Very few retailers will dispute the value of a repeat customer, and many are even familiar with how to create a loyal customer with tactics like personalization and loyalty programs. But many people a have a very narrow minded idea of what a loyalty program looks like.
Traditionally loyalty programs seemed to be all the same. They either gave a customer a percentage back as points, and that customer could redeem that for a discount. Or, they gave shoppers something for free after a certain number of purchases. Like in the following example.
As you can see these programs are still popular today, but are not the only way to structure a loyalty program. Many retailers today especially those looking at luxury brand loyalty want to construct exclusive loyalty programs. These programs create an aspect of exclusivity and avoid discounts.
Tips to Create an Exclusive Loyalty Program
Before I get into some tips, I want to clarify what is meant by an exclusive loyalty program. I do not mean that you should only accept certain people or exclude shoppers from your program. What I mean is that you should make your program feel like it is providing exclusive benefits to your customers. Here is how to do just that!
1. Points Only Products
This is one of my favorite ways to create an exclusive loyalty program! A points only product is a product that is only available for purchase with points. This is a great alternative to providing a discount with your loyalty program.
Points only products work by creating a catalog of products that are not available to be purchased in any currency besides your points. This allows you to provide additional value to your customers in the form of a gift rather than giving them a discount on a purchase. Like this example from Strivectin.
You can make any product available to be purchased with points, but to create a truly exclusive loyalty program you should make some products only available with points. These exclusive products create desire in your customers that is stronger than the desire to get a discount.
Theory11 does a fantastic job of this by providing limited edition versions of cards that are not available for purchase anywhere besides as part of their elite program. Limited edition items are great products to offer as part of an exclusive loyalty program.
Another way to get customer engagement is to offer aspirational rewards. These are rewards that cost a lot of points and a customer will have to work very hard towards. An example of this is Juleps’s Mini-Cooper.
2. Experiential Rewards
Another way to create an exclusive loyalty program is with experiential rewards. These rewards are similar to points only products because you are offering something that can only be redeemed with points. However these rewards focus on creating an experience for your customers. A product has a lifetime, but a great experience can last forever.
I have seen experiential rewards offered in many ways, but the important thing is that the experience you provide matches your brand image and your customer demographic. You want to create an experience that will drive your customers to take action.
Some great examples I have seen:
What they sell – Cards for magic tricks and magic accessories
Experiential Rewards – Skype session with the team and one on one training sessions
These experiential rewards have all been redeemed but were available in the past. The site even had a meet up with David Blaine as a reward. All these experiences match perfectly with what they sell and stand for.
What they sell – Cosmetics and supplies
Experiential rewards – Exclusive shopping events, invites to Sephora parties, and access to the beauty studio
Sephora does a fantastic job of motivating shoppers to engage with their program. I will discuss them further in the next section, but they are also doing a ton of other things right with their loyalty program.
Other Experiential Reward Ideas:
- Meet and greet with the CEO or a Celebrity Endorser
- Tickets to industry events or shows
- Early access to sales and promotions
- One on one consultation (explain which products will work best)
Once again the important thing here is to match your experiential rewards to your brand and customer base. If you want to give your loyalty program an exclusive feel you will need to provide rewards that get your members feeling that way!
3. Status Based Tiers
Nothing gets a customer feeling like they are part of an elite club quite like status based tiers. These are tiers that separate your loyalty program members into groups. The purpose of this is to get members competing to be part of an exclusive group.
These tiers work best for exclusive loyalty programs when the tiers are tied to a status. You can show status with a special card like Sephora’s VIB card or Starbucks’ Gold Card. Or you can show status by providing upper tier members with special benefits unavailable to those in lower tiers.
Just be sure that you are actually creating exclusivity for those in the top group. You should aim to have your best 5% of customers in the top tier of your program. This ensures that those seeking the status will be motivated by the exclusivity.
You can read “Tiered Programs, Why They Are Great for Customer Loyalty” for more information about creating tiers in your exclusive loyalty program. I would also recommend looking into Sephora’s program for a great example.
An Exclusive Loyalty Program
Creating an exclusive loyalty program that does not focus on discounting is definitely possible! You just need to be sure that you focus on creating rewards and benefits that match your target audience.
Do your customer value having things before the general public? Offer them early access to ne products for their loyalty. Do your customer love being unique? Allow them to redeem points for limited edition items that are not available anywhere else.
There are tons of ways to create a loyalty program that feels exclusive. The important thing is to use tactics that will work for you. Good luck and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.