Use Email To Drive Successful Loyalty/Rewards Programs

One of email's greatest roles is in targeting and nurturing prospects into becoming customers, encouraging customers to become repeat customers and turning repeat customers into loyal customers.

Customer loyalty takes many forms, but I want to focus on customers who have joined or been assigned to a defined loyalty or membership program, such as frequent-purchase reward programs.

These programs tend to create customers who spend more because they are designed to encourage repeat purchases. Examples include:

  • Free Shipping: These programs, such as Amazon Prime, offer benefits like free or upgraded shipping, advance purchases, discounts or access to special content. 
  • Rewards: These reward members with points for purchases or for other activities such as viewing or sharing content. Members can exchange the points for merchandise, discounts, upgraded services and other benefits.
  • Clubs: These are subscription programs, such as wine clubs that ship selections every few months. Other examples: books, flowers, beer and bacon (who knew?).
  • Auto-purchase or replenishment: Customers can buy products on a recurring basis until they cancel. These products ship automatically at set intervals and charge the customer's credit card at shipment. Examples include vitamins, diapers, beauty products, ink cartridges and pet food.



Four email strategies to build loyalty/frequent purchase programs:

1. Onboarding: This is the perfect time to educate new members on your special programs as well as their email subscriptions.

  • New subscribers who join organically via the Web could receive a dedicated onboarding email as the second or third one in a series that walks through your rewards, replenishment or other program in detail.
  • Customers who enter your database and email program via a purchase and who join your rewards or other program could receive an email that reminds them about benefits, dynamically populates their status, offers tips on how to get the most out of the program, etc.
  • New customers who didn't join your program could receive an email that explains the program and its benefits and focuses on savings and other benefits they missed by not becoming members.

2. Post-purchase emails: Use these to upsell or promote your rewards, replenishment or similar program.

  • Remind nonmember customers what they missed.
  • Update member customers about their reward status, remind them of their member benefits and tell them what they have to do to reach the next rewards level.

3. Renewal: Some of these programs require an annual membership fee.

  • Create a series starting months out, possibly with a discounted/early renewal price, and incorporating a countdown aspect until the discount ends.

4. Behavior-based: Another opportunity for email programs based on customer activity.

  • Think of that Amazon Prime customer who hasn't purchased anything or watched a video for several months. If you have a similar paid program, consider setting up a proactive, automated series that kicks in at some point of inactivity.
  • On the flip side, what about active customers who are not members? You clearly want to retain them. So put them into a "surprise and delight" email series encouraging them to join, explaining the benefits they've missed out on and, possibly, including their previous purchase activity retroactively.
  • Identify subscribers or customers who visit your rewards or club program but leave without joining. Drop them into a browse abandonment series that educates them on the value of your rewards or other program.

You already know how email can drive engagement and initial and repeat purchases. If you offer a loyalty, rewards or frequent-purchase program that drives a significant percentage of sales or revenue, are you using email to acquire and retain these members? Please share your experiences in the comments area below.

Until next time, take it up a notch.

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