Discounts are Dying

Engage Your Customers Differently

In an age where you receive a new email every 30 seconds offering a discount or special gift from a brand you’ve shopped with, customer retention and loyalty doesn’t need to be a race to the bottom for the biggest discount. The best loyalty programs engage customers with an array of mission-oriented, non-monetary benefits and rewards.

Let’s start with some definitions: Any type of reward like a discount or gift that has an implicit value is what we will consider monetary rewards. Any type of reward that cannot be given an implicit value is a non-monetary reward.

Non-monetary rewards speak to the shared values between your customer and your brand. Brands can use them to build emotional, value-centered incentive structures for their loyalty programs. Non-monetary rewards give customers an opportunity to experience a brand outside of a transactional environment. As a customer, being rewarded shouldn’t have to feel like bartering (I give you this, you give me back); instead, it should feel surprising and delightful when you’re offered unique brand experiences that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

Brands who are able to engage and reward their customers on an individual, non-transactional level will be able to build a stronger, future-proofed loyalty program. By creating an environment where your loyalty rewards aren’t solely based on their monetary value, a brand is able to withstand hard times without having to sacrifice the bond between them and their customers.

In the circumstance where a brand does not have a significant budget for rewards like free products and discounts, loyalty programs aren’t totally out of the question.

Brands don’t need huge budgets to curate successful loyalty programs. In fact, it may be better to focus on non-monetary benefits rather than monetary.

Let’s think about some rewards that don’t hit the marketing budget.

Community

Community is one of the most impactful assets that brands can provide to their customers at little to no cost. In a community setting, customers have the opportunity to connect with a group of people who share similar interests.

Community takes the relationship between a customer and a brand (1:1) and turns it into relationships between customers (1:many), all within the brand’s ecosystem.

Inside a brand community, conversations can range from things related to the brand, like customers’ favorite products, and expand into a community beyond the brand. Customers create bonds with one another in this space which emboldens their emotional connection to the brand and to their fellow members. Community gives customers an opportunity to exist in the space of the brand without necessarily feeling pressure to make a purchase.

Through a strong community, individual customers will connect more deeply with your products and evolve into brand ambassadors. Now customers are not only more loyal to your brand, but have also become spokespeople and brand evangelists. Customer acquisition costs, who?

Additionally, a community can give a brand a better understanding of what customers want and how to suit their needs in the future. A community represents a live, accurate display of customers’ satisfactions and dissatisfactions. This is a powerful source of feedback for brands. The brand can use this information to serve up better products and experiences, which can in turn improve customer retention, loyalty, and satisfaction.

Governance

Brands can reward customers with the ability to have a say in important brand decisions. Governance provides customers with the opportunity to be involved in decision-making processes related to the brand, products, loyalty program, and more. Providing opportunities for customers to participate in decisions that matter to them is a great way to build allegiance between brand and customer. This type of reward proves to the customer that a brand deeply values their opinion and feedback.

Customers can now become active participants in their favorite brands, rather than just passive consumers. Participation in this way creates a sense of ownership in the brand, aligning incentives of everyone involved.

While it costs nothing to offer governance as a benefit for members in the loyalty program, the relationships it creates is highly valuable to the brand. It enables brands to gather information about their customers’ opinions and make accurate decisions for the future. It also provides value to the brand by engaging customers in the program and providing them with insights into their needs and preferences. Much like with the community benefit, empowering customers with governance creates another feedback loop for the brand.

Achievement Badges

Another impactful non-monetary way to reward customers is through digital achievement badges. Badges are visual representations that prove a customer has completed a certain task, like visiting a certain number of stores, reaching a new level, or buying a specific product. This allows brands to celebrate customer achievements through digital gifts, rather than expensive physical ones.

Badges give brands the opportunity to celebrate customers’ smaller achievements that are worthy of recognition but would be too expensive to reward with monetary rewards. They also act as strong incentive mechanisms for customers to complete quests within the brand ecosystem.

When structured properly, achievement badges can create growth loops by acting as “shareable moments” that customers can share on social media, display on their profile, and convey their status in the community. By offering sharable artifacts for moments that customers want to show off, brands become viral sensations and celebratory pieces of a customer’s digital identity.

Exclusive Access

Exclusive access benefits are designed to provide customers with unique experiences and access to gated products or services. Whether this be access to exclusive products, content, or events, people always want things they can’t have. Exclusive access provides loyal customers with tangible status in the brand. Customers can be rewarded for their loyalty to a brand by getting first access to a new drop, like a limited edition sneaker, or special event with a celebrity guest.

Exclusive access lends itself particularly well to brands with products that have cult-like followings, like sneakers, handbags, and streetwear. Exclusive access gives customers status particularly in an “IYKYK” type culture, where this special backdoor may only matter to a select group of people, but it means everything to those within that group. By providing this layer of exclusivity, brands can make customers feel seen for their hard work and dedication.

Exclusivity can also benefit the brand by increasing the perceived value of the loyalty program through social FOMO and artificial scarcity. If specialty access can only be earned through loyalty, the value of that brand and its products will be perceived as more merit-driven. Lastly, exclusive access can also improve long-term customer loyalty by providing customers with reason to continue to collect points and level up, much like how video games engage players to work for their status.

Non-monetary benefits provide an important way for brands to build strong, value-based relationships with their customers and encourage loyalty. Monetary rewards cannot be used to build and nurture this type of relationship due to their transactional nature.

This is not to say that monetary rewards are not valuable to customers — they simply serve a different purpose. Monetary rewards engage customers by giving back real value that they have spent. They are the logical pieces of a brand loyalty program — I give you this, so you give me that. Monetary benefits are table stakes for brands with competitive loyalty programs.

Non-monetary rewards give customers value back in ways that they may not expect from the brand. These rewards are where the uniqueness and personality of the brand shines. Non-monetary rewards are tools to build long-term allegiance and loyalty.

By offering non-monetary benefits as part of their loyalty programs, brands can create a exciting and rewarding experiences for their customers.

Ready to engage your customers differently? Start building your loyalty program today with Hang.

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