Over the last 20 years, customer loyalty programs have become standard practice in most business-to-consumer relationships. Having become so commonplace, do they still do what they were originally intended to do? It seems harder and harder to buy things at retail cost with all the swipe cards, coupons and other forms of incentives in the marketplace. There are ploys to encourage consumers to switch brands, but a lot of purchases that could have been made at a retail cost are already discounted anyway. It might be time to re-examine best practices in loyalty marketing.
Keeping a customer loyal to your brand involves many things: ensuring they are happy with the product or service, maintaining a value proposition, improving the product or service regularly, and rewarding your customer periodically for her loyalty. This loyalty is driven by category of product or service, but it’s always good practice to reach out and engage customers through research and social media to find what they would actually like as an incentive.
If your brand is strong and desired, the incentives will be even stronger (a deal on a Honda Accord is much more valuable than a deal on a Yugo). It’s important to keep your everyday incentives available to everyone, and maintain “special” incentives for special customers. If a car dealership washes a customer’s car for free each time he comes for service, he will come back again and again. If the dealership begins to advertise “free car washes” at the curb for everyone, the allure of the incentive goes away.
That’s easy – all the time! People like pleasant surprises. Remember the Blue Light Specials at Kmart? When consumers least expect it, offer them something that personally thanks them for their business. If you have a plan in place to engage your customer, every time they enter your place of business, remember to thank them for coming. I guarantee that when you do, they will remember how they were treated the next time a competitor asks for their business.