Reimagine Your Brand Loyalty Program
What does it take to earn customer loyalty in retail today? The answer is straightforward but difficult to achieve: Treat each customer as an individual, not a faceless number.
Loyalty transcends products and services: It creates an emotional connection between customers and the brand—one in which customers feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Customers who have an emotional connection to a brand are more likely to choose that brand regardless of whether a competitor offers similar perks or lower prices. Emotional loyalty runs deeper than points and rewards—it means consumers identify with, trust, and see a brand not only as something they consume, but part of who they are.
However, this isn’t the usual approach for retailers. Traditional loyalty programs are transactionally focused and impersonal—customers earn points, redeem rewards, and repeat the cycle. Often, programs that have evolved beyond rewards still struggle with true personalization and engagement, which is a cornerstone of loyalty. Such attempts to engage with loyalty program members may lack contextual relevance, impacting your goodwill toward loyal customers. Additionally, it gets drowned out by the noise of competing messages. Today, earning customer loyalty demands more than a singular program based on tiers, currency, or points—it requires an overarching strategic initiative that drives engagement across all touchpoints.
Brands with successful loyalty programs embed loyalty across the entire organization, from the frontline staff who bring the programs forward to the merchandising team that selects which products to include in a promotion. Free shipping, sneak-peek product previews, surprise-and-delight offers, exclusive access to VIP events, and personalized experiences all serve as levers to boost customer loyalty.
It’s time for retail leaders to evolve their approach to loyalty, to better connect with customers and to realize the cost savings that comes from maintaining a legion of loyal buyers. Read on to discover:
- How retail loyalty programs are changing
- How to build an impactful, cost-effective data strategy
- How to bring new experiences to market quickly for faster ROI
Chapter 1: How are retail loyalty programs changing?
Today, shoppers are seeking genuine connections, expect personally tailored experiences, and are willing to engage in new and different ways to get them. This opens up an opportunity for brands to evolve their programs through the types of rewards received and ways consumers discover and interact with the loyalty experience. For example, convenience chain Casey’s is transforming how it does business by using data and digital channels to humanize its guests’ experiences, offering them customized giveback programs, loyalty rewards, and deeply personalized engagement.
“In order to modernize our brand, we’re using data and technology to build the right experiences,” said Art Sebastian, VP, Digital Experiences, Casey’s. “As marketers, our number one job is to build and deepen relationships with our customers, and we deliver that with relevant and personalized experiences. We know them, we anticipate their needs, and we deliver exactly what they are looking for.”
Brands must go beyond transactional loyalty to foster authentic, emotional connections. Consider the following:
We know that people crave more curated experiences, and the majority of shoppers are willing to share personal information like a birthday (67%), phone number (51%), or clothing size (47%) for access to more exclusive benefits. This is a huge opportunity for brands—a brand’s ability to garner zero-party data directly from its consumers cannot be overstated.
The evolution of customer loyalty demands that retailers ask themselves:
- How do we drive value for our customers and our business?
- Is it easy for customers to engage with our brand?
- Are we offering something beyond a transactional experience?
- Is our program personal, experiential, and fully integrated with the rest of our operation?
How can retailers evolve their customer loyalty strategy?
Customers interact with an average of nine channels as they browse inventory, seek advice, and make purchases. Embedding loyalty throughout the customer experience helps brands make each touchpoint remarkable. That does not always mean spending more money—it can be as simple as more personalized marketing emails based on specific loyalty behavior, access to premier customer service, or real-time offers on your ecommerce site. This enables retailers to focus on the relationship and nurture loyalty by creating connections at every interaction, whether that is online, in-store, or on mobile.
One of the UK and Ireland’s leading fashion footwear retailers, schuh, understood the importance of embedding loyalty in all customer interactions. With an online business and over 120 stores, schuh wanted to deliver a more personalized journey to its customers no matter where they shop.
“Loyalty Management allows us to create a loyalty program that we can configure according to our requirements and is flexible enough to introduce new tiers and rewards,” said Paula Nicola, Head of CRM at schuh. “We wanted our loyalty program to reflect our customers’ needs and provide them with more reasons than ever to spend their hard-earned money with schuh. Loyalty Management helps us understand loyalty customers' purchases across stores and online, giving us the information we need to tailor our messaging and offers.”
Next: Chapter 2: Power your loyalty program with an impactful data strategy
- Unify data in real-time
- Create in-the-moment, personalized experiences
- Boost loyalty and trust
- Drive long-term business value