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How To Build A Better Customer Loyalty Program For Your Local Market

small business customer loyalty program punch card

Nothing rewards customer loyalty like a free cup of coffee, sandwich or insert name of dozens of other inexpensive giveaway items here.

Not exactly.

Thanks to a proliferation of punch cards and smartphone apps, small businesses are having a harder and harder time getting noticed and, as a result, their loyalty programs often suffer.

Here’s the thing—most customers don’t want to fumble around and download something while they’re waiting to check out.

They also don’t want to add one more slip of paper to their already overstuffed wallets.

If you’re going to build relationships and ultimately entice them to make a purchase, you need to create a seamless and frictionless experience and offer rewards people actually want to talk about and share.

What makes a great small business customer loyalty program? Recently I had a chance to speak with Logan LaHive, Founder and CEO of Chicago-based loyalty platform Belly, about just that.

With a network of more than 4,000 merchants across 35 states, he shared his firsthand insights into what people are reacting to and the types of customer loyalty offerings that are most successful...

1. Always Include A Digital Component

If you want to attract new customers and drive loyalty within your existing base, you’ve got to incorporate the right technology.

You need to be able to scale your efforts and create more ongoing and fluent communications with your audience.

You also want to make it as easy as possible for customers to use their social networks to tell everyone just how awesome you are.

2. Make Your Loyalty Program Accessible

Although the thought of going completely digital can be tempting, offering a mobile-only solution usually only works for about 50% of your audience.

Not everyone has a smartphone or, even if they do, they might not want to download yet another app.

Building a successful customer loyalty program means it’s got to be accessible to 100% of your target audience. 

3. Create A Loyalty Program Easy To Use

If your customers don’t understand how to use it and/or your front-end employees can’t explain it, you’re in a heap of trouble. Unfortunately this is something I see all the time as a consumer.

There’s absolutely no way you can get your customers to buy-in if your employees aren’t selling it at the register.

Create a simple program that can be easily communicated to your customers and train your team accordingly.

4. Offer Your Customers Unique Rewards

Customer loyalty isn’t about coupons—it’s about the great service they receive when they shop at your store, the cashier that knows them by name, and the quality of the products you offer. This is an area Belly has nailed.

Some of their unique incentives include a bakery that rewards customer 10 minutes of all you can eat cupcakes, a ride along in a food truck, or a chance to eat ice cream with Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s—all of which are so much more interesting than a free cup of coffee.

5. Make It Easy For Your Customers To Sign Up

I know I mentioned it earlier but it bears repeating. Customers waiting in line to make a purchase don’t want to download an app (especially if it’s their first time in your store) and share their credit card numbers or other personal information. You also don’t want to slow down the line as they fumble through the process.

Think about how you can make signing up as quick and painless as possible. Offer a digital solution that asks for the minimum amount of information possible (ex. email address) and low-tech loyalty cards for customers who would rather grab and go.

6. Offer Incentives That Keep Them Coming Back

You want to offer rewards that are within arm’s reach (after 5 or so transactions) as well as higher-end rewards that will keep customers coming back over the long-term.

This is where you can really have some fun and come up with some incentives that allow you to show the unique personality of your small business.

That’s ultimately what’s going to help foster relationships and allow you to express who you are and what you’re all about way beyond any free cup of coffee.

The Ulimate Customer Loyalty Payoff

As you think about building a better customer loyalty program, don’t just settle for punch cards and boring coupons. Take the time to think about what makes you and your business truly unique and create a simple and easy-to-use offering that matches and reflects the culture and personality of your small business

What makes a customer loyalty program a success?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.


[Image: Flickr user Jody McIntyre]

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