Published: 27 May 2019
Updated: 29 Jan 2024
Category: Business Development

Loyalty Programs for Small Businesses: Strategies to Secure Customer Loyalty

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While every single sale of your product is beneficial for your company in the short run, as a business owner, you should always aim to incentivise your first-time customers to continue buying from you. This is called customer loyalty and allows you to maintain your market position despite the competition.

Businesses of different sizes use a variety of methods to build customer loyalty, but specially designed customer loyalty programs have proven to be the most effective. A Nielsen survey published in 2019 revealed that more than 52 percent of the consumers surveyed say they will buy their favorite brand even if it is cheaper and more convenient to buy a rival product is further proof that loyalty endures. What’s more, according to a research article from Bain & Company, two-thirds of customers are likely to spend more if that gives them a chance to earn rewards.

In this article, we will discuss the key benefits of loyalty marketing, look at some of the best examples, and offer tips on how to make loyalty programs part of your marketing strategy.
 

Why Does Customer Loyalty Matter?

Retaining customers is crucial for any business to succeed and grow in the long run. Customers who have already made a purchase from a business are more likely to make repeat purchases, which can help generate a stable revenue stream. Additionally, retaining customers is often more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. It costs more to attract new customers than it does to retain existing ones, as businesses need to spend money on advertising, promotions, and other marketing strategies. Acquiring a new customer could cost you up to seven times as much as retaining an existing one. Even after you’ve invested all this time, effort, and financial resources, your chances of locking in a sale from a prospective customer are very slim, usually between 5% and 20%. On the other hand, the chances of selling the same product to your existing customers are much higher, usually between 60% and 70%.

By nurturing a loyal customer base, businesses can unlock a powerful source of growth. Loyal customers not only become brand advocates, but they also bring in new customers through referrals. This organic word-of-mouth marketing can significantly reduce acquisition costs and boost revenue. Moreover, retaining customers plays a vital role in shaping a positive reputation for the business. Satisfied customers are more inclined to leave glowing reviews and recommend the business to others, creating a ripple effect that attracts even more customers. Ultimately, customer retention is an indispensable element of any successful business strategy.
 

What are Customer Loyalty Programs?

Loyalty programs are marketing strategies that encourage customers to keep coming back to a business by offering rewards for repeat business. These programs typically involve customers earning points or rewards for every purchase they make, which can then be redeemed for discounts, free products, or other benefits.

For small businesses, loyalty programs can be particularly valuable as they help to secure customer loyalty and keep customers coming back. Small businesses often rely heavily on repeat business as they may not have the same level of visibility or brand recognition as larger competitors. By offering a loyalty program, small businesses can incentivise customers to keep coming back, which can help to increase sales and revenue over time.
 

What are the Benefits of Loyalty Programs?

Loyalty programs offer a wide range of benefits for small businesses. They help to secure customer loyalty, increase sales, and build stronger relationships with customers. Statistics show that loyalty programs can have a significant impact on small business success.

According to a study by Bond Brand Loyalty, 81% of consumers say that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with a brand. This means that by offering a loyalty program, small businesses can increase customer retention and keep customers coming back.

Loyalty programs can also help to increase sales. The same study found that 79% of consumers are more likely to choose a brand that offers a loyalty program than one that doesn't. This means that by offering a loyalty program, small businesses can attract new customers and increase their revenue.

In addition to increasing sales and customer retention, loyalty programs can also help small businesses to build stronger relationships with their customers. By offering a personalised experience and rewards that are tailored to their interests and preferences, small businesses can show their customers that they value their business and care about their needs. This can help to create a sense of community and foster a more loyal customer base, which can be a valuable asset for any small business.
 

5 Examples of Customer Loyalty Programs for Small Businesses

To understand how a well-thought-out loyalty program could help you boost customer loyalty and improve your brand awareness in the process, let’s look at some of the best loyalty program examples.

  1. My Starbucks Rewards – Starbucks allows users to earn rewards for paying and/or ordering coffee using their official app. Customers get to use these reward points to get free coffee or discounts of their future purchases, while Starbucks collects a lot of important data it can use to further tweak its services according to their customers’ needs and boost their satisfaction.

  2. Amazon Prime – This isn’t a classic loyalty program in that there are no reward points. However, customers – who most often subscribe in order to get two-day free shipping across the country – get access to numerous perks, including a streaming service with thousands of movies, TV shows, albums, digital books, magazines, and audiobooks.

  3. Sephora Beauty Insider – The renowned beauty and cosmetics brand awards its customers a certain number of points on every purchase. They can then use these points either toward a gift card they can give to someone or use it to get a discount the next time they shop at Sephora.

  4. Plenti Rewards – Created by American Express, Plenti Rewards is a system that allows loyal users to win points when paying for groceries, gas, meals, personal care items, and many other products and services at partnered companies. These points can then be used to get discounts.

  5. Payback – This multi-store loyalty program, the largest of its kind in India and perhaps the whole world, allows users to shop in more than 50 partner stores and get points for each purchase. The points are added to their Payback card and can be used for discounts and other in-store perks.
     

Key Elements in Small Business Best Loyalty Programs

Building a successful loyalty program for small businesses requires a deep understanding of what customers want and need. However, some key elements can help ensure your program is a hit.

  1. The program should be customizable to fit the specific needs of your business and target audience. This could include offering personalised rewards, exclusive discounts, or early access to new products or services. 
  2. The program must be omni-channel to ensure that customers can easily engage with it across various channels. This could include in-store, online, social media, or mobile channels. 
  3. The loyalty program should be integratable with your existing POS system, email marketing software, and other tools to streamline the process of tracking customer purchases and rewarding loyalty. 
  4. The program should be user-friendly, meaning it should be easy for customers to understand and participate in. This could include offering a mobile app, a simple sign-up process, and clear instructions on how to earn and redeem rewards. 
  5. It's essential that the program is not based solely on monetary rewards. Incentives could include access to exclusive experiences, personalised recommendations, or even recognition and appreciation from the business. 

Customisation and personalisation can make your loyalty program even more effective. For instance, you could offer customers the ability to choose their own rewards, based on their preferences and past purchase behaviours. You could also use data analytics to personalise the program, such as by offering relevant rewards based on the customer's location, purchase history, and other factors. By offering a personalised loyalty program, you can not only increase customer engagement and loyalty but also gain valuable insights into their behaviour and preferences.
 

Future Trends in Loyalty programs

In the future, loyalty programs will continue to evolve as companies look for new ways to engage customers and build brand loyalty. One trend that is already underway is the integration of AI into loyalty programs, which allows for more personalised rewards and a better understanding of customer behaviour. AI can provide insights into what customers want and need, allowing companies to offer rewards that are tailored to their specific preferences.

Another trend that is likely to continue is the use of blockchain technology in loyalty programs. Blockchain can provide greater transparency and security, making it easier for customers to track their rewards and for companies to prevent fraud. In addition, blockchain can be used to create a more seamless experience for customers, enabling them to use their rewards across multiple platforms and with multiple partners.

As technology continues to advance, loyalty programs are also evolving to keep up with the changing times. The future trends in loyalty programs are focused on sustainability and convenience. Mobile wallets and contactless payments are becoming more popular, making it easier for customers to earn and redeem rewards. Additionally, eco-friendly practices are being emphasised, with businesses finding ways to reward customers for making sustainable choices. Small businesses need to be adaptable and innovative to stay ahead of the competition. By embracing these trends and finding ways to integrate them into their loyalty programs, small businesses can continue to secure customer loyalty and drive revenue growth in the future.

 

Conclusion

A well-planned loyalty program can help small businesses retain customers, increase revenue, and build long-term relationships. By analyzing customer behaviour and offering tailored rewards, small businesses can create a loyal customer base that will help them grow and succeed in the years to come. In short, loyalty programs are no longer just a nice-to-have but a must-have for small businesses looking to thrive in today's competitive landscape.

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