Loyalty Cards: The Be All, End All for Customer Loyalty?

News this summer of Midwest supermarket chain, Jewel-Osco, dropping its loyalty card program with its firm belief that every customer deserves the same price, whether they hold a loyalty card or not, created some significant waves and controversy. Not only were analysts’ heads spinning with puzzlement, there was a great debate on how the loyalty card program supports two very key elements of a retail organization’s business:

  • Rewarding repeat customers with well deserved discounts for continued loyalty and return visits
  • The loss of big data on individual shopping preference and habits that aid stores in targeting individuals with special offers suited to their shopping habits and the products they typically purchase

Whether Jewel-Osco made a sound business decision or not, organizations don’t necessarily need a loyalty card or program in place to gain customer loyalty and advocacy.  Indeed, like consumers themselves, some retailers end up feeling trapped by their loyalty program choice with a mindset move from “look what we’ll gain from a loyalty program” to “look what we’ll lose if we get rid of it”. Enterprises, like consumers, don’t enjoy the feeling of being trapped.  To escape that “trapped feeling” here are several ways this can be accomplished with or without the heavy investment of a full loyalty program:

  • Make the customer the core of your business: Brands should strive to drive overall satisfaction with a positive customer experience in their locations each and every day. A customer experience management program can help you understand what the customer experience is like and identify areas of improvement to keep customers returning and drive brand advocacy for repeated positive experiences.
  • Offer a superior product and service: Customers want value for their money. Offering a product or service that continuously exceeds expectations will result in more purchases by customers, increased recommendations to family and friends and ultimately more revenue in the long term. An emotionally based customer survey will help you understand what is and is not satisfying customers about your product and/or service so you can drive improvement and operational changes where necessary, at both the brand and local level.
  • Promote product awareness, special offers and discounts: Collect customer email addresses and provide special offers and discounts for special occasions, holiday promotions, sales, seasonal offers, etc. Also take the opportunity to promote product awareness surrounding items of potential interest to your customers to increase sales.
  • Create strong employee engagement: Loyalty starts from the top down. If management is loyal to their employees and provide a positive environment that supports training and growth, employees will be loyal in return – they will feel good about their jobs, the organization they work for, and pass that loyalty and satisfaction on to customers through their interactions.

Whether you offer a loyalty card program or not, there are many ways that you can reward and incentivize your customers for return visits. A proven customer experience management program will help you understand and measure your loyalty, advocacy and drive operational improvements to maintain and increase return visits, recommendations to family and friends, and ultimately revenue.