Loyalty deserves to be rewarded. Especially when that loyalty is what keeps a business afloat.
There are plenty of ways to offer value to customers beyond the sale of products or services, but one of the most popular methods that business owners use is the loyalty program.
The average American household is enrolled in 29 loyalty programs as of 2015, according to a census by Colloquy. Whatever your personal opinion of loyalty programs is, there’s no getting around the fact that consumers use them.
Which is great news if you’re looking for a group filled with good will about your small business clients. These are people who aren’t just fans of your brand — they’re people who are proud to do business with you over and over again.
Getting anyone to leave an online review can be difficult, but fortunately for small business owners everywhere, these people aren’t just anyone.
Loyalty program members are part of a community that have consistently experienced the best your business has to offer. They’re uniquely qualified to leave fantastic online reviews — provided your loyalty program is worth their time and you ask nicely enough.
Once that’s understood and handled appropriately, there are a variety of steps that small business owners can take to increase the chances of loyalty program member actually writing a review.
Types of Loyalty Programs
Since we’ll be looking at how business owners should be requesting online reviews from their loyalty program members, it’s only fitting that we first take a look at three of the most popular, useful loyalty program methods around.
Small businesses that are implementing any of these programs can gain some perspective on the inner works of their loyalty programs. Small businesses still considering implementing a loyalty program will learn about some of their options. Win-win situation.
So, without further ado, here are the most common, effective loyalty programs and how small businesses can get online reviews from them properly.
The ‘Points’ System
If we’re being honest, a huge portion of loyalty programs are just…the worst. There’s a reason we kept this list relatively short. One of the biggest problems that the loyalty program method has is its tendency towards tedium. Businesses tend to get too complex with either one or every aspect of their program.
That’s why it’s no surprise that one of the most effective and useful methods in the business world is the simple points-based loyalty system.
Its simplicity is its greatest strength purely because of what it does for the user experience. Businesses who make the rewards process difficult for their customers are completely defeating the point of having a loyalty program. Users should feel excited to be a part of the program, not dreading the day they finally take advantage of it.
There are plenty of companies that use this kind of system, but one of the most impressive versions of this method is the Regal Cinemas Regal Crown Club Program.
It’s easy. Members earn 100 credits for every $1 spent on anything (movie tickets, concession purchases, gift cards) simply by presenting their card. Members of the club can also earn extra credits during special promotions.
There are plenty of opportunities for businesses to request an online review from members of this program, since every purchase they make will involve their membership to the loyalty program.
While including an ask at every transaction is certainly an option, there’s one particular sweet spot where the ask is more likely to resonate with customers.
Whenever a customer spends their points and claims their reward, that’s when an online review request is most likely to work.
Simple: When customers are claiming their rewards, the benefits of the loyalty program are at their most obvious, and the customers are at their most satisfied.
Whether a small business is offering a discount, experience or free item doesn’t matter. Asking for reviews at the high-point of your customer’s experience is a great way to increase the chances of it working.
What matters is that the moment that those points are spent, the customer is acutely aware of the value the program brings to them.
Asking for a review from an appreciative customer won’t just get you an online review — it could get you a standing ovation.
The ‘Pay-to-Play’ System
Of course, there’s more to the loyalty program methodology than the simple points-based approach.
The reality of loyalty programs is that they come in all shapes and sizes, and can be tailored to a particular audience’s needs and wants. The thread that binds all worthwhile programs together is the focus of providing customers with clear, tangible value.
Enter the ‘pay-to-play’ system. While most points-based systems are free to sign up for, relying on the accumulation of points to drive sales, the fee-based loyalty program attacks the sales issue from a different angle.
The most effective fee-based loyalty programs are the ones created after business owners determine where the most friction lies in the user experience.
These programs almost always aim to remove that friction and create solutions for customers at a reasonable price.
Users sign up for a loyalty program, with a monthly or annual fee being involved, and take advantage of some of the additional perks that a business has to offer.
One of the more impressive examples of this type of program is GNC’s myGNC Rewards. More specifically, the myGNC PRO Access program.
This VIP service comes with quite a few perks. Free shipping for an entire year as well as customized PRO boxes delivered three times a year with new products and samples. Members even get personal sale days, which they can choose to activate every quarter.
Interestingly enough, GNC still opts to give users a free rewards program, just with significantly scaled back rewards.
So, where should the online review request go here?
Businesses can obviously choose to ask customers at every purchase just as they could with other systems, but there’s a more elegant solution in this particular case. Since fee-based programs revolve around monthly or annual subscriptions, asking at every renewal is always an option.
Asking during or immediately after a renewal has the benefit of customers recounting their experience with being a member.
They’ve clearly decided it was worth their time and money, so asking them for their seal of approval shouldn’t be too difficult in that moment.
One of the easiest ways to handle this would be with an appropriate email campaign.
Thank you emails for their continued membership are a smart place to throw in review requests. Of course, it doesn’t end there. Emails citing the new benefits of membership to your loyalty program can also be a great place to include the request.
Emails can be a tricky medium because members get so much pitched to them there, so focus on engagement and clarity.
Whichever type of email you’re sending, make sure it speaks to that particular customer’s experience.
Once you’ve done that, include a clear call-to-action to ensure that there’s minimal friction.
The key to identifying where to place these asks is to identify the peak of your customer’s happiness (via renewal of membership, additional perks, etc.) and couple those moments/experiences with a request that they share their experiences with others.
The Tiered System
This is one of the most interesting methods that business owners are using because it has characteristics of the last two programs being implemented.
The Tiered system is designed as a way for even the least dedicated members of a customer base to still enjoy certain benefits for repeated purchasing. The more fanatical and dedicated the member, the more they get out of the loyalty program.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Nordstrom’s loyalty program Nordstrom Rewards.
As a member, customers earn 1 point per dollar spent, with access to bonus points events and whatnot. But being a Nordstrom Cardholder is completely different kind of experience. With every couple of thousand dollars spent, members earn more points per dollar and gain unique perks specific to their level. These perks include things like personal triple points days, holiday points events and VIP rewards experiences.
The great thing about a tiered system is that it comes with plenty of options for small business owners to choose from.
Of course, the real question is: how does this loyalty program facilitate the online review request process?
Well, for starters, this system gives employees plenty of opportunities for review requests. If they like, they can request online reviews with every purchase. They can request the online review whenever customers spend points. They can even request online reviews when customers move up from one tier to the next.
It’s worth noting that the way employees request reviews is just as important as when they request them. Studies have shown that propositioning these requests as ‘favors’ can increase the likelihood of a customer leaving a review. If you can make that request face-to-face, even better. Couple that with the fact that they’re a member of your exclusive loyalty program and that they’re currently reaping the benefits of membership and you’ve got a recipe for success.
Fitting the request into a business’s loyalty program makes perfect sense for one simple reason: you have a higher chance of getting positive feedback from people who’ve seen the best your company has to offer. In fact, And one thing’s for sure: the more happy customers you can get to sing your praises online, the better.