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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Use your loyalty program to bring customers in the door

While businesses are proactive about signing up new members, many fall short when it comes to building relationships.

U.S. consumers hold 3.8 billion memberships in customer

U.S. consumers hold 3.8 billion memberships in customer loyalty programs, according to the 2017 Colloquy Loyalty Census. Photo Credit: Getty Images / abalcazar

U.S. consumers hold 3.8 billion memberships in customer loyalty programs, according to recent data from the 2017 Colloquy Loyalty Census.

Companies are often proactive in signing up new members, but they don’t always follow through on building relationships to keep customers using their loyalty programs.

The upcoming holidays season is a perfect time to use your program to reconnect with customers and bring them back in the door.

You’re naturally going to see more people in your store during the holidays and you should build on that, says Caroline Papadatos, senior vice president of Loyalty One Global Solutions, a division of Toronto-based LoyaltyOne, which specializes in consumer loyalty, customer experience design and management.

But retailers often fall short in “developing a regular communication or encouraging a points collection habit with their customers,” she says. This means fostering a mindset where customers open their loyalty app or pull out their punch card every time they pay.

Still, it can be difficult to break through the clutter during the holidays, Papadatos says. Send customers “points-based offers that will differentiate” you, she says.

Whatever you offer should feel like a reward, says Danielle Conte, a Centerport-based retail consultant and founder of YoutailRetail.com, a marketing blog. It’s a great opportunity “to delight your loyal shoppers so they remember you long after the holiday season,” she says.

Make the incentive fit the season. For instance, play holiday music and offer free cocoa, or have an invitation-only sale for members. They “don’t want to be forgotten,” Conte says.

Gift card specials are a popular promotion, says Greg Goldfeder, vice president and co-owner at Long Island Loyalty, a multi-merchant loyalty program with more than 450 participating LI businesses. For example, offer a complimentary $25 gift card with the purchase of a $100 gift card, or a $100 gift card for $90.

“Gift cards are growing more and more popular every single year,” he says.

Double dipping or double points specials are also popular, says Goldfeder. For example, with the Long Island Loyalty program, 10 percent of what you spend year-round at participating businesses gets credited on the app or card, he says. During the holidays you could offer double rewards or perhaps pair the 10 percent reward with a 20 percent coupon.

Long Island Loyalty usually sends an email before Thanksgiving, reminding customers to shop within their network and cash in their rewards.

Whatever you do, be sure to promote your loyalty program year-round, not just at the holidays, Goldfeder says.

Jennifer Roman, owner of Four Star The Home Store, a home décor, clothing and gift store in East Northport, does just that. She started her program seven years ago, offering a $5 in-store gift certificate for every $100 spent.

Right after Thanksgiving, the store might do a promotion such as double points for customers who download its app or $10 in savings with a $60 purchase.

Roman says the loyalty program brings in foot traffic and increases sales during the holidays. It “definitely helps and brings back the loyal customer,” she says.

It’s also a good time to sign up new customers.

Just don’t make it a pressure situation. Have a flyer or card at the register explaining the benefits of the program, Conte says, “so the dialogue at checkout isn’t about putting them on the spot to join.”

Fast Fact:

53%

Percentage of U.S. consumers who identified “easy to use” as the main reason for participating in a loyalty program. Conversely, the top reason given for abandoning a program was “it took too long to earn points or miles,” a concern cited by 57% of respondents.

Source: 2017 Colloquy Loyalty Census

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