The beverage company, Ocean Spray, offers a Facebook fan page and Twitter feed where customers can share recipes, trade entertaining tips, learn about new products, and post feedback. With 155,744 “likes” and counting, the company tracks hits as well as generating traffic to their Web site. Once there, visitors may be tempted to join the Cranberry Club to receive regular updates from the company.
Heinz dedicates its Facebook page largely to nostalgia. Those that “like” Heinz on Facebook are encouraged to share their favorite ketchup memories. This provides an interactive and emotional communication experience between the company and consumer.
Twitter serves as a company’s own news feed, allowing businesses to reach the masses on a daily or weekly basis. For example, Tweeps that sign up for JetBlueCheeps—an ongoing promotional campaign by JetBlue—can expect exciting travel deals every Tuesday. The feed is dedicated to deals on last minute flights offered for a limited time.
Another social media outlet, Foursquare, takes customer loyalty in a different direction—offering mayor-ships to the most frequent visitors of check-in points, which include stores, restaurants, residents, and even traffic jams. The mobile application offers innate marketing opportunities, including automatic linkage to users’ popular social networking feeds, which map out the destination.
Businesses that take the time to monitor and manage Foursquare locations are able to capitalize on the opportunity. Foursquare offers merchants and other venue owners a free set of tools to help attract new customers as well as retain existing clientele. Business owners do this by offering Foursquare specials, which include mobile coupons, prizes, or discounts that are presented to users when they check in at or near the business location. These specials encourage users to stop by and can be tailored based on the business goal. Foursquare’s Merchant Platform allows business access to a venue stats dashboard to track customer foot traffic over time.
Whether used to promote loyalty programs, discuss industry trends, or act as a customer service platform, social media opportunities are ideal for businesses of all sizes and functions.
Perhaps the most well-known form of loyalty and incentive programs are exclusive clubs offered to frequent and elite customers. A simple email or phone number by interested parties provides consumers with instant access to discounts and giveaways. In return, retailers are able to achieve a holistic view of their customer and collect data for sophisticated future marketing.
For example, the Starbucks Rewards program enables users to register a gift card, which can be assigned to an account number and loaded with cash only good at the coffee chain. With each purchase, the customer gets one more step towards achieving gold status, which entitles that customer to the highest level of rewards. Lower levels also enable rewards. This tiered approach allows the company to target occasional as well as frequent customers and segment the rewards based on the number of transactions.
Rival coffee giant, Dunkin’ Donuts unveiled a new loyalty program in April 2011, which offers guests unlimited rewards. The new DD Perks Rewards program is the brand’s first-ever national loyalty rewards program, providing Dunkin’ Dollar reward coupons for purchases made with a registered Dunkin’ Donuts Card. Rewards are redeemed for any item off of the Dunkin’ Donuts menu.
The DD Perks Rewards Program is the latest enhancement to Dunkin’ Donuts’ popular DD Perks, which provides members exclusive in store and online offers, previews new menu items, updates restaurant openings, and localized offers. All DD Perks members also receive a free medium beverage upon enrollment, plus another free medium beverage on their birthday.
Retail and grocery provide other popular club-based loyalty programs. One well-known example is CVS/pharmacy’s ExtraCare Rewards Program, which launched back in 2001. According to the company, the program has become the largest retail rewards program in the U.S., with more than 66 million active cardholders.
Members are able to work towards Extra Bucks, which pays back two percent on purchases in the form of a coupon printed at the bottom of the store receipt. It also rewards customers with $1 to spend on front store merchandise for every two prescriptions purchased. ExtraCare customers receive mailings with special offers and coupons, as well as information about new products and technologies tailored to their shopping habits.
Complex rewards programs such as those provided by CVS, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Starbucks, are not appropriate for all businesses. They require a large and invested customer base as well as the corporate budget for promoting and maintaining the program. However, they do provide an excellent example of what can be achieved and offered.
Loyalty programs and other purchased-based incentive programs are ideal for improving customer engagement with a brand. Before implementation, businesses should align program goals with an overall business strategy.
It is important that organizations take advantage of a continued dialog with key customers, offering incentives for the base to remain active. Social media and email communications are affordable ways to promote loyalty programs, ongoing incentives, and overall business. A multi-faceted approach that incorporates targeted direct mail communications as well as online components ensures customers keep brand top of mind.
Loyalty programs are ideal for identifying and rewarding frequent customers. They also serve as a strong backbone for direct marketing initiatives. Mixed with an overall marketing strategy that involves encouraging new clientele and building brand, loyalty programs help businesses engage and expand an active customer base.