Unexpected Loyalty Rewards: Wow ’Em to Keep ’Em
Today, almost all businesses (90%) have some form of loyalty program. With that level of saturation, customers understand the basic exchange of a traditional loyalty program: The more money they spend with a brand, the more cash back, points, or miles they’ll earn in return. This transaction model is time tested and effective, but uninspired.
Many brands now bolster their loyalty reward offerings with a wider range of perks, benefits, and promotions. Often these expanded rewards reflect the values and goals shared by the brand and their customers—think points and freebies for recycling packaging or double points for donating to a cause.
Some loyalty programs take things even further by offering truly unique and memorable rewards that seize members’ attention and reinforce a personal connection with the brand.
Here are some of our favorite reward offerings—ranging from practical to quirky to out-of-this-world.
Make cultural connections
At first glance, museums and banks may not seem to have much in common. However, research shows that most Americans (89%) believe that museums contribute important economic benefits to their community. Bank of America offers a perk to reinforce their connection to culture and community.
During the first full weekend of every month, Bank of America, Merrill, or Bank of America Private Bank (U.S. Trust) cardholders enjoy free general admission to more than 225 cultural institutions across the country. For 25 years the Museums on Us perk has encouraged members to enjoy attractions including art museums, botanical gardens, children’s museums, natural history museums, science centers, and planetariums around the country.
A perk that encourages cultural engagement is an opportunity to remind members of your brand’s commitment to community.
Share the love
Americans love pizza. We love it so much, in fact, that the average American eats about 23 pounds of pizza in a single year. Which means approximately 3 billion pizzas are consumed in the United States each year.
In 2019, Domino’s Piece of the Pie Rewards program recognized that variety is the spice of life for pizza lovers by rewarding members with points for any pizza they eat, not just Domino’s pizza. Members scanned an image of any pizza—from Domino’s, from a competing brand, or even made at home—to earn 10 rewards points. Once members earn 60 points in the Piece of the Pie Rewards program, they can redeem for a free medium, two-topping Domino’s pizza.
A reward that benefits loyalty members for buying a competitor’s product may seem counterintuitive. However, as a short-term promotion, it can garner attention, boost member appreciation, and drive interaction with your brand and products.
Reward everyday purchases
Historically, making monthly rent or mortgage payments without acquiring additional fees meant using a bank account. Few banks and landlords accept credit card payments without a surcharge because bank interchange fees add up to 2 to 3 percent of the mortgage payment or rent due each month. Now, some loyalty programs and credit cards allow members to earn points and save on rental payments.
New York City–based start-up, Stake, offers members up to 5 percent of their rent back in a personal account. The new loyalty program allows New York City renters who pay on time to receive an immediate 3 percent of their monthly payment into a Stake account. The money, which is added to the renter’s escrow by the property owner upfront, can be transferred to a bank at any time. However, those who leave 80 percent of the money in their Stake account can earn an additional 2 percent. This means a tenant who pays $2,500 a month could earn up to $1,500 at the end of their 12-month leasing term.
Practical rewards for everyday expenses may not be the flashiest offering, but they’re uncommon in the home-owning sector. They’re especially valuable and appreciated during turbulent economic times.
Provide unexpected luxuries
Bachelorette trip? Prom? Sometimes you just need to arrive in style, and a limousine is necessary luxury. Whatever the situation, the Citi Prestige credit card may be the answer for unique luxury transportation needs. The Citi Prestige card offers cardholders a $250 travel credit that can cover limousine services.
Although the Citi Prestige card is no longer open to new applicants, current cardholders can continue to reap the benefits of the card—including riding in style.
A perk that allows members to indulge in an extravagance like a limo provides a lot of perceived value and reminds your members that you think they’re worth it.
Offer the outrageous
When you think of airline and travel benefits, you probably picture award flights or a free hotel stay, not a trip to space. However, the travel industry has invested in offering members unique experiences that align with their interests and lifestyles.
Virgin Atlantic took this idea to a new level by offering adventure junkies and space fanatics a chance at the ultimate experience. Any Flying Club member with two million miles to spare can use them to enter a drawing to win a trip to space with Virgin Galactic. The three-day experience includes flight-preparation training and a two-hour space flight, with the brand promising at least five minutes of weightlessness.
An over-the-top reward, like a chance to visit space, is not one most members will ever cash in on. But an outrageous offering is memorable and will draw attention and excitement from members.
Loyalty programs are a powerful tool to retain customers by providing motivation to make repeat purchases with your brand. While transactional value is critical to getting members hooked, it is also important to build emotional connection with your shoppers through benefits and perks that resonate with their personal values and interests.
The quirky or unique reward could be the idea that makes your program stand out in the crowd.
Madison Fisher is a strategist for The Lacek Group, a Minneapolis-based data-driven loyalty, experience, and customer engagement agency that has been delivering personalization at scale for its world-class clients for more than 30 years. The Lacek Group is an Ogilvy company.