Nearly every store and restaurant has a loyalty rewards program. Some give you a specific item for free, some give money off and others build points that you can use in specified ways. However, when everyone is running a loyalty program, it becomes harder for a programs to live up to its intended purpose: to inspire loyalty.
Buy ten burritos, get one free. Spend $50 and get $10 off on your next purchase. Even my pet store has a loyalty program—yet the perks are still a mystery after two years of entering my phone number every time I checkout (I’m beginning to suspect there are no benefits). Some of these programs have become white noise — you have a loyalty program, great who doesn’t — but there are still a few that are done so well they give me, the customer, a sense of urgency to go back to their store so I won’t miss out. (Check out Marketing Strategies to Increase Customer Loyalty)
My favorite reward program is at the grocery store where they select seemingly random items and give a specified amount off on gas. I buy products that weren’t on my grocery list (and probably never would be) simply so I can get 10 cents off per gallon. I like to watch the running tally of how much I have earned build up, but those rewards also come with an expiration date. If I don’t use my rewards within 30 days, I lose it. Now, not only have they gotten me to purchase things I didn’t know I wanted, but they made sure that I come back to them use the rewards by positioning a looming expiration date over me.
The next stand-out program is the “spend a certain amount and get a certain amount off your next purchase” plan. At checkout, they staple my rewards “cash” to my receipt. It clearly tells me how much money I get off and gives me a window of time to use it. One store, in particular, is amazing at creating a sense of urgency around their cash. Not only do they send me a reminder email that I have it to use, but they also send a reminder the day before it expires. I can’t tell you how many times $20 or $40 has brought me into the store when I had no plans to go shopping, and I leave having spent $100 and feeling like I got a great deal.
These programs aren’t just good ideas for grocery stores or clothing stories, the same ideas can be applied to your store as well.
If the grocery store offered money off on anything besides gas, I wouldn’t be interested. The price of gas is constantly changing, it’s something I use and I will continue to need it. They chose a commodity that has enough value to me as a consumer that I am willing to give my loyalty in return. What is something your store sells that students will have to purchase? Notebooks. Pens. Course Materials.
Consider a program that lets them build rewards gives them money off of a specific purchase. If they can see that amount grow and go up, even better. Need to move particular merchandise? Offer double or triple rewards on it. Not only will they leave the store with a sense of satisfaction, but it increases the odds they will come back because they get a discount and you have fulfilled a customer need. Find the right benefit to the student and win their loyalty to your store all semester.
If you prefer a cash rewards program, consider following the model in the second example. Give the customer their rewards immediately after they checkout. Make sure they know when they can use it and when it will expire. The simpler the plan is to use, the more people will want to take part in it. If you can alert your customers when their rewards are about to expire, it will be worth the extra effort. The reminder helps create that sense of urgency that this needs to be done now or it will be lost. It’s easy to forget you have the rewards until it is too late to use them. A little more contact from the store might just be the nudge they need to come back through the door.
Check out the rewards programs at UC Davis, North Dakota State University and Whitman College for more ideas.