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In our brick and mortar marketing series, we’ve talked about a lot of different ways that your online efforts can improve your in-store revenue: through updating your website with dynamic content, garnering positive online reviews, and avoiding digital sharecropping. Today, we’re going over the fifth and final aspect of our series: rewards programs.

A rewards program is a simple way to both boost you’re your marketing efforts, encourage brand loyalty, and ultimately drive more sales. Here’s everything you need to know.

Why Start a Loyalty Program?

According to a survey by Access, over half of all Americans join a new loyalty program in a given year. What’s more, about half of those say they spend more money at the brand after joining one. A few other compelling considerations might encourage you to start your own:

  • They’re a battle-tested approach for achieving growth. A recent trend in marketing is for companies to hire “growth hackers,” or marketing gurus capable of expanding a company’s growth in rapid fashion. According to them, loyalty programs are often the first step in their process.
  • They’re relatively inexpensive. Small businesses often work on smaller budgets and profit margins, so every dollar counts. With a loyalty program, companies can grow their brands with little upfront investment. Consider, for example, that one study asserts that attaining a new customer is 5 times more expensive than trying to keep an existing one.
  • You can effectively boost your company’s reputation. Customers like to feel valued, plain and simple. By starting a loyalty program, you communicate the message that you care about them, which increases the likelihood of repeat business.
  • You get an opportunity to learn more about your target customer. Think of a loyalty program as a form of market research. As you begin to offer incentives and rewards to your customers, you’ll begin to learn more about what kinds of promotions they respond to and what makes them tick. Over time, you’ll be able to narrow your focus to the rewards customers most often take advantage of, and use that information to increase your sales.

How To Create a Loyalty Program

Starting your own loyalty program can be as easy or as complex as you want. For some people, starting a loyalty program is as simple as taking an email address at checkout. Using this address, you can send people exclusive promotions, advance sales, and more.

The cardboard punch card was the original loyalty program, but things have evolved a lot since. No matter what format you choose for your program –whether it’s through an app, email, or simply keeping track of spending in your POS system – keep a few important elements in mind.

1. Think About the Deeper Meaning

Your loyalty program should do just that – inspire brand loyalty in your customer – but it should also add value to their experience. As you think of ideas for your loyalty program, consider how it will make them happier, more engaged customers. Amazon Prime is the perfect example – at $120 a year, the cost of ownership is pretty steep, but customers get much more than just two day shipping in return – the receive exclusive discounts on products, access to free streaming movies and music, cloud storage, and more. Think about how you want your customers to benefit from joining your loyalty program, as well as how you will.

2. Offer Rewards for a Variety of Actions

A loyalty program can be as simple as a point for every dollar a customer spends, but think about offering rewards for more than just purchases. How about offering incentives to download white papers, share social media content, or subscribing to your newsletter? This helps ensure that your customer will stay engaged with your brand – and they should enjoy the rewards that come with being an involved customer.

3. Experiment With Different Rewards

If you want your loyalty program to be successful, offer more than just one type of incentive. Customers that earn enough points should be able to do more than just earn a coupon – think about how they can cash in their rewards, whether it’s coupons, a free product, or even a charitable donation in their name to one of your philanthropic partners.

4. Create Multiple Channels For Enrollment

Finally, make it simple and intuitive for people to enroll in your loyalty program. Taking an email at checkout is a simple process, but adding other avenues – such as filling out a subscription form on your website – will increase your number of enrollees. The more accessible your loyalty program is, the more likely it is you both will reap the benefits.

Loyalty programs can be a valuable part of your digital marketing plan – best of all, they’re easy to create and require little to no upfront costs. By creating a loyalty program, you can effectively engage your customers, improve your retention, and drive more in-store sales.