Visual representation of a customers journey through from online shopping to cart and rewards

With sales building up to Christmas, it’s high time to ensure your website is persuading customers to return after the shopping rush has passed. One effective way of doing this is by rewarding loyal customers.

Whether you’re considering incorporating a rewards program or have one in place already, it’s a good idea to regularly assess what it does well and what needs improvement. Examining this will help you optimise your program’s performance to close out this year strong and set yourself up for the next one.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that a rewards program is not a “set it and forget it” tool.  Like any other part of your marketing strategy, your rewards program needs some TLC every once in awhile, so here are five ways you can rejuvenate your rewards program to get it ready for your store’s busiest time of year.

1. Clean Up Your Explainer Page

Customers have a pretty hard time using a program they can’t find, so an easy way to increase your program’s participation is simply by making it visible and accessible.  Having a dedicated program explainer pages is one of the most effective ways to do that – but only if it communicates clearly.  For many customers, your explainer page is going to be the first impression of your program, so making sure it’s a good one is critical to converting each shopper into an engaged program member.

An effective rewards explainer page should be able to pass the Blink Test.  In other words, customers should be able to scan, find, and retain the most important information on the page within three to five seconds of landing there.  Although this might sound extremely difficult, there’s a simple solution: images.

Example of the UBB Community explainer page optimised for customers

Research shows that 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual, and that people retain 80% of what they see as opposed to only 20% of what they read.  By eliminating big blocks of text and incorporating more branded visual elements, you’re creating more opportunities for customers to get excited, get engaged, and get involved with your rewards program.

2. Introduce Customer Tiers

While a customer may be intrigued by your explainer page, VIP status and customer tiers is what will truly convince them to join your program. Customer tiers are so effective because humans are intrinsically competitive.  We like to win and can easily be spurred on by the success of those around us in our quest to be the best.

Example of three customer tiers from Sephora

Huge brands like Sephora and Starbucks are fantastic examples of this rewards principle in action.  Customers can often be seen obsessing over their VIB Rouge or Starbucks Gold status on social media, sharing their excitement to finally be a member of these exclusive communities.  For years, they’ve found success with multi-level programs that require customers to engage with their brand in specific ways to reach their highest tiers – spots shared by only a small percentage of their customers.

When you incorporate tiers into your rewards program, you give customers a “map” for how to get the most out of your program and in turn, your brand.  Offering the best incentives to your most loyal customers at challenging but achievable intervals keeps your brand experience fresh for long stretches at a time and gives customers the chance to feel valued for the time, money, and effort they’ve invested in you.

3. Diversify Your Rewards Portfolio

When customers hear the term “rewards program”, most will immediately think of transactional rewards like percentage and dollars-off discounts.  Their popularity shows that these rewards are definitely valuable to customers.  That being said, your shoppers are still looking for opportunities to engage with brands that take their customer experience to the next level.

Example of how Sony uses a reward programme with exclusive experiences

Expanding your rewards catalogue to include more experiential rewards is a great way to do exactly that!  Brands like Sony have gone to great lengths to ensure that every single one of their customers can find a reward that suits their lifestyle and makes them feel like a VIP, taking their customer experience above and beyond what is typically expected.

Ultimately, the key to delivering the best rewards is simply knowing what your customers want.  Whether that’s free products, free shipping, or brand-specific experiences, taking the time to understand what your customers want will push your rewards program that much closer towards being one customers simply can’t imagine living without.

4. Add Social Initiatives

Customers are beginning to express a greater desire to give back to their own communities and to the world at large.  Sometimes these desires manifest themselves in silly ways, like Wendy’s #NuggsforCarter campaign, where people all over the world banded together to get one teenager his lifetime supply of nuggets.  However, that’s not to say customers aren’t willing to dig a little deeper.

As younger shoppers continue to assert themselves as the dominant shopping demographic, social initiatives are becoming increasingly important.  For these shoppers, making an impact is key to their satisfaction.  Many Generation Z and Millennial customers want to feel good about where they shop, and giving them the chance to contribute to larger causes is the perfect way to meet this desire.

Example of how Vancity uses social rewards improving the community

Giving your customers the choice to donate their reward points to a charity or cause that suits your industry creates an opportunity to nurture their relationship with your brand.  When they see that their values align with yours, you encourage a deeper connection that your program may have been lacking. This connection is what drives engagement and participation, improving your rewards program’s overall metrics and success.

5. Use Historical Data Properly

Last but not least, you should be using your program’s historical data to dictate its trajectory.  Identify which of your rewards are both the most and least popular in order to keep your finger on the pulse of what your customers value.  This insight will help you determine which rewards to continue offering in the future as you design new rewards and sift old ones out.

Offering rewards your customers actually want will encourage shoppers to further increase their spending and push them closer to their next redemption threshold.

Improving Your Business With Your Rewards Program

No matter how you choose to spruce up your rewards program, there are a number of things you can do before your peak sales season. Digging into your data will help you determine new or revised goals for your program moving forward and give you a clarity of focus you didn’t have before.

So whether you’re looking to get more customers involved, encourage more sales, or simply get it in front of more people, the power is in your hands: identify what your program needs to do, and make the changes to get it there!

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About the author
Kirsten Burkard is a Rewards Marketing Specialist and lead editor of the Smile.io blog. She’s passionate about excellent customer service, art and design, bows, and anything Disney.

Written by Jennifer Caust