Are there alternative ways of generating customer loyalty other than cards or points to keep your customers engaged and coming back for more?

I would say we Brits are a discerning bunch, always after a deal or two. I’m as guilty as the next person and decided to make the most of the weekend by finding some killer bargains on Oxford Street.

Making my way on the tube was the first ordeal as I held up a queue of increasingly angry people as I waded through my wallet, which contained five loyalty cards, till I found my debit card.

I couldn’t help but wonder, how often do I use these loyalty cards? Have I actually ever received any rewards? And honestly, do I really care?

My journey that day opened my eyes to a number of ways retailers build customer loyalty without the need for cards or points. Here are my five observations: 

1) The best deals are ‘Always-on’ 

So as I get off at Bond Street I walk to my first port of call, Primark. It seems like everyone on Oxford Street had the same idea as every second person had a Primark bag. “I must join their loyalty program”, I thought to myself. Unfortunately there isn’t one.

What’s Primark's key to generating customer loyalty? Ask anyone why they keep going back to Primark and they say it’s because they know they will always be offered great value stuff that's in season and of reasonable quality. It’s that simple.

So rather then collecting a gazillion points to be eligible for a free gift (that most customers don't redeem anyway), the new mantra in loyalty is to offer customers ‘always-on deals’ by giving them the best value each and every time they interact with you. No doubt they will appreciate it.

2) Make me feel special

I was in need of a coffee so walked into the Pret a Manger at Marble Arch. I always find the staff really inviting and service efficient, so for me Pret is just easy. I order a latte and about to tap my contactless when a smiling face said, “don't worry it’s on the house.” I must admit I got a warm feeling.

Pret do not have a loyalty program but empower their staff to give out free coffee to a few lucky customers each day. No clever CRM systems or points, just a human touch.

I think sometimes this is exactly what is missing in customer service today. One thing’s for sure if Pret did have a loyalty program I’d be a platinum member.

3) Don't lock me in, convince me to stay

Revived by my caffeine high, I decide to call a friend using my O2 sim-only deal. I love the convenience of getting a bill each month, whilst not feeling like I’m stuck with them for a lifetime (I exaggerate, but it sure feels like that when you really want a new phone).

I’ve now had the deal going for four years, I can get out at anytime and perhaps this is exactly the reason I stay. Coupled with the O2 Priority Rewards where I keep receiving offers and freebies, perhaps it’s all about the small things in life that make us feel valued. 

4) Give me extra

After a natter, we decide to meet at Five Guys in Covent Garden. Walking into the joint one gets a real sense of energy and enthusiasm from the staff. Also, their simple optional menu makes sure you always get more than you bargained for (literally), as you can have all the frills on your burger for the same price.

But the real icing on the cake (or bun) is when they hand over your burger bag filled to the brim with fries. Did I ask for them? No. Am I happy (and a little surprised)? Absolutely.

They just gave me something for nothing, and that's something I really valued. A little surprise and delight does not go unnoticed.

5) Look after everyone

I ended my trek to Oxford Street and called it a night by relaxing on my sofa and switching on the box. All I wanted to do was turn on Netflix and watch the new series of Marcos. However, my other half had other ideas.

Thank you Netflix for enabling us to watch two different programs using the same subscription. It’s a nice way to add value for the whole family while not trying to grab every penny. It shows you understand how we like to do things and care.

I must admit I was not overjoyed that I had to watch Marcos on my iPad (you can see who gets their way in my house). Hey ho! Guess Netflix can’t solve all my problems but I still won’t be leaving its service anytime soon.

You can learn even more about customer experience at our two day Festival of Marketing event in November. Book your ticket today and see how you can create a customer-focused culture.

Ritchie Mehta

Published 8 September, 2015 by Ritchie Mehta

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Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

I do like the idea of "organic" loyalty, but it can be hard to achieve online where your position on a particular Google search may be as much an indication of success as any previous relationship you have had with the customer.

Aren't a lot of loyalty programs as much about measuring loyalty as they are about generating loyalty?

over 2 years ago

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Ian Williams, Head of Research & Analytics at n/a

For me this article speaks the truth in terms of how a brand can reward their customer and catch loyalty. But the benefits of a loyalty program to the retailer go beyond this - data capture being the obvious one, particularly so as brands seek to quantify instore sales driven by online behaviour.

over 2 years ago

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Adam Adam Posner, CEO at Directivity

According to the latest loyalty research 'for love or money 2015' (www.theloyaltypoint.com.au), 58% of members said that brands need a loyalty program to keep their customers loyal and that jumps to 71% for under 35yo's. The (over the) counter argument is that 42% said in essence, just get the basics right!

over 2 years ago

Anders Bach Waagstein

Anders Bach Waagstein, Head of Ecommerce at AO Johansen

I agree with the other two. Loyality programs is one of the main keys to connect the dots between online and offline, and I will expect more and more brands to engage in this - hopefully with a "digital card" for your phone instead of the plastic one filling up your wallet.

over 2 years ago

Ritchie Mehta

Ritchie Mehta, Managing Director at The Marketing Lounge Partnership CRM and Loyalty

Agree with comments, particularly about loyalty programs playing a critical role in understanding customers better and linking online/offline.

Think however organisations need to evaluate their end to end operation and customer experience/service delivery prior to trying to develop a program to overcome their short-comings in these areas. It needs to be seen as a value-add on top of a great core proposition.

over 2 years ago

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Robin Mehta, Managing Director at RAW

At the end of the day a loyalty program has to deliver bottom line results, every one of these techniques is a viable method to achieve this while causing little, to no, friction points within the program. That said when these methods are supported through digital means they become an increasingly powerful data tool for organisations, and vital to longevity.Not all digital methods are created equal though, and finding the right digital touchpoints for your own audience is vital to a frictionless loyalty program. Hopefully beacons, and other contactless technology will assist in achieving this. Nice Read.

over 2 years ago

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loyale' 99, http://www.loyale.in/ at Loyale.in

Nowadays, right from rendering customer satisfaction, to engaging customer retention, customer loyalty programs act as a touchstone for every business. Uniquely designed strategies provides a judicious mix of tailor-made solutions and channels to engage maximum customers

over 2 years ago

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