This is an interesting question for brands and loyalty marketers to ponder.
Every brand wants to have loyal customers, just as every loyalty program is created to attract as many members as possible.
Consumers say their loyalty is harder to maintain than ever before, which makes it more challenging for brands to acquire and retain members.
Quite often consumers are attracted to a particular brand due to its products and messaging. And then they become members of the brand’s loyalty program to extend their two-way relationships.
So, what’s more important? Being loyal to a brand or to its loyalty program?
Your Loyalty Program Needs to Enhance Your Overall Brand
When it comes to buzz phrases to better serve consumers in the loyalty industry, these are among the most common:
- Seamless customer experience.
- Ease of use.
A brand’s goal for its loyalty program is to accomplish all these things. Your loyalty program should serve to enhance your overall brand perception. It should be an extension of your brand that elevates the member experience.
In fact, your loyalty program should raise your brand’s perception in the eyes of members.
A successful and engaging loyalty program takes elements of the brand’s messaging and reinforces them in a unique way.
Tying your loyalty program benefits to the desires of your customers should always be the goal for your loyalty program.
Lululemon’s premium loyalty program carries an annual membership of $168.
This fee includes:
- A free pair of yoga pants
- Free workout classes
- Curated events.
- Live digital workshops designed and facilitated by Lululemon to help navigate all of life’s twists and turns.
- Passes for members’ friends and family
- Early access to select product releases
Lululemon officials include these attractive benefits in their loyalty program because they know how valuable they are to members. The experiential benefits satisfy an emotional desire for exclusivity.
Lululemon’s loyalty program reinforces and elevates the best elements of the brand, which leads to highly engaged members.
Your Loyalty Program Isn’t About Your Brand
This is the part where brands must realize that designing a loyalty program isn’t about them. It’s about their customers.
As a brand, ask yourself: “How can we drive customers back to our brand?”
Keeping your eyes and ears on your customers is the path toward a successful loyalty program. It all starts and ends with them.
Ask your customers how they perceive your brand and what key messaging is attached to that. Then design your loyalty program to fit your customers’ collective perception of your brand.
It’s all about meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
Focus on your customers. Listen to them and find out how your brand fits in their lives and what you can offer in a loyalty program that enhances these two-way relationships.
By listening and hearing your customers, you build emotional connections that will serve you and your program members well into the future. Create a customer-centric loyalty program filled with benefits customers want and experiential elements that best represent your brand.
If your loyalty program benefits are valuable, your members will engage extensively with your brand. And consider that 84% of consumers are likely to recommend a retailer to family and friends when that retailer offers loyalty program benefits that are valuable.
Design Your Loyalty Program to Create a More Enjoyable Shopping Experience
Not only should a loyalty program create increased member engagement and spend, but also a better shopping experience.
If your customers find better shopping experiences through your loyalty program, that will result in heightened brand loyalty and advocacy. Make sure your loyalty program elevates your brand and your shopping experience.
As more brands and consumers emerge from the pandemic world we have lived in for more than 19 months, loyalty programs will become more important for brands.
Loyalty programs that meet and exceed customer expectations and differentiate themselves from their competition will hold a clear edge in the future.
Sephora’s Beauty Insider is a fitting example of a loyalty program that embodies the brand. It’s a tiered points program based on spend that includes:
- Beauty Insider Cash
- Seasonal savings events
- Free standard shipping
- Samples rewards
- Exclusive gifts and experiences
- First access to products
- Beauty classes
Beauty Insider provides members with many experiential benefits. Consumers who sign up receive access to things like the Beauty Insider Community and beauty classes without having to spend anything at all.
Members that spend $350 annually gain access to the VIB tier. That equates to free gifts and one makeover per year. Members who spend $1,000 annually are upgraded to Rouge status where they have access to a private hotline and exclusive events.
Meanwhile, Starbucks Rewards is also a tiered points program with benefits that include:
- Mobile order ahead
- Multiple payment options
- Credit and debit cardholders accrue points forever with no expiration
Starbucks Rewards boasts more than 21 million global members and its mobile app makes the program easy to use.
Starbucks changed its loyalty program from visit-based to spend-based after listening to its customers. The company also expanded its Mobile Order & Pay platform to give customers more options to order their favorite Starbucks beverage while on the go.
More than 40% of Starbucks transactions are from loyalty program members.
Loyal to the Program or to the Brand?
So, what is the answer to our initial question?
To be loyal to a program, you first must be loyal to a brand. But your loyalty program should elevate the customer experience and enhance your overall brand perception.
Brand loyalty gets consumers in your front door while a well-executed loyalty program makes them want to rent a room for an indefinite amount of time in the future.
You need consumers to be loyal to your brand first to test out your loyalty program. If your program gives them what they want and elevates their perception of your brand, they will remain loyal members forever.