The digital age has created an interesting parallel to our physical world. Things that used to only be possible through physical interactions now have compelling counterparts behind our screens. Many aspects of our lives, from our jobs to our relationships, have received an online overhaul and this new medium has profound impacts on the ways in which we relate to our surroundings and each other.
You only have to think about how poorly sarcasm translates via email to understand that achieving the same result online and offline sometimes requires a very different touch. Commerce is no different. Ecommerce may share many similarities with traditional retail, but at its core it is an extremely unique medium and should be treated as such.
The same can be said for loyalty programs. An ecommerce rewards program isn’t just an online version of an existing program – it has unique advantages that should be capitalized on in order to make the most of the digital medium. Here are the top 5 ecommerce rewards must-haves to help you take your program from online to on-point.
1. Create A Branded Explainer Page
For a brick and mortar retailer, explaining a rewards program to a customer is a pretty standard process. At the point of purchase, well trained staff deliver warm smiles and cheerful explanations of how the rewards program works and answer any questions the customer might think of as they hear more about the program.
Unfortunately, ecommerce retailers can’t enjoy the benefits associated with these in-person interactions. Luckily, they can more than make up for that with a branded explainer page. An explainer page is an ecommerce brand’s warm welcome, tour guide, and FAQ all in one and when done right, they can make a hell of a first impression.
That being said, explainer pages still have some ground to cover before they catch up with their real-world competition. When customers interact with a brand in person, they are much less distracted than when that interaction moves online. A live audience is a captive audience, and in-store employees don’t have to compete with the rest of the internet when they pitch a rewards program to a customer. A good explainer page manages that challenge through stimulating visuals and styled explanations like the one you see above.
With a well designed explainer page, customers are able to quickly and comfortably understand what the ecommerce rewards program can offer them and why they might want to join it. The second, more subtle benefit is that customers associate the explainer page (and thus the rewards program) with the rest of the brand.
This association is often taken for granted in brick and mortar locations because you almost always learn about a rewards program inside of the store it belongs to. On the internet, however, a customer could land on a brand’s explainer page from a loosely connected search result or a link from a completely different website altogether. In these instances, it is extremely important for the explainer page to be a clear extension of the brand it services to avoid confusion and customer drop-off.
2. Provide A Clear Call To Action
Reflecting on the many in-store purchases I’ve made over the years, I’ve come to realize that there’s a certain pattern to the end of a purchase conversation. The employee at the register will ring up the items, and then ask me if I’m a member of their rewards program.
If I’ve already joined the program, they’ll add my points and tell me the damage, but if I’m not a member things get more interesting. The employee will ask if I’d like to join the program and then, like clockwork, they almost always quantify their invitation by telling me how much I’d save on my current purchase by joining.
It might be quick, but that “If you join now you can save $10 on today’s purchase” is an undeniable call to action. We usually don’t think of CTA’s as being verbal triggers but that’s exactly what’s happening here. As is the case with explainer pages, there’s a right way to transfer your CTA from a customer who is in line to a customer who is online.
A good call to action should be easy to understand but hard to miss, and that’s exactly the case with an in-person invitation to join a rewards program. When this invitation moves online, it is important to highlight your rewards program CTA in a prominent location (like the homepage of your website).
Since a CTA may be your only chance to pique a customer’s interest, the language in your CTA should also be inviting but clearly action focused. Words like “learn more”, “earn now”, or “join today” are great at conveying this message. Lastly, where possible, communicate the value that you’re providing a customer so they have an immediate answer to the “what’s in it for me” question. Zappos provides a great example of this in their header CTA, with the phrase “learn more” and the immediate promise of a $15 reward.
3. Reward Customers With Free Shipping
With the features we’ve discussed so far, we’ve talked about how to translate the value found in offline interactions to their online counterparts. This view makes it seem like ecommerce lags behind traditional retail but in some areas, the new channel actually outpaces its predecessor.
Shipping is often a non factor in brick-and-mortar shopping as customers usually carry the products with them when they leave. In contrast, shipping is a factor in most online purchases and can actually be one of the most important parts of a purchase decision. Today’s ecommerce merchants are suffering from high cart abandonment rates but what you may not have known is that unexpected shipping costs are actually the top reason for abandoned carts.
Free shipping rewards are one of the most motivating aspects of an ecommerce reward program. They provide the dual value of first motivating customers as they work to earn the reward and then converting future purchases when they eventually redeem it.
4. Reward Customers for Product Reviews and Social Shares
Much like free shipping, social sharing rewards are uniquely advantageous to the new wave of digital commerce. In a traditional retail situation the act of carrying out a purchase is fairly separate from when a customer might complete other value driving actions like social sharing or product reviews.
In a brick and mortar transaction, a customer would usually have to go home to a computer or at least leave the store before posting a review or sharing on social media through a mobile device. This is dramatically different online, where research, product comparisons, purchases, reviews, and social shares all happen in exactly the same place. In the ecommerce world, customers can research, purchase, review and Tweet about a product all without leaving their seat.
With such a seamless integration of services at a customer’s fingertips it only makes sense to incentivize those value driving actions. The stats speak for themselves – 92% of customers make purchase decisions by consulting reviews and many studies have been done on the effect social media opinions have on the adoption of new products. Clearly, getting loyal customers to spread the word is well worth a brand’s time, and offering rewards for social sharing and product reviews can be the little nudge customers need to drive new and repeat sales back to your brand.
For an Online Rewards Program, The Medium is the Message
As online shopping starts to eclipse in-person purchases it will become increasingly important to master the strategies that contribute to success in the digital market. Some initiatives, like a branded explainer page or a clear call to action, bring a personal touch to an online interaction. Other endeavors like free shipping rewards and incentives for social sharing or reviews leverage the online medium in a way that brick and mortar stores just can’t match. Every day more commerce moves online and a web optimized rewards program is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity.