We’re living in an exciting time for loyalty marketing. Businesses of all shapes and sizes have access to tools that can help them boost customer retention and keep customers engaged at all stages of the purchase process. But how exactly does a loyalty program do this for businesses? And how can it help e-commerce companies? (Especially those that aren’t selling clothes or groceries…)

It can help because every industry is competing to get their content seen and their products recognized and purchased. As companies have focused on producing marketing media, it’s essential to create a strategy that focuses on retaining loyal customers and more organically getting new customers, rather than blindly competing for new eyes with advertising alone.

This article explores 3 ways loyalty programs can be used as an all-around marketing tool for current customers, as well as new leads, too.

But first, let’s define a loyalty program. Here’s what a loyalty program is not:

A traditional punch card or plastic card is not enough in today’s market (and may not even be practical at all in the B2B arena). Furthermore, offering a point per dollar that only gives clients the chance to redeem for a discount later probably isn’t the best, especially if you’re already asking clients to commit to long-term contracts. Rewarding for purchase can be perceived as gimmicky – even if you’re a retailer. So when you’re working outside of retail, there really has to be something else to make the program worth engaging with.

So now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s what a loyalty program should be:

A loyalty program should reward all things that add value to your business, as well as to customers, for example customers can get rewarded for watching how-to videos or downloading your latest e-book. Or they can get points for filling out a form, telling you more about themselves, which allows you to communicate more relevant information later on.

Wholesalers, sports brands, career services providers, or even developers – all of these outside of the realm of a usual loyalty program – should integrate loyalty programs into the most convenient places for customers. That may be in a web store or incorporated into a mobile app, thus reducing the bulk of having to worry about carrying another card or worrying about a separate application. And wherever it is, the experience should be seamless.

Here are three ways a loyalty program can make a difference.

1. Increase average purchase value with more ratings and better rewards

Clients, buyers, customers. It doesn’t matter what they need, they’re all human. And the same principles of psychology work in B2B – as long as the content and offers are relevant.

A loyalty program should be built or customized to offer the most value to customers, answering frequent questions or solving problems. And in the end it should also drive more frequent purchase, or basket value. There are several elements you can use to do this.

Reviews, ratings and testimonials are key. Automatic communication to customers who made a recent purchase can prompt customer reviews in return for more points. Showing reviews of your products from repeat customers builds trust and actually saves your online-shopping clients from having to search on Google to find out what others are saying about the products. Since people trust reviews from customers 88% more than what brands are saying about themselves, this is crucial in terms of building social proof.

Stand-out rewards are another key to increasing average purchase value. Knowing that you would get more points with that extra product, getting you closer to that amazing reward is definitely motivation. One of our clients at Antavo, Profession.hu, is a job portal that has offered classes as rewards, professional courses held by industry experts. So be smart with your rewards and give customers exactly the value they seek.

loyalty rewards

Not all customers are just waiting around to give reviews. But there’s no doubt that it helps a lot for businesses to have them. A loyalty program gives you a way to get customers back on the site to make the review of their latest purchase, be it office machines, construction supplies, organic cleaning services or sports league memorabilia.

2. Keep in touch, in a timely manner

Marketers understand the need for newsletters and regular email communication. But the question remains: how can you make these communications more personal and relevant?

Automated emails related to customer actions are a great way to do that. I already mentioned one way this works – checking in after a recent purchase. But it’s also a great way to get customers coming back to check in a little more frequently, with automated reminders of how many points the customer has collected and how close they are to the next great reward. That’s even more effective if you can display the rewards, especially when those rewards compliment their prior purchases or their interests.

Emails are also a way to check in with people who haven’t logged into the loyalty center in X days to say, hey check out our new product or our latest video. That “Hey! We miss you!” factor can actually reactivate idle customers. It can also help you be seen as more proactive for regular orders. “Hi Tim! Your last order was placed in January – need a refill?”

Finally, earlier in the article I mentioned that loyalty programs can be used to encourage customers to fill out forms with more personal information or interests. This is the key to creating the right kind of relevant communication that keeps customers opening your emails and acting on your offers, rather than sending them straight from the inbox to the trash.

loyalty blogs

Encouraging customers to read your blog is something else you can do with a loyalty program. It’s a way to get them familiar with new products and best practices, like LexJet does. So motivate customers to read your blog posts.

3. Give incentive for customer referrals

There’s a myth out there that customer loyalty programs can only be used for current customers. I personally think that’s a wasted opportunity.

And I don’t care what business you’re in, word of mouth is absolutely the most powerful form of marketing there is. Why? Because it comes with built-in trust. Someone you know or respect (presumably) has used the products or services and has actually liked it enough to recommend it. Period.

So a loyalty program should be a tool to encourage word-of-mouth, digitally. Share product pages or job listings to get the page seen by more people with a similar mindset of your current site visitors, on the appropriate social networks. Incentivizing shares with points and rewards is a great way to encourage more sharing and show that you appreciate it.

Taking it a step further, loyalty programs can incentivize the new business, too. Your customer shares a product page from your site and gets some points for that action. Plus whoever clicks on the shared post from your customer’s network can also receive an offer that makes the deal a bit sweeter, encouraging that first purchase and – hopefully – gaining you another loyal customer.

So get seen and get more conversions with this simple principle: sharing is caring!

job sharing

Sharing a job ad by emailing a friend or posting on social media is a great way to let job seekers share with their network. This is how http://www.jobsite.co.uk/ does it. Take it to the next level of engagement by encouraging shares with reward incentives.

Make it memorable

It’s important to try and find ways to make the experience memorable for customers, no matter what you’re selling. And that’s why it’s also important to distinguish between traditional loyalty programs and effective loyalty programs.

Traditionally, loyalty programs were based on giving a point per every dollar spent (or maybe two dollars, but you get the idea) and letting customers spend those points for certain rewards, be that a discount, a freebie or maybe even “money back” towards another purchase. But I think many will agree that this is really just a promotional tactic to win the temporary attention of deal-seekers.

That’s why choosing the customer actions you’d like to boost -such as referrals, sharing, content consumption, or other engagements – and rewarding those actions is the future of loyalty. To read more about what makes a successful loyalty program, read the Definitive Guide to Loyalty Programs. I wish you much success in retaining your customers for the long run.

Author bio

Jess Mizerak is Customer Loyalty Strategist at Antavo, a loyalty marketing software for ecommerce companies. Antavo can increase returning customers by 200% and has helped over 30,000 marketers increase customer engagement since 2011. In her spare time Jess enjoys painting teddy bears and reading about creative ad campaigns.