Bragging rights buy loyalty: 3 ways to build advocacy

The shared benefits of data and incentivised purchases make loyalty schemes a no brainer for both brands and consumers.

But points-based schemes tend to create ‘gift chasers.’ These are consumers that show loyalty to the scheme, but not necessarily the brand. When the offers stop, so too does the ‘loyalty’.

At the opposite end, truly brand loyal consumers are often not influenced by rewards. In fact, research suggests that two thirds of loyalty scheme members would still shop with a brand if the scheme didn’t exist.

The best loyalty programmes go beyond incentivising purchases to build closer bonds with customers. Winning brands use their loyalty programme to unlock the very best that they have to offer and build both hype and advocacy among their audience.

As much as consumers might say they want discounts, far more powerful motivations are wrapped in social currency and aspiration.  Here are 3 ways to make sure your loyalty programme has bragging rights:

1. Access is everything.

Scarcity theory tells us that an item becomes more valuable to us if we believe it to be in short supply.  Successful loyalty programmes tap into this bias by creating a level of access that can only be enjoyed by high value customers. In fact, 79% of consumers say being able to unlock exclusive benefits makes them loyal.

Sephora’s beauty insider reward programme (where its 25million members make up 80% of Sephora annual sales) taps into this exclusivity with industry insider tutorials, events, and early access to products.

Meanwhile, here at The Marketing Store, we lead O2’s market leading Priority platform with a focus on offering access to exclusive experiences like gig and sports tickets, or access to content that’s relevant to consumers' passions—setting the brand up as a cultural gatekeeper.

Access is synonymous with exclusivity and privilege. It speaks directly to our desire to feel special.  And builds a relationship by placing consumers in the ‘inner circle’.

2. Convenience is priceless

The 0.1% kick back, typically associated with points schemes, has lost its power in a market where two thirds of consumers will pay more for convenience. And where subscription models have transformed convenience into loyalty.

Amazon Prime owes much of its loyal user base to the productization of convenience—locking consumers in through a payment model that guarantees faster delivery. This flies against the financial benefit of traditional loyalty programmes.

In fact subscription models, the holy grail of customer loyalty, have been found to be less financially beneficial. Not only do they not facilitate switching to the better deal, but they also exploit basic flaws in how the human brain handles numbers. As psychologist Nick Kolenda puts it: “our brains aren’t good at calculating 12 times £25 to get the actual larger value. They just see the 25 and that feels subjectively more pleasing”

Loyalty isn’t being won on better price, but on better service.

Starbucks Rewards taps into the motivations behind enjoying better service, by allowing members to order ahead, while Priority allows its members to queue jump experiences.  These loyalty programmes are using ‘better convenience’ as a way to make consumers feel more important.

3. Value in values

Like all relationships, shared values are critical to success. We see something of ourselves, or something we admire in the brands we are loyal to. In today’s hyper-informed and socially-conscious market, there is an even greater demand for authenticity, ethical practices and legitimate brand promises.

A recent survey found that trust (84%) in a brand is one of the biggest drivers of loyalty, together with likeability (86%), and ahead of price (81%) and quality (80%.)

Wildish, an adventure-clothing brand, has a loyalty program that rewards their consumers for purpose-driven actions. They earn points through community challenges such as supporting a local sports team. Wildish helps customers contribute to charity-based initiatives – such as planting trees in partnership with the Eden Reforestation Project.

Similarly, Priority partners with environmentally conscious brands to ensure they offer environmentally sustainable offers and experiences. Recently, we created a dedicated ‘Go Green’ week of offers to give their consumers incentives to help them embrace greener lifestyles and choices.

Loyalty schemes that tap into deeper values help consumers feel like the best versions of themselves. To maintain trust, loyalty providers must evolve from being just product sellers, to advice givers, information sharers, and experience providers.

We believe these motivators of exclusive access, extreme convenience and better social values are powerful drivers of loyalty. They don’t speak to our financial consciousness, but to our aspirational selves. And in doing so have the power to create advocacy.

Few people will brag about what they saved in points last year. But being able to do more, with less hassle, in a conscious way, is worth sharing.


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