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Must-Learn Loyalty Lessons You May Have Missed

Posted by Dean Asher on 12/16/14 10:00 PM
Topics: college retail, customer loyalty

Customer loyalty programs are becoming more and more valuable. Some stores already have launched them, but it's not too late if yours hasn't. shares this list of lessons we learned about retail loyalty programs this year. We published an excerpt below, and you can see the whole list here.

If you didn’t adopt a loyalty program in 2014, this is one New Year’s resolution that’s sure to pay off, and we have the numbers to prove it. Last year, Merchant Warehouse polled over 100 small business owners and managers and 700 shoppers to get their take on loyalty during the back-to-school season — the second most lucrative time for businesses after the winter holidays (which brought in $601 billion in 2013).

The core finding? Implementing a loyalty program is a far more reliable and long-lasting strategy for gaining happy, repeat customers than slashing prices left and right.

As you’re planning for the year ahead, consider injecting some loyalty into your 2015 plan. Here are five lessons you can take with you into the new year to make sure you’re at the top of customers’ minds from January all the way through December.

Sales are temporary, but a good loyalty program is forever

In our back-to-school survey, 91 percent of shoppers said a reward or promotion would encourage them to take their business someplace new. Fifty-three percent also said price is the biggest driver of buying decisions. But competing with other stores’ sales isn’t the only way to bring shoppers in the door. Staying connected with customers via a loyalty program is a more reliable way to always be at the top of consumers’ minds.

Another thing to note: a history of meeting revenue goals doesn’t necessarily indicate future success. While the final results aren’t in just yet, the National Retail Federation predicted holiday sales to grow 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, up from $591.7 billion in 2013. This sounds promising, but don’t assume you’re going to get a big piece of that retail revenue pie without upping your efforts. Those billions generated from holiday sales last year might be distributed differently in years to come, and loyalty is the best way to create a shopping experience that draws in new customers and keeps everyone coming back time after time.

It benefits some unexpected things (like email open rates)

You’ve used loyalty to establish customer relationships and you’re starting to see an increase in repeat customers, but that’s not where the advantages end. We found that rewarding shoppers for their purchases has the potential to give market share a 20 percent boost.

But wait, there’s more: our survey also found that members of a business’ loyalty program are 40 percent more likely to click “open” on promotional emails. After that, there’s a 20 percent higher chance they’ll click again to access your site. Moreover, when a loyalty member receives an email, they’re also 10 percent more likely to make a purchase.

Punch cards are out; Social media engagement is in

Our survey found that creating an engaging online experience that incorporates social media is the most effective way to get and keep shoppers’ attention, and often leads to both web and in-store purchases. In fact, nearly half of the shoppers surveyed said they preferred engaging with stores via social media during the back-to-school season.

But it isn’t just about offering coupons. A successful approach to building loyalty via social media means delivering content that gives consumers the feeling of exclusive access. Offering incentives for follows, likes and shares is an easy way to get them to take a genuine interest in your brand, and catch the attention of like-minded, prospective shoppers they engage with on social media. It also creates an environment where shoppers are likely to stick around, eager for future promotions. Couple that with great content and you’ll be able to build a large and loyal customer base via social media.

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