Offering incentives has proven be an effective motivator for attracting new customers and activating existing audiences who may be less than engaged. According to a study by Colloquy, participation in rewards and loyalty programs has risen by 19% since 2007. While many marketers are already on board with the idea that reward programs can influence behavior, incentive programs are often under-utilized when marketing to a more affluent consumer base.
There seems to be a misconception that incentives and rewards will not translate to an affluent audience, leaving marketers wondering, “When money is no object, how can you entice users to take action?” But research shows that affluent households do participate in loyalty programs. According to a 2013 study from the American Affluence Research Center, loyalty and rewards programs are extremely popular with affluent people, with the average number of memberships at 10 per person.
For years, credit card companies have been successfully rewarding affluents with points, miles and other rewards with the traditional formula of the more money spent, the more significant the rewards. The most popular among these is the Capital One Venture Rewards Card that offers $2 flight and hotel redemption value for every $100 spent. Members must spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of having the card and pay an annual fee of $59. The appeal of exclusive rewards from credit card companies? The appearance of status and wealth.
There’s a reason people pay the big bucks to be able to whip out their Visa Black Cards when the check is dropped—providing marketers an opportunity to translate this type of consumer behavior into an effective incentives program that benefit brands beyond a single transaction. Special treatment and unique experiences are the types of rewards that affluents really value.
Skip the coupons.
So how do you make rewards enticing to someone who has so much already? When dealing with affluent customers, offering discounts and coupons is less of a draw and can in fact devalue your products in the minds of your target audience. However, recognition within the community, exclusive access or elite status can drive users to take actions that are most important to your brand. Your affluent audience is open to incentives. You just need to find the right ones.
Choose the right rewards.
If discounts and coupons are irrelevant, what can you offer that cannot be purchased? Consider offering incentives like recognition and exclusive content.
Maker’s Mark rewards their users through an “Ambassador” program with specialized rewards such as their name on a Maker’s Mark barrel, an opportunity to purchase a bottle of Maker’s Mark from their own personal batch, advanced notice of rare, special-released bottles and several other items that confirm their honorable status. If you’re not an Ambassador, you’re not in the loop.
Appeal to luxury and exclusivity.
Neiman Marcus’s InCircle Rewards customer loyalty program has won awards and worldwide recognition for its exclusive selection of one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime gifts. Examples of these exclusive rewards include monogrammed old-fashioned drinking glasses, private trapeze lessons, a tour of Italy’s grandest opera houses for eight days and nights, an Italian-style coupe or a Spyder sports car. Not too shabby… and not available to non-members.
How will people know about these rewards if you don’t tell them? Create a campaign specific to affluent users with content that speaks to them. Leverage your incentives program to keep the conversation going. VIPdesk points out that affluent consumers are twice as likely as their average counterparts to use Twitter and LinkedIn—36% of those with an average annual income of more than $500,000 follow a brand on Twitter. Marketers should reach out to affluents via social channels and expand their reach by rewarding members for sharing special content with their networks. Remember to offer incentives for actions beyond the shopping cart.
Historically, loyalty programs have been used by credit card companies and airlines as a strategic component of marketing to an affluent audience, and brands can do the same. By leveraging the right kind of incentives—like status, recognition and exclusive content--brands can effectively drive the user behavior needed to meet real business goals.