4 Steps to Long-Term Engagement with Incentive Programs


ADOTAS — We know that a little nudge can stimulate customers to take action. Now more than ever, as technology gives us a direct connection to the people who love our brands, companies should reward their audiences for taking actions that benefit the business.

According to research by Colloquy, consumer participation in loyalty and incentive programs has jumped 19 percent in the U.S. since 2007. But when it comes to incentive programs, companies can get stopped in their tracks by misconceptions like, “incentives only attract the extreme couponing crowd and sweepstakes hunters, who don’t stick around, or have any brand loyalty.”

The truth is, you don’t have to jump right to the discount to adjust your customers’ perceived value and make them feel like they’re getting more. In fact, if your goal is to engage and retain the right customers over time, it’s important to go beyond the immediate discount and get creative.

The first step is to always look for (or create) unique ways to delight your target customers, with rewards or recognition that are thoughtful and distinct. An offer that is special or unexpected can have a more profound effect on long-term engagement than a one-time discount.

You also shouldn’t expect new customers to make a commitment to your brand based on a single offer — no matter how good that offer might be.

Here are four best practices for using incentives to attract and retain the right kind of customers.

1. Keep it simple. Elaborate, multi-step actions and complicated redemption processes are a huge turn off. Instead, make it clear the top 3-5 actions you want your customers to take.

Boloco, a global burrito company, does a great job at keeping it simple. They measure points in dollars and rewards in food items. Simply swipe your Boloco card at every purchase and the card tracks the amount of money spent. Every $50 spent earns the customer a free item. It doesn’t matter if it’s a giant burrito with all the toppings, or a small soda. It’s free after $50. Their strategy is simple yet effective in driving long term engagement.

2. Keep it fresh. Rotate in new content, actions, and rewards as you go. Every new opportunity to earn points, redeem an offer, or get a special reward is a reason to reach out and engage your customers.

Wyndham Rewards is the free-to-join, guest loyalty program of Wyndham Hotel Group. The program offers members the chance to earn and redeem points for a variety of prizes, including: discounts in travel, dining, and entertainment. Member can also earn gift cards for merchandise from top retailers, like Tiffany & Co. and Sony Electronics. Wyndham Rewards frequently releases new earning opportunities and always alerts loyalty members via email.

3. Keep it interesting. You want your program organized, but you don’t want it boring. Limited-time rewards are a great way to sustain the energy and engagement of your program over time.

Giveaways or contests can keep rewards exciting. Jumping back to Wyndham Hotel Group; the chain is currently running a trivia contest for 18 weeks leading up to the Wyndham Championship, an annual PGA Golf  Tour event. Entrants answer trivia questions related to the tour, the sport of golf, and other facts about the brand and its parent company. Each week, one winner will be selected to win 25,000 points. The giveaway has registration deadlines at the end of each of the 18 weeks, to promote urgency and sustain engagement. During the championship, one of the 18 weekly winners receives the grand prize of 1 million Wyndham rewards points.

4. Focus on the keepers. Incentivize the actions that bring new customers into the fold: ask them to subscribe to your email list, like you on Facebook, join your LinkedIn groups, or follow you on Twitter so you can stay in touch. Communication is key in any good relationship.

Thoughtful incentive programs — with the right rewards for the target audience— have been shown to engage target customers over time. Create long-term relationships with your brand advocates and avid fans, in order to capitalize on the value of each customer, beyond a single transaction.



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