Loyalty: Building Customer Relationships

I’ve never been the type for long-term relationships, but when it comes to loyalty, I’m an expert. As a Sales Manager here at Belly, the question I’m asked most often when visiting thousands of small businesses across the nation is “Is loyalty a fad or are its effects real on a business’s bottom line?” Business owners want to be able to confirm that their loyalty program is engaging customers, building customer relationships, and driving more frequent visits. Often businesses expect instant results, but loyalty isn’t gained overnight; it’s a long-term relationship.

I liken starting a loyalty program to joining a gym. The loyalty program gives you a solution to increase customer retention and engagement, while the gym membership gives you the tools to tone muscles and keep your heart healthy. If either isn’t used properly, customers won’t return and six-pack abs will still be just a vision.

Similar to a fitness program, loyalty takes commitment, and results materialize over time. The more a business and its staff engage customers in their loyalty program then the greater the return on investment will be. The most important factors I see in businesses that operate successful loyalty programs are:

  • Constant engagement: Cashiers and employees consistently sign-up and remind customers to utilize their program
  • Encourage redemptions: Businesses that offer attainable rewards entice customers to come in more frequently

  • Experience-based rewards: When was the last time you started a conversation with “I went to my favorite taco place 5 times and got a free taco”? I believe in entrenching the personality of the business into the rewards, i.e. “All You Can Eat Taco Contest For A Minute” or “Rock, Paper, Scissors With The Cashier For A Free Taco!” These are the types of rewards that stimulate engagement and conversation.

With loyalty being a long-term investment for a business, it’s paramount for a business to evaluate its loyalty provider carefully. A loyalty program must fit a business’ specific needs, provide tools that improve and streamline its current processes, as well as offer longevity and cutting edge, evolving technology that facilitates customer relationships.

As covered in the Digital Loyalty Programs vs Paper Punch Cards ebook, technology has created the opportunity for small businesses to gather intelligent customer information through a loyalty program. Technology must be embraced to compete, as businesses that incorporate and leverage the latest tools gain a competitive advantage quickly over those that do not.

When evaluating a loyalty program, one must look at the provider and ask several critical questions:

  • Does this loyalty solution address my entire audience?
  • Will this technology and method of loyalty be relevant in 2 years time?

  • Does this program provide me with tools beyond loyalty that can supplement my marketing efforts?

These questions are qualifiers to ensure that your loyalty partner will be able to serve your business for years to come.

So when considering a loyalty program and reviewing your options, it’s important to approach it as a long-term relationship rather than a short-term test. An engaging loyalty program will lead to developing a customer base every business works hard to build. Loyalty is something that needs to be cultivated and organically grown to take its full effect, just like all successful relationships.

Ready to see Belly in action? Click here to learn more.