like these below:
Client Services: This is a crucial piece of support you will need because your account manager has become part of your brand. You need to receive regular communication to stay on top of your goals and KPIs set before the loyalty program’s launch.
They also are responsible for analyzing member data and any program changes. This relationship is one of the most important ones you will have.
Loyalty strategy: With customer expectations so high today, earning and retaining customer loyalty has become more challenging.
Your brand needs to align its goals for the program and make sure those goals are understood by your loyalty platform provider. One of the biggest goals revolves around your loyalty metrics, what they are, how to track and measure them and how to adapt to them moving forward.
Figure out what type of loyalty program you want to offer, whether that’s free, premium or tiered, and what the related benefits would be for any of those programs.
Technology services: Find a platform that uses standard APIs to simplify the process of connecting to your existing infrastructure.
Make sure it’s easy to make updates to your program that doesn’t involve a lengthy timeline. Also, make sure the platform is custom-built to accommodate your loyalty program’s needs.
Creative services: This service has to be excellent because you’re trusting the platform provider to make your loyalty program and brand come alive through its creative efforts.
This greatly impacts the experience for your members across all brand touchpoints. Besides brand logos, colors, fonts, image styles, and copy, the creative is also responsible for making sure all assets are on-brand, both online and in-store.
Data and analytics: Your brand needs frequent updates about the performance of your loyalty program. Clarify how often you want to receive reporting metrics and what they include.
Your loyalty partner should use the data to uncover insights that lead to strategic recommendations to enhance the member experience and evolve the program. This information helps you better understand your members, their expectations and how you can react to the data.
Customer service and billing: Having stellar customer service is a massive piece of your brand and how it interacts with your customers.
Having billing services only applies if you have a premium loyalty program, where members pay a monthly or annual fee in exchange for instant benefits they can use immediately.
This is where customer service becomes even more critical if it involves billing issues. Many brands aren’t equipped to do this in-house so it’s important to consider this in a loyalty platform.
Choose a Loyalty Platform Based on Your Brand and Customers
Just like every customer is different, so too is every brand. Choosing the right loyalty platform involves many questions and considerable input.
To summarize, your brand can have the best loyalty strategy but if you don’t have the right loyalty platform to support it, it will be all for nothing.
Some of the most important features of a loyalty platform are:
- Ease of integration
- Zero-and-first-party-data collection
- Tiered loyalty
- Subscription-based loyalty
- Multiple ways to earn and redeem rewards
- Support of incentives