Loyalty Cards – Tips To Consider Before Committing To One

By: Jeff Walters

Loyalty marketing has been around for as long as retailing – attractive stores, good service, and a quality product line all contribute to building up a loyal customer base.

With the growth of larger stores, a relatively new marketing component – the loyalty card - has been added by many retail outlets. This is in an attempt to offset the lack of personal contact in the larger stores, and with that, the lack of knowledge of individual customers.

Despite what any loyalty card vendor tells you – merely introducing a loyalty card scheme will not suddenly buy you customer loyalty – the overall customer experience is the key.

So if a loyalty card doesn’t buy you loyalty, why bother?

The primary purpose of a loyalty card scheme is quite simply to provide information on individual customer behaviour.

Retail stores do not capture customer details when recording a sale on a Point Of Sale device. A loyalty card – with its unique customer ID – provides the vital link between products sold, and customer demographics. It also provides – for the first time – an indication to the retailer who their regular customers are, and what the value of purchases are for each customer. Equally important – when a customer signs up for the loyalty card, they provide their contact details, and ideally, details of the members of their family.

Consider These Points Before Rushing Into A Loyalty Scheme

* A badly implemented loyalty scheme is merely a form of price discounting. If the scheme does nothing to improve your sales, and you issue a price rebate when a customer's sales reaches a certain level, then all you have succeeded in doing is give away margin.

* Once launched, loyalty schemes are difficult to shut down. You will be taking away something that some of your customers perceive as a benefit, and so this can cause some dissatisfaction amongst certain customer segments.

* The primary purpose of a loyalty scheme is to gather information. Gathering this information is pointless if you don't have a plan on how to use it. If you don't have access to some analytical skills, and no marketing campaign capability to use your new-found customer knowledge - don't go down this path.

What Do I Do With All This New Customer Information?

The key activities that this customer information enables are:

* You can identify your best customers, and will know what they buy, how often, and when you last saw them.

You can now focus on nurturing these customers - with special offers, or a short newsletter keeping them informed of new products that have just come in, or even pre-sale viewing so that top buyers get first crack at items going onto sale.

* You can look for the common characteristics of your best customers, identify what is the most effective way of marketing to that segment, and then advertise in magazines this segment is most likely to read - thereby attracting more higher value customers into your store.

* You can look for customers who do not buy as often, but who have similar demographic and lifestyle characteristics to your best customers. This segment offers the best opportunity - via various marketing campaigns - be 'grown' into joining the Best Customers group - through enticing these customers to allocate a greater share of their wallets to your business.

* You can introduce a referral program - where you offer your best customers some sort of reward or prize for introducing some of their friends. Normally like associate with like, so you have a good chance of gaining other high value customers through this highly effective, but low cost way of growing a quality customer base.

Loyalty card programs - correctly implemented - can assist in growing your base of highly profitable customers. This can only work, however, if the other components of your business - in-store experience, quality products, good service culture, analytical capability, and marketing campaign smarts - are in place. Make sure that the foundations are in place before your leap into a loyalty card scheme.

© 2005 Intellinova (Pty) Ltd. - All Rights Reserved

This article may be reprinted, provided it is published in its entirety, includes the author bio information, and all links remain active.

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Jeff Walters has transformed data into strategic information in banking, insurance, gambling, medical, government, leading several data-to-information projects: ABC Costing, CRM, datamart development, and Balanced Scorecard. Want to convert your raw data into strategic assets? Contact Jeff via : Customer Relationship Management, or Direct Marketing

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