After 25 years of working directly with retail marketing executives on their advertising and loyalty initiatives, I am often asked the following question by friends, family, and even retailers:
“What loyalty programs stand out for you and increase your loyalty to them?”
When I think about the brands that my family is loyal to, it comes down to these attributes: Attention to high quality service, personalization, shared charitable focus, and the ability to receive benefits/rewards quickly.
There are a few retailers and loyalty programs that my family loves engaging with and, chances are, many customers value the same things.
Here are some of the retailers doing those things well:
Right on ‘Target’
Let’s start with Target and its in-store experience, which we feel is much more service-oriented than its “peers” in the big box space.
Target shoppers earn rewards and a minimum of 5% cash back with every purchase using their RedCard and can save even more on certain products through the Target (Cartwheel) app.
These benefits alone have us returning to Target almost every week.
Additional RedCard benefits include:
- Free 2-day shipping at Target.com
- Faster checkout and personalized offers
- Even 5% off at Starbucks within Target. Who doesn’t love a discounted Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks?!!
And now with Target Circle, its newly released loyalty program, customers can also be involved in the company’s local charities process.
Target officials have always been committed to giving back to communities, an area of keen focus for the Target Circle program.
Target Circle members can vote to help direct Target’s giving to approximately 800 nonprofit organizations in their local communities.
Due to the instant rewards, savings, and customer focus, along with its focus on giving back through philanthropic efforts, Target has become a weekly staple in our shopping life.
Clear Value Prop and Exclusivity at Bob’s Stores
Bob’s Stores is another family favorite destination.
Bob’s, a Northeast retail chain with 30 brick-and-mortar stores and an e-commerce website, is a regular destination for casual apparel, footwear, and athletic apparel, including my favorite local teams (UConn, the Red Sox, and Patriots, to name a few).
Loyalty program members receive a $10 gift on their birthdays and a $10 reward for signing up for Bob’s Stores’ premium loyalty program.
Additionally, Bob’s new premium loyalty tier allows customers the ability to earn points much faster (200 points earn you a $10 reward), receive free shipping on all your online purchases, free returns, and even earning Bob’s points when shopping at hundreds of complementary retailers.
Every time you shop as a premium member, you are not only receiving a great deal with member-only pricing, but you earn points that can quickly be redeemed on an upcoming return visit.
Bob’s Stores is a great example of a loyalty program that offers a clear value proposition on the transactional side combined with exclusivity.
Fleet Feet Leads the Pack in Customer Engagement
In my opinion, Fleet Feet offers the highest level of customer service and personalized attention from employees that I’ve seen in retail.
Fleet Feet is dedicated to runners and fitness enthusiasts, with an amazing staff at 170 stores that are experts in running shoes, apparel, and accessories (GPS watches, foam rollers, etc.).
Everyone in the company, from the CEO to store employees, is laser-focused on the customer and understands that loyalty is achieved through a series of moments.
Part of that is Fleet Feet’s heavy involvement in its communities, from supporting local charities to hosting running events and groups for individuals at all ends of their fitness journey (marathoners to beginners looking to transform their heath).
Fleet Feet’s new loyalty app allows members to earn points and rewards through actions (logging runs/workouts), attending events, social media sharing, answering fun fitness-related trivia and, of course, through purchases.
Cash in your points for merchandise or once-in-a-lifetime experiences like an entry into the Chicago Marathon. This is a great way to engage your customer base throughout the year, especially if you’re a retailer that may only see your best customers two to three times a year.
Because of its exemplary service, engaging loyalty and rewards program, and charitable community giving, Fleet Feet has locked me in as a customer for life.
Stacking up Savings at Barnes & Noble
The level of service and personalization you receive when shopping at Barnes & Noble always stands out for me. Store associates here are always pleasant, extremely accommodating, and knowledgeable.
Because my family (including parents and in-laws) have always been avid readers, we frequently visit Barnes & Noble or go online for ourselves or gifting throughout the year.
For my family, the low annual subscription price ($25) is a bargain when you receive numerous immediate transactional benefits like 40 percent off hardcover books, 10 percent off most other items in the store, free two- or three-day shipping, $60 worth of savings when signing up, and exclusive coupons throughout the year.
The transactional benefits alone within this premium loyalty program have us headed to Barnes & Noble when looking for gifts and reading for personal use.
In the past year, Barnes & Noble has tested new offers tied to the program and customers have responded well. Consider more than 500,000 new members joined, raising the total membership to more than 6.5 million.
Set High Expectations and Demand that a Brand Gets to Know You
These are just a few retailers who have loyalty programs that offer our family compelling transactional rewards, personalization, and experiential benefits that keep us shopping with them and spending more often when we’re there.
With so many shopping choices, as consumers, you should expect to be highly rewarded for your loyalty to a brand.
You should set high expectations and demand that a brand gets to know you.
Since consumers are empowered now more than ever before, retailers must work twice as hard to attract and retain their loyalty.
Impactful loyalty programs and unparalleled customer service and experiences serve as key differentiators for brands.
Would love to hear what some of your favorite loyalty programs are and why?