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7 ways to keep your customers loyal

7 ways to keep your customers loyal Geoff Smith

Loyalty is driven by two primary things -- a strong emotional connection and a reciprocal relationship between two parties. So, it's not surprising that the top three things people are loyal to are their pets (71 percent), their favorite bands (69 percent), and their sports teams (66 percent), according to a study by COLLOQUY and FanXchange. Feeling a connection with someone or something is a prerequisite for loyalty, but maintaining and nurturing loyalty over time requires consumers to feel like they're getting as much as they're giving. For brands, this means they need to give in order to get.


There are hundreds of ways brands can give back to their customers, starting with the basics -- great customer service and great products. From a loyalty building perspective, giving requires rewarding continued patronage and engagement. This can be the simplest of gestures -- such as offering a free coffee for every five customers who buy -- or highly creative and experiential opportunities -- such as running onto the field with a favorite team at the next game. Since loyal customers spend an average of 23 percent more than those who are less actively engaged, brands that take loyalty seriously are evolving their existing efforts to include increasingly unique and extraordinary rewards to drive revenue.


Here are seven real-world examples from brands that implement unprecedented methods to engage customers and drive loyalty.


Exclusivity reigns supreme


Special customers deserve special treatment. As a result, many brands are doing the legwork to find unique rewards they can offer on a limited-edition basis. For example, Zumiez, a specialty-clothing store, offers members apparel and photographs signed by celebrities, or one-of-a-kind skateboards and gear that appeal to its lifestyle-minded, action-sports consumers. This approach demonstrates that Zumiez not only understands what customers really want, but that it is also willing to go above and beyond to show how much it cares to give them something unique.


"You had to be there"


Everyone loves being "on the list." To deliver this kind of experience to loyal customers, brands are throwing special, invite-only VIP events to give back through memorable experiences. Take Nordstrom, which creates spectacular events for its best customers. In the past, the retailer invited top-level members to a luxury spa or a fine dining experience and paired that with a private fashion and shopping event. This exclusivity and thoughtfulness means that the chosen customers not only receive an enjoyable getaway, but will always view Nordstrom as a brand that truly appreciates their business.


Social responsibility matters


Not every customer wants to keep their rewards to themselves. Several companies are expanding their incentive packages to allow members to donate points to national charities or other important causes. Pet products brand Fresh Step lets members donate loyalty points to shelters or pet rescue organizations like the SPCA. By giving customers a hand in charitable donation causes, these kinds of rewards allow participants to truly make a difference while generating goodwill toward a brand.


Surprise and delight


Another increasingly popular approach for loyalty incentives is to give random and unexpected rewards to loyalty program members on top of the preexisting rewards they are continuously working toward. These random giveaways can be as simple as coupons or extra loyalty points, or they can be full-blown experiential rewards like Bud Light's "Up for Whatever" campaign. Under the campaign, Bud Light randomly chooses customers and puts them into unplanned and unscripted experiences. These events are recorded and eventually used in the brand's nationwide advertising. By implementing true surprise-and-delight experiences, brands like Bud Light can keep interest piqued and loyalty strong.


Be first and be heard


There's nothing like the feeling of being first to try something new. Some brands let consumers sample new products with their purchases as part of their loyalty program to show people what is coming next or to boost current sales. Anthony Brands, a skincare company, offers customers free samples with every purchase. Using a loyalty program to give members an avenue to try new products is a smart tactic to spark a direct conversation with customers and potential sales increases.


Make it personal


Sometimes, customers just need a little help when it comes to shopping. Offering the assistance of a personal shopper not only engages customers in face-to-face conversations, but it also gives brands a chance to educate loyal members about products and services while creating upsell opportunities. Lord  & Taylor helps customers select outfits for big events, or update their appearance as part of its personal shopping consultant services. This human touch elevates customers' perceptions about the brand and satisfies Lord & Taylor's goal to develop stronger customer relationships.


Variety is the spice of life


There's nothing like the gift of choice. While consumers are apt to enjoy most freebies, having the ability to handpick their own reward is the ultimate in loyalty. Take Huggies, whose members can enter codes from packages of diapers and baby wipes to earn points that can be redeemed from a catalog full of rewards, including magazine subscriptions, gift cards, diapers, and more. Giving members control over their rewards is a powerful strategy that can go far to maintain customer loyalty.


These are just a few examples of how brands are ensuring their loyalty programs remain relevant and engage customers. For 45 more creative ways to reward customer loyalty, download this free e-book: "52 Ways to Differentiate a Loyalty Program."


Geoff Smith is the SVP, marketing at CrowdTwist.


On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Geoff leads the Marketing team at CrowdTwist where he is responsible for developing thought leadership and innovative ROI-focused programs designed to build client and prospective client relationships. He helps the sales team move opportunities...

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