Fall 2015
Apps That Reward Loyal Customers

Even small specialty retailers can launch their own customer loyalty program with these off-the-shelf apps.

It all started with simple punch cards. Sitting next to the cash register at your local ice cream shop or cafe, these loyalty cards promised a free scoop or cup of coffee after buying 10 and conveniently fit right in your wallet. Unfortunately, they were easy to lose and sometimes easy
to fake.

The small, laminated loyalty card that you could attach to your key ring and scan at the grocery store followed them. This meant that loyalty was going digital, with stores tracking your spending and rewards.

Then customer loyalty applications started popping up just a few years ago. Customers could access their account and check their points in seconds with their phone or computer, and never need to worry about keeping track of physical cards.

Cost of building loyalty

Since the creation of the first loyalty app, mobile stores are booming with options for both Android (Droid) and Apple (iOS) devices. The apps are free for your customers to download, but business accounts to create your loyalty program can cost anywhere from $0 to $200/month. (See the sidebar for a list of apps.)

While each app is unique, they typically follow the same premise: 1. You create an account and set up your loyalty program, which will work with your point-of-sales system. 2. You encourage customers to download the app to their mobile phones. 3. They use the app to make in-store purchases, or check their loyalty account and history via the app. 4. You take the data from purchases to learn more about your customers and the products they buy.

Creating your account is as simple as providing contact and store information, tying the account to your POS system and adding branded graphics so that your customers can recognize your business.

For business owners looking for a more holistic approach to customer loyalty programs, companies like S Loyalty offer an entire loyalty suite, which comes with Refer-a-Friend and Fan Builder features at no additional cost. Plans start at $19.99/month.

Know your audience

One of the most important aspects of a successful mobile loyalty program is deciding on the kind of rewards you want to offer to customers. Some programs offer instant gratification while others build up to a more substantial reward.

For instance, restaurant chain Panera Bread—while still offering their rewards through a physical card—provides customers with instant rewards. A customer may come in, scan their card and find out that they have earned a free salad that they can order and enjoy in minutes.

On the other hand, Macy’s, Rite Aid, Exxon, Mobil, Nationwide and many other businesses have recently teamed up to offer rewards through a program called Plenti. For all of the purchases consumers make at participating businesses, they earn points that can be redeemed as savings when making purchases at their stores.

Most loyalty applications have the ability to track your customers’ purchases. For example through the SpotOn or LoyalBlocks dashboard you can send offers to customers who haven’t been in for a while, ones that have spent the most with you or your most frequent shoppers. Through these applications you can save time on trying to guess what the right offer is to send to each customer group.

Providing customers with an instant reward can be beneficial as it provides instant gratification to the customer and may motivate them to share their reward through social media or tell their friends. Point systems have their own positives as well, as they require customers to make multiple visits and purchases in order to redeem their reward, generating consistent foot traffic and sales.

Simple and rewarding

It only takes a few minutes for you to set up your loyalty program using a mobile app, but the end result can be loyal customers returning to your store for years to come. The convenience of not worrying about a punch card or key card means that more and more customers are looking to save money through digital loyalty programs.

It only takes a few clicks to get started. Start rewarding your best customers today!

Crystal Vilkaitis

Crystal Vilkaitis is the owner of Crystal Media, a company dedicated to helping independent retailers market online. Vilkaitis started Social Edge, an online membership group exclusive to retailers looking to gain an edge over competition using online tools. For more information visit crystalmedia.co.
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