• Is it the deals and offers?
• Is it the good service?
• Is it the range available?
Here are ten things that have been known to work like gangbusters.
1. Trust and Familiarity: The key to loyalty in any category - and works well here too. Only if you trust the brand will you have any inclination to be loyal to it. And trust builds over time with familiarity and repeated interactions with the brand. Therefore, prime prospects for membership to a retail loyalty program are customers who are active and regular. Surrogates for trust and familiarity.
2. Transparency: Linked to trust. Loyalty initiatives need to be open and transparent. All cards on the table. Nothing in fine print and hidden clauses which your customer will never read. If there is some item or some period NOT eligible for a loyalty reward, state it upfront. Not at the time of billing. If points are going to be devalued, inform the customer in advance. The basic principle - don't wait for members to ASK for entitlements. Give them what they are entitled to.
3. The Offering beats the Program: There are reasons that drive loyalty more than the program. Proximity of outlet and value for money for grocery retail. The need, range and availability for apparel retail. Only when these hygiene factors are satisfied will a loyalty program help swing a purchase decision one way or another.
4. Shop Floor Empowerment: The biggest moments of truth for delivering a program promise are on the retail shop floor. That's where program experience comes to life. That's where a program member can see herself being treated differently from a non-member. That's where a top tier member is discreetly escorted to an empty check-out counter where he doesn't have to wait in a queue. And that can only happen when shop floor staff are empowered to take on-the-spot judgement decisions - and are well-trained in the program features.
5. Instant Gratification: Even with programs structured for accrual (points and rewards), it is always beneficial to intersperse moments of instant gratification. During a sale, offer members an additional 5% off - over and above the points they earn. Parking tickets being offset against bills are another example. Members look forward to - and expect - both immediate as well as longer term rewards
6. Easy Enrollment: The customer does not 'need' your program. And has better things to do with her time. You need the member! Make it simple to enroll. Minimal paperwork. Very little time. Need-to-know data capture. And all done in the arena of shopping - not something she has to do later at home where it is unlikely to happen.
7. Easy Usage: Don't insist on the card for every earn transaction. Have alternate member identifiers that are easily remembered - a combination of name and mobile number works well. However, it is important to insist on the card for redemption transactions to prevent possible fraud.
8. Surprise and Delight: Works well across categories and retail is no different. From a special discount to a member if she shops during her anniversary month to cutting a cake at the store to celebrate a member's birthday. Recognising a member's child's presence at the store and spontaneously giving him/her a token gift. Small but impactful. Linked to staff empowerment. And some of these moments can also be calendarised.
9. Enable consolidation for those who seek it: Retail typically operates on a closed-earn, closed-burn principle. However, as the program matures, co-branded cards work well. It gives members the opportunity to drive accrual across all purchase categories - and indirectly helps consolidate retail purchases with one retailer as well. Works for the member and works for the retailer.
10. Take the Experience beyond the Store: Critical in a situation where brand interactions are largely limited to store visits. Consciously increase the number of touchpoints with the brand beyond store visits - through regular communication, through member events, through social media and through above-the-line brand awareness and program awareness initiatives.