The Quest For The Perfect Loyalty Program Email Experience

As I sat down to write this column, I was struck by the similarity between my summer beach community and the concept of what I believe a loyalty program email strategy should be.

First, I admit it -- I love summer! Most weekends, I escape the New York City madness and retreat to a charming beachside community. Year after year, I'm amazed at how the bonds of friendship are quickly reestablished after sharing a quiet afternoon in the sun and enjoying the ocean waves.

I'm blessed with the perks of being an insider in this community -- hearing the latest news, plus tips on where to go and what to do -- not to mention event invitations galore. I eagerly anticipate each weekend, as each is truly an event unto itself. It occurs to me that perhaps what I really love about summer is the warm reception I always receive as part of belonging.

On a recent work project, I was tasked with defining the "perfect" loyalty program email experience. After reviewing over 150 awards/loyalty program emails, I can safely say that no one company does it perfectly.



Since the very nature of a loyalty program is to honor your best customers, any communication should be a robust dialogue -- a personalized conversation based on what is relevant to the individual within the community.

Now, envision elevating this experience to an emotional level. Imagine making your audience feel the warmth of being a community insider -- complete with all the perks. Visualize your audience truly looking forward to the next encounter. (Now just think about the impact that would have on your bottom line!)

The ideal loyalty program email should be all of these things -- neatly wrapped into one perfectly optimized package. Your content needs to be inviting, easily digestible and simple to act on.

Based on my observations, here are some tips to help you design a loyalty program email strategy that will cultivate the relationship and strengthen a profitable alliance.

Go for maximum exposure. Promote your loyalty/award program front and center on your home page and on interior pages. too. Integrate sign-up at every touchpoint -- online and off.

The community introduction. Providing your audience with a clear understanding of all options available will empower them to control their own experience. Particularly if your company has multiple registration/email options, consider a comprehensive, password-protected preference center.

Less is more. Don't overwhelm your audience with tedious forms to complete. Streamline all registration processes, collecting only the key information needed to develop a rich dialog.

Make it easy to join. Make the email opt-in an easy and obvious part of the overall loyalty program sign-up.

Set expectations up front. Clearly articulate the unique advantages for opting in to the various types of email streams, providing visual examples of each. And be sure to identify the mailing frequency. Doing this may reduce opt-outs downstream.

Send the welcome committee. Your new members should immediately receive an automated HTML email trigger, prominently branded with your company's logo and program name, reinforcing the perks of belonging. Consider developing an educational stream on how they can maximize their membership.

Incent and entice. If your loyalty program includes a "bank account" of credits earned, be sure to clearly display each member's balance. Visually communicate the information at a glance. If your program has various tiers, display members' current status while motivating them to move to the next level by showing the additional benefits that they can earn.

Cultivate community ties. The loyalty program email strategy is a living entity, so be sure to share a quiet afternoon in the sun and reestablish the connection with your community at the start of each season. Listen to what they are most interested in and create custom content they will find relevant and helpful. When in doubt, survey and test.

Remember, these are your best customers - building a unique and entertaining experience will ensure they will be eager to return again and again.

Now, please go enjoy the waves!

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