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5 customer loyalty program ideas that build brand affinity

The best customer loyalty program ideas extend beyond a customer’s superficial reasons for preferring a brand and get down to the heart of the matter. A consumer can be loyal to a brand, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have an affinity or a personal connection. In fact, nearly 50 percent of customers say they’ve left a brand to which they were loyal to go to a competitor that is better at meeting their individual needs.

When it comes to establishing customer loyalty, brands should aim to create programs that also build brand affinity. These types of programs will encourage a long-lasting relationship where both the customer and brand share the same values.

What Are the Keys to Creating True Brand Affinity?

Brand loyalty is largely a cerebral process, where consumers weigh the pros and cons of buying from a brand and think of all the practical reasons to buy—features, price, convenience, service. The next level—brand affinity—is an emotional process. You can’t hit consumers over the head with celebrity endorsements and expect immediate, undying loyalty. To cultivate true affinity, you’ll need to connect with customers on a deeper level. But how?

  • Attract the right type. Who is most interested in your brand? Who shares your values? Knowing your ideal consumer is the first key to a successful strategy. Once you have buyer profiles, target carefully through data-tracking, geo-targeting, content strategy, promoted posts, and promotions.
  • Incorporate audience feedback. Customers love having the opportunity to make their opinions known, to interact directly with a brand, and influence future trends. The top brands use contests, polls, giveaways, and user-generated content to engage audiences.
  • Offer incentives for sharing. The heart of every good loyalty program offers referral deals for its customers. Asking a customer to “tell a friend for a chance to win,” or simply encouraging one to hit the “share” button on a social media post are just a couple of ways to boost referrals.
  • Keep the channels of communication open. Invest in the creation of quality content that offers your target market intelligent, helpful, and resourceful information. Stay connected through subscriber emails, social channels, or a custom app.

5 Customer Loyalty Program Ideas for Building Brand Affinity

Building brand affinity can be accomplished through better storytelling, creative problem-solving, data-driven decision-making, or by offering unique rewards. Consider these strategies that were proven effective by some of America’s leading corporations:

  1. Connect with content. Starbucks has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last decade to become the leading brand in the out-of-home coffee market. Their brand loyalty is unsurpassed among all fast food and beverage chains. In its brand storytelling strategy, Starbucks’ content is rarely about its coffee, but rather, about inspiring people who happen to consume Starbucks coffee to be better human beings. In the brand’s Upstanders series, they highlight ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities. The strong emotional connection people get while engaging with Starbucks’ content works to establish an affinity for the brand.
  2. customer loyalty program ideas that workShare social values. Consumers like making purchases they can feel good about. Today’s consumer prefers to buy from companies that take social impact and global stewardship seriously. Brands like Amazon, Sephora, and L’Oréal Paris connect with philanthropists by offering a portion of their sales proceeds to charities of their customers’ choosing. Incorporating customer preferences allows them to use the brand as a vehicle for charitable donation in a manner that’s meaningful for them, and gives consumers the opportunity to make a difference through their purchasing habits. In essence, this is a brand’s way of saying, “We care about what you care about.”
  3. Make the purchase experience more seamless. Consider where purchase bottlenecks exist and seek ways to eliminate those jams for your customers. For instance, brands have seen dramatic boosts in brand affinity by providing a “chat” feature on their website to assist customers with their purchases in real-time.
    1. Home Depot was noted for its innovation when it began installing customer pick-up lockers in 2016. This allows customers to do their home improvement shopping online and pick up their order in the store.
    2. Amazon took note and was able to leverage a similar idea to maintain loyalty with an increased focus on security. Instead of having packages delivered to their front door, customers can send orders to convenient, self-service kiosks.
    3. For Chick-Fil-A, mobile ordering and curbside pickup have helped alleviate drive-thru traffic jams, saving customers time.
  4. Create an exclusive platform to engage in active listening. Customers like knowing you listen to them and care about how they feel. A few years ago, beauty brand Sephora launched Beauty Insider Community, a standalone app to engage its top fans. Participants seek beauty tips, share recommendations, discover new products, and find expert insights on the platform. They join forums, post questions, browse galleries, add user reviews, and live chat before making purchases. On the back end, Sephora was able to gather valuable data and consumer insight, which directed its sales strategy and personalization options.
  5. Use an existing platform to offer unique rewards. Another way to reach consumers is to partner with an established platform like Shopkick. The mobile shopping app allows a brand to expand its reach, gaining the attention of consumers who they may not have been able to engage with on their own. Through the app, customers are encouraged to visit stores and make purchases more frequently. It uses a points system fueled by “kicks”, or rewards points, to motivate consumer behavior, raise brand awareness, introduce new products and increase sales. Earning rewards makes customers feel good about their purchases which, in turn, makes them feel good about your brand.

There’s no harm in wanting to build a loyal customer base, but for long-term success, brands must also have a plan in place to develop affinity. Oftentimes, people make purchases out of emotional desire, rather than a rational need. This type of loyal consumer will purchase, whether they need a product or not because they are so enraptured by the brand itself.

The best customer loyalty program ideas extend beyond a customer’s superficial reasons for preferring a brand and get down to the heart of the matter.

When customers have a true affinity for a brand, they may wait for the product to be released, even if comparable products are more readily available; they may pay more for the products; and they may even act as brand ambassadors, sharing their positive feedback with friends and family members. Sure, you want to give your audience every rational reason to buy from you, but if you can transcend the border between the mind and the heart, you’ll achieve a new level of lasting commitment.

Shopkick helps our partners establish customer loyalty and build brand affinity. Contact us today to learn more about partnering to offer customers a gamified, innovative program that also rewards them.

Image courtesy of Syda Productions