Leveraging Digital Loyalty Programs

Rewards programs are a commonly used practice by certain types of businesses. Airlines offer frequent flyer miles, while Starbucks offers free coffee after a certain number of purchases.  There are many other examples of these programs, but what does it take to really make these programs take off?

The answer to this question obviously depends on the target audience and their needs/interests, but the general marketing principles that apply in the traditional communication environment also apply in the digital one. The challenge, as always, is finding that perfect connection between the needs of your audience and what you have to offer, so that you generate demand for your products and services.

From a very foundational level, one thing must be in place: customers must want what you have to offer. If I’m afraid of flying, no amount of frequent flyer miles will make me become a customer. Similarly, if I don’t drink coffee, your rewards program will be lost on me.

Beyond this simple foundational step, though, there are other missteps that marketers make. One that is somewhat related is the tendency of marketers to be focused too much on themselves and not enough on the needs and values of the audience they are trying to attract. It’s both simple and complex. Simply put, you must understand what your audience values, and you need to provide that to them. That’s not so easily done, though, as most marketers know.

In a digital world, content is often used to attempt to build connections with an audience. That can certainly work if the content is high-quality and unique. This is true for everything from blog posts and e-letters to whitepapers, e-books and webinars. With so much content out there, marketers really have to be different (and better!) to build audience.

In non-content ways, the digital world can offer the same types of opportunities as loyalty programs in a traditional environment. Again, though, what you offer must be based on audience needs and interests. You can pick up clues about those needs from how your audience is already engaging with you, and you can leverage that information to ensure you are focusing on the right product or service attributes and, importantly, translating those attributes (or features) into meaningful benefits for your audience.

So, what do your customers value? What are they already purchasing from you, and how can you build a loyalty program around that? Whether digital or traditional, that’s really the starting point.


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