Loyalty & Rewards

How to Create a Customer Loyalty Program That Keeps Them Coming Back

Master the art of customer retention with our comprehensive guide on how to create a powerful loyalty program that keeps customers coming back.



Rewards programs are no longer just about rewards. Instead of stamp cards and free products, they focus on engaging customers in fun, innovative ways that build a community of brand loyalists.

Picture this: It’s 1990, and you pick up your morning coffee. As your barista rings you up, they hand you a little card with a stamp and inform you that they’ve started a new rewards program where you’ll earn a free drink after 10 purchases. Sweet!

You place the card in your wallet and head out. And while these punch/stamp cards hold a lot of nostalgia, they were a bit impractical in practice. Think about how many brands you interact with during any given month. 

Now imagine a card in your wallet for every single one. Pretty soon, your wallet is jam-packed with punch/stamp/rewards cards, and you’re bound to clean your wallet, leaving some brands behind—and that’s exactly what happened.

The competition for the space in your wallet hasn’t changed much over the years, but it’s getting more sophisticated. In 2022, you pick up your morning coffee and earn points for your next reward automatically when your barista scans your app.

But how can you make your brand stand out and ensure your rewards programs won’t be purged and forgotten? Simple—by focusing on customer engagement and building loyalty, not just giving rewards for returning.

Here are five simple steps you can take to create a successful eCommerce loyalty program.

TLDR Key Takeaways
Focus on creating a program specifically tailored to your USP instead of implementing generic ones that are difficult to customize and provide value for customers. People will come back for more if you build emotional connections and offer them multiple ways to interact with your brand, like through social media channels and customer forums. In order to stay competitive, you need a rewards program that can change and grow with your business.

1.  Revisit Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

You’ve already created a USP for your company. You use it in your marketing strategy. So then, why not use it in the design of your customer loyalty program? It only makes sense.

You know what you have to offer the customer. You know what makes you different from your competition. And your rewards program should reflect that.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your customers looking for that they can’t find elsewhere?
  • What would make them want to return to your business again and again?
  • What promotions and perks can you offer that will align with your brand’s values and objectives?

Think about all the different coffee brands out there. They’re all selling a similar product, but they each have their own USP, whether it’s flavor, caffeine content, bean source, collaborations, or lifestyle.

And depending on their USP, they tailor their loyalty program accordingly. The most common loyalty programs are tiered, point-based, paid / VIP, partnership, or hybrid. 

When you design a loyalty program around your USP, you automatically give yourself a head start on your competition. Instead of implementing a generic customer loyalty program, you’ll have a program that’s clearly focused on delivering the most value for your customer. 

2. Utilize Triggers During the Customer Journey

Just like your USP, each of your customers is unique and will start their journey with your brand in different ways. It’s your job to establish triggers designed to lead your customers further into the rabbit hole.

And if you’re starting your loyalty program once they’ve completed a purchase, then you are behind your competition. Your loyalty program should be triggered the moment they first come in contact with your brand. 

Now, we’re not suggesting you pester them into joining your rewards program within 10 seconds of their first visit to your website, but you should have a gradual process that shows them you’re ready to enhance their experience.

This is where customer journey mapping comes into play. During that process, you create unique buyer personas that give you insight into what nudges your customer will need and when.

Use it!

Set up a trigger that gives your customer a reward for completing a milestone, like getting a discount code for signing up for a newsletter. Is that a major part of your loyalty program? Probably not—but it’s the first step. 

And now you’ve just done one of two things:

  1. Built trust with the customer: You’ve shown them a willingness to actually give them what you said you would.
  2. You’re in the door: You have a way to give them more information and bring them back if they disappear.

As your customer progresses through their journey, you’ll create an array of triggers for various milestones that are designed to maneuver the customer to come back for more, such as when they spend ‘X’ amount, they get something in return for a future purchase.

The best way to do this is by using a platform that lets you automate the customer journey and manage your loyalty programs in one place, like Patch.

3. Build Emotional Connections to Your Brand with Your Rewards

If your loyalty program centers around giving customers discounts and freebies alone, then you’ll always lose customers. Why? Don’t people love discounts?

They do. But as much as people love a good bargain, they love a good brand more. If they’re only coming to you for the discount, they’ll be the first to drop you when they find a lower price.

We’ve all done it. Wait for that discount email. Get the item and then drop the brand. That’s what discount-driven loyalty programs will get—every time. 

And then you get thrown in the ring with big players like Amazon or Walmart, who will always beat your prices. Retaining those customers will feel like a constant uphill battle.

That’s why we focused on your USP first. Your loyalty program needs to set the tone and remind customers why you’re the reason they are going back for more—not your discounts.

How do you do that? The easiest way is to make them feel special (those warm fuzzies). After all, they are willing to spend a lot of money on your brand; you should be able to give them an equal amount of attention for it. 

Personalization is the name of the game here. 

Every message you send to your customers should be tailored to them. If they hit a new milestone and have rewards for spending, set a trigger to send them a congratulatory email with a special message to treat themselves with one of their past purchases. 

You have all this information in your CRM or retention platform. Use it! 

4. Set Up Different Ways to Earn

Since we live in a world where technology and marketing are becoming increasingly sophisticated and intertwined, the number of channels your customers can be reached has never been higher. Customers have access to:

  • Email
  • SMS
  • Web
  • Social media
  • Applications
  • Telephone
  • Forums
  • Surveys 

One of the most important aspects to consider when designing your loyalty program is how you’ll reach out and engage with customers. The best way to do this is to take advantage of omnichannel marketing and set up multiple ways to earn rewards points.

Think about a giveaway you’ve seen on social media. To earn points for an entry, you have to complete a variety of different tasks, such as following various social media channels, tagging friends, watching promotional videos, or providing personal information.

Your loyalty program should be designed similarly. You want to make it easy and fun to earn points—this is often referred to as gamification. 

Which would you prefer? A punch/stamp card that you have to remember to bring with you every time you go grab a coffee.

Or the ability to earn rewards by providing your birthday, making an online order, signing up for the newsletter, and posting a review, each giving you an interactive message thanking you for your participation.

The bottom line, the more chances you offer customers to engage with your brand on their own terms, the more they will.

5. Start Simple and Build Up As Needed

To provide the best possible customer experience, your loyalty program must be easy-to-use and accessible to all of its users. 

You don’t want complicated rules or long-term commitments—you need something simple yet engaging so people who join can get right into doing what matters most: coming back for more and using their rewards!

That doesn’t mean you can’t build a complex multi-tiered loyalty rewards program with many moving parts. It just means that you want to build a program that’s flexible enough to change as needed. 

If your customers aren’t engaging with certain elements of your program, or they want you to add a specific feature, you should be able to do so without collapsing the whole system. 

Think of it like a game of Jenga. If you build the simple tower first, you can make lots more moves before the tower falls. But if you choose to set it up in a complicated way, then you limit the number of alterations you can make before it falls over. 

Plus, simple loyalty programs are easier to manage, and scale, and are just as effective as complex programs. 

Build the Perfect Loyalty Program for Your Business 

Now that you know how what goes into building a successful eCommerce loyalty program, you’re ready to find a platform to make those plans come true. But that usually means you’ll have to manage another platform.

Wouldn’t it be easier to use an all-in-one solution? 

Patch’s customer retention platform gives you all the retention tools you’ll need on the same platform. Our platform comes equipped with:

Stop juggling a handful of tools (like those punch/stamp cards) and unify your retention efforts in one place. Schedule a demo and see everything we have to offer.

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