When every store has a rewards program, is yours more nauseating than nifty to customers?
When it comes to deciding what works best for your brand, you have to wear many hats. And sometimes, big decisions require taking off your “storeowner hat” and putting on your “consumer hat” to find out what really works.
For example, the last few times I’ve ran into the local Quickie-Mart, I’ve been asked, “Do you have a Quickie Card?” Like that’s the most important thing in the world. Clearly, when I’m only buying a plunger, I have more pressing matters to attend to. But, when I answer, “No,” because I just can’t fit one more on my key ring, I feel like I’ve let the Quickie-Mart employee down somehow. I’ve thrown a wrench in the works; violated procedure.
And after I respond, “No,” to the question, “Do you have a Quickie Card,” they ask me another. “Would you like one?” And I have to say, “no” again. So, before the process of exchanging money for a product can even get started, I’ve had to say “no” twice to clerk.
I typically go to Quickie-Mart because, as the name suggests, it should be quick. In and out. Grab and go. But no; it’s not. And in my consumer hat, I’m a little frustrated.
Here’s the thing: Lots of consumers – just like me – are irritated with rewards programs everywhere: at retailers, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and more.
But the good news is that, as a storeowner and decision-maker, you can use what grinds your gears as a consumer at other stores to make improvements to your own locations.
If your consumer hat is a little dusty, here are a few common components of rewards programs that are cringe-worthy to customers and how to fix them.
Problem: Customers are asked to join a rewards program every time they shop.
Solution: Save the cashier from repeating the question.
Let’s face it: Not every customer wants to join a reward program at every place they shop. And that’s okay. But don’t bombard the same person over and over again with the offer to join. When employees repeatedly ask the same customer to sign up for a rewards program, every time they checkout, shoppers feel like stores aren’t listening when they decline. And listening to customers is vital.
Instead of requiring your cashiers to personally ask each customer on every transaction to join, use signage to relay the message. Using signs throughout the store and around checkouts is an easy way to display information about what the program is, how to sign up and what the benefits are.
Saying it with a sign saves the trouble of starting a transaction off negatively, and your checkout lines will move quicker too.
Problem: Customers don’t want to carry another card.
Solution: Invest in an app.
Opting to go paperless benefits businesses and customers alike – it’s quick, convenient, environmentally friendly, and it saves space. When your loyal customers are already members of multiple rewards programs at various stores, the last thing they need is another physical card to keep track of.
If you’re really adamant about implementing a loyalty or rewards program, invest in an app for your brand. Successful apps, such as Target Cartwheel and My Starbucks Rewards, are easier and quicker to use than a card by allowing employees to scan a customer’s in-app barcode at the register.
Other perks of creating an app include the ability for members to view available rewards, check recent purchases and load money onto their accounts to spend later (similar to a gift card).
Problem: Rewards programs feel like work to customers.
Solution: Simplify the requirements and highlight the reward.
I’ve been typing my email address into the machine at the sporting goods store and the local pharmacy for several years now – and I still have not managed to reach the critical mass number of purchases required to get anything of value. That’s not a rewards program. It’s a tracking system. Today’s consumers are savvier than those of yesteryear. They can tell the difference between a program that genuinely rewards them and one designed to get their email address simply to track their purchasing behavior.
To get customers to use a rewards program, three things have to happen: It needs to apply to items they actually purchase, reward customers with items they want and distribute rewards in a timely manner.
The trick is to make qualifying items the same items (or in the same category) as the reward itself. John Smith, who purchases the same cup of coffee every morning at the gas station on his way to work, doesn’t use the rewards program there because he wants to earn a free candy bar. John Smith just wants coffee.
Offering candy, chips or discounted sodas doesn’t give John Smith any incentive to use the program. Give him what he wants – a free coffee – and do it in a timely, or measurable, manner. It can be every tenth coffee; maybe each coffee is worth five points, and he gets a free one after fifty.
The three rules of rewards programs are easy to implement: John buys coffee. John buys ten coffees. John earns a free coffee. The rules apply to any customer who is a habitual buyer of any item.
When implementing new ideas, such as running a rewards program, it’s easy to skim over the details that matter most to customers. To get it right the first time, all it takes is a business owner turned frustrated shopper – such as yourself – to find and fix the flaws in your own store’s system.