While there are some perceptions that loyalty programs fall under the “set it and forget it” category, in reality successful loyalty programs are constantly being measured, optimized, and improved. And like most business processes in 2020, loyalty program strategy has changed as a result of COVID-19. Along with your overall brand processes, there are key adjustments you can make in response to customer needs and social requirements to ensure your customers still find your loyalty program useful and valuable even during the pandemic.
Simplify Your Enrollment/Sign-Up Process
We’ve talked before about the benefits in keeping loyalty programs simple. The more complex and difficult your loyalty program, the less sustainable it will be long-term. This includes your enrollment process. In a time when people are getting bombarded with offers and deals, the smallest deterrent can discourage new customers from joining your loyalty program. So it is vital that you make your sign-up process as simple as possible.
Simple as in, two steps or less.
Take the time to review your current program enrollment process and the different methods people can sign-up. If before the pandemic you primarily enrolled new members in-store, expand your digital and online options to accommodate for social distancing and quarantine guidelines. Find areas where you can shorten or simplify the steps and then simplify them even more.
Keep in mind that even if you have good enrollment numbers, if your program is unwieldy and difficult to operate you will see an increase in customers ceasing to use it or un-enrolling completely. Ensure the customer's journey through program tiers ands rewards isn’t too long, difficult, or time-consuming. You can also add in little bonuses, activities, and rewards along the way to encourage ongoing engagement.
Refreshen Your Rewards & Incentives
People’s needs and wants have shifted dramatically because of COVID-19. Most likely before 2020 a large majority of the US population had never bought or wore a personal facemask before; now everyone’s ordering custom designs and patterns. Accordingly, you should look to adjust your rewards and incentives to make sure you’re still offering relevant options for your customer base. You might find there are some categories that should be reduced (travel experiences, for example) and some that should be increased (at home entertainment and digital rewards). Take a look at your analytics and see what reward categories are seeing more activity and interest. You can also tap into your customer base and utilize surveys and feedback. These can help you generate ideas for expanding current rewards categories and potentially adding in new ones.
Review Your Fulfillment Process
6 months into the pandemic and the shipping industry is feeling the strain of the widespread increase in online shopping. Recently USPS has fallen under criticism for extensive mail delays and customer frustrations over necessities like medication or bills taking too long to arrive. You should take this time to review your current rewards fulfillment process with your internal team or your fulfillment vendor. Go over questions like:
- What shipping services do you currently use and what types of delays/issues can you expect?
- What back-up options do you have if those services fall through?
- How are you communicating fulfillment service updates and news to your customers?
Taking the time to review fulfillment process and pivot in areas where are improvements are needed will help you be more reliable in your customers' eyes.
Bonus Tip: Update Your Customer Service
If you haven’t already, you should definitely update your loyalty program’s customer service documents or FAQs. You should also update your brand's internal customer service teams on loyalty program changes and new processes so they're prepared to answer questions. A good idea is to keep internal communication channels fluid - allow internal customer service teams to submit new questions or issues they encounter as a result of the pandemic, and pass along the best solutions or responses back.
Increase The Number Of Non-Transactional Earning Opportunities
The economic impact of the pandemic is already being felt across the nation, and future impacts are still uncertain. As people begin to shop more critically and look for better deals, you should focus on increasing non-transactional point earning opportunities -- that is, ways members can earn points without requiring a purchase. Examples include filling out surveys, engaging with social media content, participating in digital promotions like sweepstakes or photo contests, posting product reviews, etc.
There’s a two-fold benefit to including these types of earning opportunities in your loyalty program:
- Even if their purchase rate slows down, customers will still find value in participating in your loyalty program and remain engaged with your brand
- Giving rewards for actions other than purchases shows customers you value them beyond how much they spend
Surprise And Delight
Let's face it, everyone could use a pick-me-up right now. To show how you appreciate customers and understand the struggles they're experiencing, look into options for different "surprise and delight" gestures. These could be something like doubling the number of points for anniversaries or birthdays, “flash sales” where the costs for specific rewards or benefits are lowered for a limited time, or product giveaway promotions. Collaborate with your internal brand teams to brainstorm different methods you could use to surprise and delight your customers.
FINAL BONUS TIP: Communicate all loyalty program changes to your customers
Loyalty programs have the benefit of giving you a direct line of communication to your loyal customers. Transparency is key to establishing and maintaining trust, so be sure to communicate any and all updates, changes, or improvements to your loyalty program as they happen. (Try to avoid doing so retroactively, which can cause backlash.) Include your reasons for any changes so customers can understand why you are making the changes and how the changes are for their benefit. Also include any new types of time constraints or requirements so customers aren’t caught unaware.
As your overall brand continues to monitor and adjust its pandemic routine, don’t let your loyalty program fall behind. There's not better time to focus on fine-tuning your customer retention efforts than when industry norms and customer routines are changing. The key to maintaining customer engagement and customer retention through your loyalty program is to ensure customers can still easily access, participate, and enjoy your loyalty program benefits and rewards.
If you're looking to get started on a loyalty program or improve your current one, reach out to us today!