Though loyalty programs traditionally evoke images of membership cards and racking up frequent buyer points, brands come in all shapes and sizes, and often, it doesn’t make sense for certain industries to operate under such parameters.
- Loyalty looks different for automakers, since those customers typically make purchases once every few years.
- When customers see a luxury product is on sale, they often assume it’s fake.
- Take your time building programs that are most beneficial to your specific set of customers instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing.
Automakers, for example, only see customers when it’s time to renew a lease, while luxury retailers are tasked with finding marketing solutions without devaluing their products. Brands facing these conditions may assume that loyalty programs aren’t for them, but these misconceptions can be dispelled with customized solutions that companies with low margins, irregular purchases, and extravagant lines can adopt.
Auto: Loyalty With Irregular Purchases
While big-box retailers often see customers several times a month, loyalty looks different for automakers, since those customers typically make purchases once every few years. While the buy-one-get-one model doesn’t apply here, automakers can engage loyal customers through exclusive memberships, granting them access to the latest industry news and auto-related services.
Eager to reimagine the relationship between automaker and consumer, Ford is gearing up to launch its FordPass service this spring. FordPass operates like a concierge service for Ford owners and non-owners alike, granting members 24/7 access to representatives who can reserve parking and access car- and ride-sharing services, streamlining travel logistics.
As part of its push toward more comprehensive offerings, Ford is developing a virtual wallet that can be used for these services. Users can also earn rewards points for doing everything from signing up for FordPass to leveraging its individual component features. By offering these valuable auxiliary features, Ford remains top of mind among new and long-term customers, making it easier to engage shoppers when they’re ready for a new set of wheels.
Luxury: Loyalty While Maintaining Value
Quality aside, high-end products are set apart from other marketplace offerings by their name--and price. Loyalty is challenging for these retailers because consumers are willing and sometimes eager to pay for the exclusivity of a name brand.
Offering a 20% discount off a Louis Vuitton bag discounts its value; in fact, when customers see a luxury product is on sale, they often assume it’s fake. However, attempting to garner customer love with discounts isn’t a sustainable model for fostering authentic consumer relationships and long-term loyalty.
Luxury shoppers in particular crave access and exclusivity, so loyalty should come in the form of special previews or private in-store events or contests. One idea is to invite fans to upload selfies with their purchases to Instagram with branded hashtags for a chance to be featured on the company’s account.
Last March, in a creative twist, Christian Louboutin invited followers to download and print tribal-themed finger puppets and upload their creations to Instagram with the hashtag #Tribaloubi for a chance to be featured on the brand’s social channels. In addition to this campaign, Louboutin regularly shares pictures of fans with its productions. Sharing these images shows an appreciation for customers, bolstering both social engagement and brand loyalty.
Price Savers: Loyalty And Low Margins
On the opposite end of the spectrum, many big-box retailers pride themselves on offering shoppers the lowest prices in market. Under those circumstances, an additional discount wouldn’t make sense for consumers already expecting the cheapest offer (and may even cut into an already thin profit margin).
In lieu of a traditional loyalty program, Walmart rolled out its Savings Catcher app, encouraging customers to scan their receipts to compare Walmart’s prices against its competitors. If a shopper spent $300 on a TV in Walmart but the same model is on sale elsewhere for $275, Savings Catcher makes up the difference in the form of a $25 Walmart gift card. Such an initiative ties back to who Walmart is as a brand--an advocate of everyday low pricing--and demonstrates its determination to offer fans only the best prices.
Long-Tail Loyalty: Brands Breaking The Mold
While countless brands reward fans for checking into stores, using branded hashtags, and making purchases, others are looking to break the mold, steering away from traditional programs with creative alternatives.
Back in December, Taco Bell rolled out Explore, a loyalty game that sits within its app and rewards users for sharing experiences that have nothing to do with Taco Bell. Rather than rewarding users for promoting its brand, Taco Bell credits fans who enjoy life’s small moments, like hanging out with friends or attending a concert put on by a favorite band, tying back to their mission to “Live Mas.”
Users who share content on various social sharing sites can unlock puzzle pieces, as do those who order using the app. Participants who complete the first puzzle get a free Freeze drink, while those who complete additional puzzles can receive an assortment of prizes, including $100 gift cards, a reserved booth at a Taco Bell restaurant, or a trip to Taco Bell’s California headquarters. Since Explore is based in Taco Bell’s app, it’s seen an uptick of mobile orders since the game’s release, with more consumers coming back into the app than ever before.
Loyalty On A Budget
With big-name brands like Ford, Walmart, and Taco Bell getting in on the loyalty game, many smaller brands assume these programs aren’t for them because they can’t afford the same big budgets. Instead of breaking the bank, smaller brands should consider creating chance-to-win campaigns in which spending can be pre-set and wrap them in loyalty or gamification mechanics so that they don’t feel like they are doing a sweepstakes.
It’s important to remember that great programs take time to build up. Loyalty works best when brands approach with a crawl-walk-run mindset. Take your time building programs that are most beneficial to your specific set of customers instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing.
No matter what type of solution you decide to choose, keep in mind that loyalty programs are a living, breathing, evolving initiative. You’ll find value in testing efforts, learning from them, and continuing on. Brands that incorporate loyalty throughout every stage of the path to purchase can successfully reach customers across their journeys and create relationships that are truly memorable.