What Your Customers Want to Know Before They Join Your Loyalty Program

November 3, 2015 Alex McEachern

Build it and they will come! Or, in a loyalty programs case, build it and they will join. The most common misconception in retention marketing, is that you simply need to launch a loyalty program and the members will start flowing in. A loyalty program is just like any other marketing initiative you run, you need to both promote it and inform your customers about the details.

I don’t know how many times a week (too many to count) I am asked if I want to join company X’s retail loyalty program. I love loyalty programs and I usually say no. Why? Because I don’t know if the program is worth my time to join, and I am not given an incentive to join. The following line of “it is free to join” does not count as an incentive.

join your loyalty program free to join

If you want customers to join your loyalty program you need to think about two main aspects. The incentive (create desire to join) and program information (why they should join). The loyalty program information section will focus on educating your customer on how they will interact with your loyalty program.

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The Incentive

Your loyalty program incentive is what will catch a customer’s eye. This is what will get them to consider joining your loyalty program. It is the spark that lights the desire to become an engaged loyal customer. Credit card companies are fantastic at generating excitement with a big incentive:

join your loyalty program the incentive

Credit cards are similar to loyalty programs. Just like a loyalty program the real benefit comes from having a customer enrolled for a long period of time. Once someone is enrolled they have a very high customer lifetime value. That is why you see many credit card companies make offers like “35,000 bonus miles just for signing up.” This gets your attention, and you now at least consider the idea of joining. Way better than a cashier saying “are you sure, it is free.”

These credit card companies are willing to take a hit right now to get you hooked. They will recoup that value over the course of a few months or years. You should have the same mentality for your loyalty program. Give your customers a good incentive to join your loyalty program. This might mean giving them immediate value to get long term results. I usually recommend the following to get customers to join your loyalty program.

join your loyalty program points

When you give potential members enough points to claim a reward it provides a few benefits. The first is that it gets them excited about your loyalty program in the same way a welcome bonus does for a credit card. The second is that it keeps your reward tangible. Instead of offering 35,000 points that no one knows the value of, you give a point amount and state the value of it. Finally, it creates a positive emotion right away. Your customers see value when they spend points on a reward, not when they earn points. By giving them a reward right away you are creating positive emotions that lead to customer loyalty.

Just like the credit card example you are trying to spark enough interest to do one of two things. Ideally you want the customer to like the incentive enough to sign up right away. Second best is you want them to be inclined to explore your loyalty program offer further. That brings us to program information.


Displaying Loyalty Program Information

Maybe your incentive is so good that everyone is willing to sign up right away. If that is the case, I applaud you and encourage you to let me know your secret @alexmcea. However, most customers are looking to know more information about a loyalty program before they commit to joining.

Here are a few things that potential loyalty program members will be asking before joining your program.

1. What Do I Get?

This is in addition to the initial incentive described above. Your customers want to know what kind of rewards are available in your loyalty program. Do they get a discount they can use on their next purchase, exclusive products and opportunities (like in Sephora’s program), or aspirational rewards like the Mini Cooper in Julep’s program.

No matter what you decide to offer as a reward you need to make sure your customers are aware of it. Be sure that the rewards they can obtain in your loyalty program are front and center, or they will not join your loyalty program.

join your loyalty program m and s feather and bone

Left (Muscle and Strength), Right (Feather and Bone)

Not displaying the rewards in your loyalty program is like running a contest and not saying what the contest is for. Register this code online for 4 chances to win …. you can see how this would not be effective.

2. How do I Earn Points, and How Many?

Once a potential member knows what they can receive for their points, they will want to know how they get those points. For many people they want to see the relationship between what they have to do to get a reward. Once they know they will come to a conclusion as to whether the rewards warrant the effort or spending required.

You can make this really easy for your customers by creating a page that clearly outlines what a customer will earn points for, and how many. At Smile.io we call this an explainer page (see a great example). An area of your site that is devoted to “explaining” how your customers will interact with your loyalty program.join your loyalty program gonger explainer

Example from Gongshow

The best explainer pages focus on simplicity, are visual and easy to understand, and the point is made in just a few seconds. They also make it clear how customers can earn and redeem rewards, and what types of rewards are available.

3. How Do I Get Started?

This is the one question that should never be asked by your customer. It should be immediately obvious how they will sign up for your program. If they have to go looking for how to join… they won’t. Online customers have extremely short attention spans and you need to show them how to join right away.

Have a clear CTA (call to action) anywhere you talk about your loyalty program. You do not want to miss an opportunity to have a shopper turn into a repeat and profitable customer. Here is an example of a clear CTA to get a customer to join your loyalty program.

join your loyalty program evys tree

Example from Evy’s Tree

Remember, if your customers are asking question number 3 they have already left and are not coming back.


Get More Customers to Join Your Loyalty Program

A loyalty program is only effective if your customers actually join it. If you help your customers answer the three questions above, they will have no problem joining your loyalty program. Provided you are also exciting them with the right incentive.

If you have all of these areas covered and are still having problems getting people to join your loyalty program you might have a visibility problem. A loyalty program needs some promotion at the start just like any other marketing initiative. You can check out our post on promoting a loyalty program if you believe you might have a visibility problem.

As always if you are looking to get the most out of your loyalty program or are thinking about starting a retention marketing strategy, please subscribe to the Smile.io blog!

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