5 ways loyalty programs help to build a brand-loving community

Author: Zsuzsa Kecsmar - Head of Partnership and Marketing, Co-founder of Antavo

Loyalty programs: we all know and use them in our daily life for regular purchases. They usually know us pretty well and for a good reason: they are built to understand our needs and wants and offer us the best experience possible in our customer journey with a brand. That’s why they are particularly accurate for user-centric brands as they are built around the user, for the user and for brands to engage with them.

As without brand love, customers are no more than unpredictable window shoppers, it’s important for companies to build a loyal community around their brand. The goal: giving customers the feeling of belonging they always appreciate. A brand community, in particular, is a group of customers who have an emotional connection to your brand and are invested beyond what is being sold. Fostering such a community with your loyalty program offers a solid way to seamlessly engage with customers. And this comes with a user-centric approach.

Loyalty communities are based on specific topics, interests, or values that are important to your customers. Therefore, knowing each user inside this community is essential. Combining loyalty technology with an experience-driven mindset is a surefire way to achieve this. Discover 5 approaches for strengthening brand love and building a like-minded community through a loyalty program.

1. Building an active brand community

Bring customers together through activity, by rewarding them for something they enjoy doing: working out, volunteering for a charity, or sharing on social media. The sense of belonging, being connected to like-minded people who share their passion, keeping them engaged outside of the buying cycle, in their daily lives, strengthens their commitment to your brand. 

Bergzeit, the German multichannel retailer of mountaineering products, was interested in launching a loyalty program that rewards customers for their active lifestyle as much as it rewards them for making repeat purchases.

Bergzeit’s loyalty system — appropriately named Bergzeit Club — is a hybrid program built up from two distinct loyalty mechanisms: earn & burn and tiers

Points can be earned reliably through transactions, but also by writing reviews, inviting friends and completing activities through the Strava integration.

The Strava integration is a fundamental feature of the Bergzeit Club. As the company wanted a loyalty program that would reward them not just for shopping, but also for living an athletic lifestyle. The most recent was a 400 km cycling or mountain biking loyalty challenge in two months. Those who completed the challenge had the chance to win a high-quality, functional and stylish bike outfit from Craft

Bergzeit’s loyalty program allows members to track their progress by integrating with Strava.
Bergzeit’s loyalty program allows members to track their progress by integrating with Strava.

2. Engaging with game-loving customers     

People like to keep score. So, offering customers gamified features where they can compete with each other is a great way to foster engagement and increase traffic to your brand. Customers can ascend the leaderboard by performing more actions that garner them points, from buying products to giving reviews. Leaderboards should always be encouraging, the purpose is to incite customers to stay in the game. 

Tmall.com, the Chinese-language website for business-to-consumer online retail, operated by Alibaba, was able to establish itself as the most popular Chinese eCommerce website and become the best online gateway for local and international retailers. The company recognized that deeply discounted deals are not enough to attract customers. They integrated mechanics and gaming to attract and retain customers and to build on their team spirit.

During the pandemic the company launched an avatar game on their app where users can customize their 3D characters and complete daily challenges to earn points. The game also has a social component that allows users to take pictures with each other’s avatars and post them. Users are encouraged to find or invite their friends to join the game. To earn more points and unlock new clothes, customers must complete daily tasks such as browsing Tmall store brands or checking out promotions.

Tmall launched an avatar game on their app where users can customize their 3D characters
Tmall constantly motivates their customers to earn better titles and secure higher positions on the leaderboards by posting related content media sites, sending feedback, and writing reviews (Source: Jing Daily)

3. Members-Only access builds emotional connection

Getting invited to an exclusive event is probably the most rewarding experience a loyalty program member can receive. People love being part of a select in-group, so providing an exclusive event for your customers as an experiential reward is an amazing way to build an emotional connection with them. Members-only content can increase the average lifetime value of your customers as well. Keeping in mind that the content must be more than worth the price of the subscription.

Brompton Bicycle is a British manufacturer of folding bicycles, making over 45,000 bikes each year. The Brompton folding bicycle and accessories are the company’s core product, noted for its self-supporting compact size when stored. The purpose of the company is to change the way people live in cities. They wanted to create a bicycle that customers can take and store anywhere, making cities happier places to live.

The company recognised that the needs of its customers were changing, so they aimed for building a relationship directly with their customers. The company not only provides their loyal customers with content on new store openings and exclusive news and events. And with information they need to configure a bike to their exact requirements and access to owner support. But for every photoshoot, launch or collaboration Brompton looks for passionate members of the cycling community and involves them in the production process.

Alt text: Brompton Bicycle is a British manufacturer of folding bicycles, making over 45,000 bikes each year.
Every summer the Brompton World Championship, the British cycling event takes place in England with over 800 participants and a variety of cycling challenges. 

4. Give your customers the special treatment

Customers love to feel special, they appreciate being part of a club, especially if it is a VIP club, as the feeling of exclusivity is greatly valued by them. A VIP group brings together your most loyal customers, offering them exclusive rewards, gifts, special experiences, early access. It is reserved for your top-tier customers, whose desire is to stand out from the rest and enjoy privileges others cannot.

One might think that luxury fashion retailers are incompatible with loyalty programs, but VIP customers want to be rewarded as well. They just expect more valuable benefits. LuisaViaRoma,an Italian retailer of the luxury market, launched their loyalty program LVR Privilege to further connect with their top customers. The exclusive club helped the company increase purchase frequency, improve customer retention, and reduce customer acquisition costs.

LVR has also launched a limited-access club that’s part of its loyalty program, called the Sneakers Club. This exclusive club offers early access, to those who pay the 2,000-point membership fee, to the hottest sneaker drops. For access to the exclusive sneakers customers must be enrolled in the Privilege Program and be a member of the Sneakers Club as well. The company also benefited from the authentic publicity that people generated when discussing how to get access to the Sneakers Club on social media and Reddit.

LVR has a limited access club called the Sneakers Club.
With the benefit of early access to the Sneakers Club, some sneakers go out of stock before they even hit the store shelves. 

5. Rewarding individuality 

An online brand community is a proactive way of giving voice to your customers and receiving valuable feedback, insights and inspiration. Such communities can easily spark desire for your brand and promote it far beyond the limits of your platform. Customers exchange experiences, share ideas and tips with each other creating hubs of communication and marketing. Also, user-generated content is considered more authentic by customers, thereby holding more influence over their buying decision as well. 

Simply Be, the go-to digital destination for fashionable size 12-32 women

created a loyalty program that rewards customers for who they are and how they interact with the brand. The company wanted to highlight body positivity, so they encouraged members to upload pictures of themselves wearing their favorite clothes or unboxing their monthly gift box.

The aim of Simply Be’s membership program is to increase purchase frequency and brand loyalty by providing hyper-targeted reward experiences. Due to the fact that the brand wished to offer benefits that customers truly wanted, before launching their loyalty program they asked customers what kind of rewards would bring them joy and created their loyalty program accordingly.

When joining the Simply Be Perks program, members receive mystery beauty packages and can participate in competitions to get on the VIP list at special events and for exclusive giveaways. Simply Be has also added Surprise & Delight elements to its loyalty program, coupled with contests, social share, and friend referral.

The members of Simply Be Perks program get discounts, receive beauty goods and can participate in competitions.
The brand removed points from their loyalty program to make the experience for Simply Be Perks members feel more inclusive and equal.

Strengthen brand love with a sense of belonging

Complementing your membership program with a loyalty community centered around a popular product, a lifestyle, a hobby or even ethical values will strengthen the love your customers feel towards your brand. Targeting a smaller audience with a common interest will help you in getting to know your customers better and facilitate personalization. It is important that when customers think about the positive emotions associated with the brand community, it is really the value of your company that comes to their minds.

Emakina, the User Agency, and Antavo, the enterprise-grade, pure-play loyalty technology provider, have set themselves the goal of delighting your customers and giving them the ultimate outstanding brand experience they deserve with sophisticated loyalty programs. Putting user needs first, Emakina deeply collaborates with its clients to co-create the digital experience they want to offer their clients thanks to Digital eXperience Design (DXD). Want to take your brand experience to the next level? Are you interested in developing your  loyalty program and build your own brand-loving community? We’d love to hear from you.

About the author

Zsuzsa is the Head of Partnership and Marketing, Co-founder of Antavo.
Zsuzsa is the Head of Partnership and Marketing, Co-founder of Antavo, the Gartner and Forrester-listed pure-play loyalty technology provider. She was listed by Forbes as one of Europe’s top 100 female founders in tech. She is a former journalist and was awarded the Young Journalist Award by the European Commission.
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