Brands that are incorporating strategies to offer experienced based rewards in their loyalty programs are going to win and retain more customers compared to companies just offering discounts.

Consumers are demanding experienced based loyalty rewards

experiential rewards incentives are demanded by consumers

We all have heard of retail loyalty programs and promotions, pretty much every industry offers some type of program in order to attract new and retain existing customers. The problem is, that many of these programs have become mundane and are not offering rewards that are exciting to their members.  

A recent report from a survey conducted by a loyalty program firm Colloquy and a ticket selling platform Fanxchange has confirmed that a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the reward choices that are being offered in their loyalty programs.

Experiential rewards are the answer      

Rewarding consumers with access to live events instead of just discounts on products, as a brand you are now reaching the consumer and giving them an emotional connection, which can be customized by offering many different types of events, to meet the interests and different tastes of people in different stages of life.  

Simple discounts do not give people an experience that touches their five senses.     

Over 1,000 consumers participated in this. Almost half of the respondents, 48% of the members expressed a frustration in some part of the reward redemption process with various companies.        

Experienced based rewards spark customer and brand loyalty

44% of the consumers stated that airline flights are the most popular experienced based reward, while another 56% expressed that receiving tickets to live events such as sports, movies, concerts and theatre was quite enjoyable.  

Consumers are spending more of their disposable income on enhanced experiences, as we come out the recession from 2008. Experiential rewards tend to appeal more to the higher income demographic who are less affected or concerned with discounts and saving money and are more interested in VIP treatment.  

People want to feel special, so giving customers experienced based rewards such as VIP event access, concert tickets, backstage passes and trips are a way to create meaningful and lasting memories in the minds of your consumer. By being flexible and offering different rewards and campaigns you can keep people engaged because they are interested to see what is new and available for them to do.     

Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ offers a Starwood Preferred guest program, that has partnered with Alliance rewards, to give its members access to special perks related to Broadway shows.

The members can earn points that will give them access to advanced tickets and upgraded seats.  Experiential rewards are also effective and important to reaching the millennial generation.  

According to a study done by JWT Worldwide, “72% of Millennials would rather spend money on experiences than products”  Social media can be a useful activation marketing tool with members posting their once in a lifetime experience of these events.  Experiential marketing appeals to consumers because it touches their passions in life.   

Tips for using experiential rewards incentives to engage consumers   

1. Not all experiential rewards offers are the same.

One size does not fit all when it comes to offering different price level reward promotions to different customer segments. Understanding what will appeal to a high valued consumer is very critical.  

For example, going on a vacation to Florida may seem to be an exciting and exotic event for one person, but it could be quite ordinary and routine to someone else.

As a marketer, you need to ask these questions:   

  • Who is the target audience?   

  • Where do the incentives and rewards fit into the campaign?

  • How frequent or limited is the promotion going to be offered?  

  • How is the “exclusivity” level going to be determined of the offer?  

  • How are the marketing goals going to measured and achieved?

2. Exclusive offers and great first impressions matter     

People want to feel like they are part of a brand and that they are being offered something special and not generic.  

Test the ad copy of the offer you are going to send first. If you are wanting to create excitement or make the offer seem exclusive, then make it seem like it is personalized for them or they are part of a limited tier or group.

An example of this, the Wall Street Journal, WSJ has been doing a terrific job of keeping their subscription members happy by now sending them exotic and exclusive offers via email to be able to RSVP for events, discounts on products, and contests that could win you a dream vacation.  

I am myself being able to attend an exclusive “Simon Sinek book signing, cocktail party event at Valentino's New Flagship store in NYC sponsored by the WSJ”. The party was a very upscale VIP experience, where they offered the guests Glenlivet 18 year aged single malt scotch and catered the event with very high end appetizers.

I was so happy that I posted photos to social media and felt very privileged and valued to be a customer of the WSJ.

Wall Street Journal experiential reward event party

3. Set your brand's experiential rewards apart from the competitors   

Just as people will remember cool and unique event experiences, they will also remember the brand that sponsored and brought it to them.

It’s good to keep tabs and research your competition to see what is being offered in their loyalty programs.The offers should be distinct and unique enough so that it cannot be easily duplicated.  

An example of this, Mastercard was a sponsor of Beyonce’s world tour, and it used and used its partnership by offering some it’s upscale customers access and the opportunity to experience “VIP Priceless” events with backstage passes and front row seats.

4. Help to facilitate a buzz: encourage social sharing    

When you have a platform’s that encourages and allows your customers to share their excitement when they earn and receive access to a unique experiential reward, this can be very beneficial for generating buzz and word of mouth loyalty for the brand.

Rewards and loyalty marketers should create hashtags for each event, so can track the social shares before, during and after each event.

5. Test and measure: keep long terms goals

It’s important to realize that testing different types of experiential incentives and rewards, that they will not be a home run, but it is ok to fail and learn from it.  

It is also very important to keep in mind, what are the important loyalty and customer retention metrics worth keeping track of. Take a look at some of these metrics listed in the bullet list below:  

  • Customer lifetime value  

  • Tenure

  • Revenue

  • Return on Investment   

  • Frequency   

  • Net promoter scores

  • Customer effect scores

Remember one failed reward does mean the business model does not work, Marketers can gain important insights using data analysis techniques and metrics, to determine what went wrong with the last reward and how the next promotion can be more successful.   


Some customers may appreciate discounts, but then your company may find itself in the conundrum of the only thing you have to offer is a low price point.

The problem with that is if your products are not unique and the competition only comes down to having the lowest price, then eventually someone is going to undercut you and come in lower.  

It is better to build partnerships that help to showcase your brand‘s products, avoid the price slashing and offer unique, experience based rewards and incentives that will make your customers feel special and remember your company

Andrew Broadbent

Published 26 February, 2015 by Andrew Broadbent

Andrew Broadbent is Director of Search Marketing at 17 Agency and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can find Andrew on LinkedIn or Google Plus.

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Comments (8)

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Aviva Pinchas, Digital Strategist at Aviva Pinchas Consulting

Really interesting research! Do you have any examples of experiential rewards in diff industries? Would be interesting to see how different kinds of brands are implementing this.

over 3 years ago


Marie Lhermitte, Product Marketing Manager at Ifeelgoods

Hey, if you're looking to reward your consumers with enticing digital rewards, you should check .
We have a catalog of 100,000+ digital rewards available including music, movie ticket, game and gift cards etc.

over 3 years ago

Joe Tarragano

Joe Tarragano, Group Managing Director at Pentagon

The desire for experiential rewards resonates.

But what I missed from this article was evidence. There's a good list of KPIs there, but clicking through to the study I don't think I saw anything that linked experiential rewards to any actual outcomes, rather than just declared preferences.

So while I'm positively disposed to the idea, I'd like to see something that looks a little more like science rather than conjecture.

over 3 years ago

Andrew Broadbent

Andrew Broadbent, Director of Search Marketing at 4 EON Inc Experiential Marketing Agency

Hi Joe, Thanks for taking time to read my article, I loved the question I would happy to share some results for clients such as Toshiba, Luxottica and Nestle, but due to the fact, that we are not an agency of record, we do not publish results online, but I would happy to have a member of the team send you over some case studies. If you send me an email at I will be happy to connect with my boss.

over 3 years ago

Andrew Broadbent

Andrew Broadbent, Director of Search Marketing at 4 EON Inc Experiential Marketing Agency

Hi Aviva, Thanks for reading my article. If look at this slide on one of 4 EON's partner companies TRCO marketing, you can see some slides that show different types of industries using different reward incentive campaigns.

over 3 years ago


Peter Cunningham, Product & Marketing at Buyapowa

This is not surprising, as too many loyalty programmes are just 'me too' without any thought and just bombard members with coupons and discounts. They lack imagination and fun and they often assume I want to buy the same thing I bought before over and over again. The answer is pretty simple. It is to ask you customers what they want and let them choose from all your products - we call this 'co-creation'. If you want to offer the choice of experiential rewards and those fit in with your brand message then all the better.

Then provide them with an incentive to share by having dynamic rewards that get better as more people sign up and reward the people who do the most to make your programme succeed via gamification. When you can make a loyalty programme relevant to members throughout their buying cycle you have more chance of people remembering you next time they reach for their wallet.

Here is our recent blog article about how dumb coupons discounts aren't the answer:

over 3 years ago

Andrew Broadbent

Andrew Broadbent, Director of Search Marketing at 4 EON Inc Experiential Marketing Agency

Thanks Peter,

For taking the time read this article. I think your opinions make sense on loyalty programs and I liked the article you shared in the comments.

over 3 years ago


claudia colantonio, Product & Supplier Manager at Samba Days Experience Group

As the creator of the Experiential Rewards portfolio at Aeroplan ( I am proud to say that I was 7 years ahead of the trend when I introduced Experiences to the program in 2008. It was an extremely successful portfolio of rewards which garnered a lot of positive press for the company & grew upwards of 200% YoY. In addition I was responsible for sourcing and developing the D'Exclusives rewards for Aeroplan's auction site (similar to Starwood Moments). The trend continues to grow as collectors want to be recognized in a more personal way & are willing to use their miles to get that "warm & fuzzy feeling" or bragging rights.

over 3 years ago

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