As an online retailer, it’s impossible to overstate the value of a repeat customer who advocates for your brand. In the quest for enduring shopper loyalty, ecommerce stores are getting increasingly creative with rewards programs. Gone are the days of a once-a-year, 5% discount on birthdays. Innovative membership models develop a brand community that organically drives return visits.
This blog post outlines the benefits of loyalty programs, the different models available to you, and how you can optimize the shopping experience to drive subscriptions.
Ecommerce Loyalty Programs Soar in Popularity
Identified as one of the top trends to watch at Searchspring’s ecommerce predictions webinar, loyalty programs promise mutual benefits for retailers and customers alike.
Over 90% of businesses now have some form of customer engagement or loyalty system. The most common goals of these programs are to attract new customers, build stronger emotional brand connections, and gain insights into customer preferences.
When it comes to consumers, rewards are a top priority when choosing where to shop. 77% say loyalty programs make them more likely to continue buying from a brand, while 70% say they are more likely to recommend brands with good loyalty programs.
It’s important to note that ongoing effort is required to successfully maintain and engage your membership base. 54% of shoppers who subscribe to loyalty programs become inactive, with hard-to-earn or unappealing rewards being the leading causes.
Community-Focused Brands Lead Loyalty Innovation
Innovative retailers pioneer a variety of approaches to grow their membership bases. From VIP clubs and referral programs to more advanced subscription models. The key is to determine which strategy works for your business, and what messaging or offers will resonate with your audience.
If you’re new to the loyalty program game, start by providing simple perks like gifts with a purchase, free or express shipping, and early access to sales. As your following grows, introduce more sophisticated features such as membership tiers, ambassador referrals, or paid subscriptions. For long-term growth, focus on building a sense of community over purely transactional offers.
Fabletics is one industry leader that has amassed a cult-like following with its flexible membership model. Subscribers redeem membership credits against discounted purchases and gain exclusive access to the brand’s fitness app. Dia&Co is another fashion subscription trailblazer, delivering curated style boxes to members based on their individual needs and preferences.
Perhaps one of the most well known membership-driven brands, Pura Vida’s program is based on multiple tiers and structured benefits. Most importantly, shoppers are clearly and consistently rewarded at every touchpoint, which is crucial for community engagement and ongoing retention.
Five Ways to Promote Your Loyalty Program Throughout the Online Shopper Journey
Having an active community of loyal fans is advantageous for ecommerce retailers, but how do you grow your membership base? Follow the steps below to boost subscriptions and drive repeat purchases.
1. Communicate Benefits
Encouraging shoppers to subscribe to your loyalty program starts with communicating the benefits. Draw shoppers’ attention to the existence of your program through strategically-placed banners across your site. From the all-important homepage, to category and product pages, all the way through to checkout – take advantage of site merchandising to improve visibility of your program and create urgency to sign up.
2. Offer a Sign-Up Incentive
As well as the standard benefits of being a member, offer an additional incentive when shoppers initially subscribe. An exclusive discount code, for example, gives customers the nudge they need to sign up. Again, this offer should be highlighted prominently throughout your merchandising, as well as via social media. post-purchase emails, and other marketing channels. Beyond an initial sign-up offer, make sure to also map out ongoing rewards that subscribers can expect from their membership – see Pura Vida’s example above.
3. Create an Interactive Community
Engagement is fundamental to strong loyalty programs. Reward shoppers for their interactions with your brand. Incentivize customers to create product reviews and user-generated content in exchange for discounts or points. This has the added benefit of fueling conversation, creating a personality around your store, and encourages new visitors to participate. “Refer a friend” bonuses are another effective way to expand your community while rewarding existing members for their engagement.
4. Incorporate Values
Today’s shoppers are more socially and ethically aware than ever. Shared values should significantly influence your community ethos, as well as your overall site content and shopping experience. If your audience cares about sustainability, for example, incorporate this in the messaging and styling of your loyalty program. Most importantly, back your statements up with action. Highlight sustainable practices throughout your store, promote eco-friendly or cruelty-free products in your merchandising, and make relevant results easy to find via your site search and category filters.
5. Analyze Results
As with any promotional offer, it’s essential that you analyze the success of your subscription-building efforts. A/B test your messaging, banners, and offers to identify which tactics resonate with your audience. Additionally, keep an eye on membership engagement levels post-subscription. Do loyalty club customers return to your site? Do they leave product reviews or interact with your brand on social media? What is the customer lifetime value of a member versus non-member? The answers to these questions will help shape the next iteration of your rewards program.
Build and Retain a Loyal Customer Base
In an highly competitive ecommerce landscape, many retailers race to the bottom on price in an effort to draw shoppers to their site. But, with so much choice at consumers’ fingertips, it’s critical to focus on authentic differentiators that truly make your store stand out. By delivering exceptional shopping experiences and building a community through creative loyalty programs, you are far more likely to attract a loyal, long-term customer base.