The Secret Behind Brand Loyalty Programs That Stick

The secret behind a successful loyalty program is personalization based on authentic experiences.

In an age when most of us are expected to be “always on,” it can be hard to keep a consumer’s attention. With so many options at all times, it’s understandable that people get distracted. In fact, 73 percent of US consumers report being open to considering a new brand in at least one shopping category, and it costs about 7 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. That means fostering loyalty is more important than ever.

In creating a loyalty program that sticks, brands across all industries need to leverage content that connects with consumers on a personal, affecting level. Loyalty is as much a feeling as it is an action—being loyal requires a connection, not just a click.

A brand that features authentic, user-generated content across multiple touchpoints in a loyalty program bridges the gap for a consumer trying to decide between membership for perks and membership for the community. By including the content that consumers can see themselves reflected in, brands’ loyalty programs become companions.

For hotel loyalty programs, personalization is an experience

For hotel brands especially, loyalty programs can make a big difference. In fact, 68 percent of Millennials will remain loyal to a travel program that offers them the most rewards, and 83 percent of highly satisfied hotel loyalty program members say they definitely will recommend the brand. Getting travel loyalty right is about getting personal.

In 2018, Marriott Hotels became a beacon for hotels looking to launch a successful loyalty program. Winning a Freddie Award for Hotel Program of the Year, Marriott’s scalable Rewards program enabled members to choose from their 29 participating brands and 65,000 hotels in 127 countries—and receive rewards for all of them.

Marriott Rewards members can book travel on their own dedicated website and mobile app, with a chatbot dedicated for their use. The ‘Moments’ online marketplace allows members to redeem the points they earn for experiential rewards, like concerts, sporting events or other curated events. Now, about 55 percent of Marriott’s business comes from their 110 million loyalty members.

Now rebranded as Marriott Bonvoy, the program has a new life and a new look—and it’s even more centered around the customers. Authentic traveler content across the website inspires both prospective and current members to take time for themselves on a travel adventure. And, when they do, Marriott Bonvoy encourages them to make their friends jealous by tagging #MarriottBonvoy.

This authentic content highlights beautiful potential trips that Marriott travelers can take and the incredible experiences they can have as a result of becoming a member. Social validation is important — 86 percent of people have become interested in traveling to a certain destination after seeing social images from friends, family or peers.

For hotel marketers, personalized, authentic content should extend into each touchpoint of a loyalty program, including email campaigns. With UGC implemented in emails, brands have seen an 8 percent increase in click-through rates; leveraging the right email content is essential for a fully-formed loyalty program.

For Leading Hotels of the World’s loyalty program, Leader’s Club, featuring real guest content in their dedicated emails means nurturing the sense of community that comes with being a member—not only are these customers travelers, but they’re also #LHWTravelers. By showing how other Leader’s Club members are enjoying their benefits, and offering exclusive deals alongside that social proof, Leading Hotels of the World creates email campaigns that drive conversions.

For Gap, loyalty means curating an exclusive shopping experience made for whenever, wherever

Clothing retailer Gap took its rewards program in the UK, Italy and France to a new level (and a new device). By creating a loyalty app, Gap+, specifically for their rewards members, the store curates a personalized shopping experience available anytime in the pocket of a shopper.

Beginning the experience on the website, Gap features authentic micro-influencer content on the homepage. From there, it invites visitors to become members—and then access exclusive benefits across the mobile app.

By first inspiring shoppers with an interactive, authentic Stackla-powered lookbook gallery, Gap makes the first move in nurturing a customer into a shopping experience.

After downloading the loyalty app and becoming members, customers receive dedicated discounts, half-off purchases during the week of their birthday, a discount on Gap’s famous jeans and other rewards.

Gap+ users also have access to real-time authentic social media content posted by other shoppers. The content posted on social is then made shoppable directly in the app — with the earned discounts that come with being a Gap+ member automatically incorporated. When 79 percent of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions, featuring this content in the loyalty app is guaranteed to drive conversions.

Gap will leverage the data it gathers from users interactions on the personalized content in the mobile app to influence decisions they make in their brick-and-mortar stores.

Chubbies leverage a loyalty program that scales

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) retail brand Chubbies, who began with a focus on (very) short pairs of shorts and has now expanded into swimsuits, tops, outerwear and more has created a loyalty program that is now recognized as its own community.

Chubbies’ rewards program is a points-based system, but the brand makes it extremely easy to earn a whole lot of points. Just by being a member and engaging with the brand on social or having a birthday, customers earn hundreds of points that are immediately redeemable.

One of the most important elements of Chubbies’ loyalty program that sets it apart is the brand’s acute understanding of its customer base. With unique customer personas built out, the brand creates content that speaks directly to a very receptive audience, and the prizes loyalty members can redeem their points for are no exception. Blankets, coolers, beanies — these are prizes that provide what the customers want: comfort.

The more customers shop, and the more they refer their friends, the more points they rack up—points that can be used to purchase the new Chubbies products they like the best. Plus, if members choose to download the app, Chubbies Shorts, they get access to even more exclusive deals. With more products at their fingertips, customers earn more rewards and receive more gifts—keeping them coming back time and time again.

In addition to the loyalty program, each time a Chubbies customer makes a purchase, the brand sends a thank you gift—a practice that has enabled them to grow their repeat revenue by 70 percent. Personally thanking a customer recognizes them as a human (and positions the brand as more human, too).

Keeping loyalty programs personal ensures that customers develop real, genuine connections with the brands they purchase from. When those programs feature authentic content published by a brand’s real customers as well, they create and curate social validation—increasing the likelihood that other customers will stick around. By treating your brand advocates as the influential content creators they are, they become the micro-influencers that consumers trust for a personal recommendation. Sixty-seven percent of consumers say it’s important for brands to provide them with personalized experiences. Are you leveraging relatable content to keep your customers coming back?

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