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Creative loyalty and rewards programs for your small business

Creative loyalty and rewards programs for your small business

As a small business owner, you're constantly trying to increase your customer base and push into new markets to expand your company. While this can be a strong strategy to pursue growth opportunities, owners can sometimes stick to this route at the expense of their current customers. In most instances, attracting new individuals to your business will almost always be more expensive than retaining old ones. The actual cost difference between acquiring and maintaining new customers will vary from one sector to the next, but it can be anywhere from 5 to 20 percent more, according to multiple sources.

This means that it's extremely important that you spend time and allocate an appropriate amount of resources toward customer retention. One of the best ways to retain that existing set of customers or clients is by enticing them to continue doing with business with you with rewards programs and loyalty features. There are many different ways to go about implementing these in your business, and the program you design should be reflective of your company and its brand. Consider these ideas for designing and implementing creative loyalty and rewards programs:

Use creative points
Even though nearly every loyalty program needs some sort of point system so customers can keep track of their progress, the best ones don't refer to them as points. Being creative with the points is a great way to tie the program to your brand and your business values. These points serve as a form of in-house currency, and much like the feel of real money over digital numbers in a bank account, giving the points a creative visual component can make them more appealing to customers.

If you're a running a laundromat or a car wash, you can hand out cards with soap bubbles that customers can pop every time they come back, and after 10 burst bubbles, they get a free wash. Or, in another example, say you operate an online shoe store. Every time a customer makes a purchase, their rewards-program avatar can walk a mile. Once they "walk" 10 miles, they can receive a 10 percent discount. 

Gamify the loyalty program
According to Inc., 54 percent of customers are not active participants in loyalty programs. One way to keep your shoppers engaged is by turning the program into a game. Making the loyalty program fun and interactive is a good way to not only provide an incentive for customers to stick with your company, but it can also make these individuals more interested in the shopping process. This boosts engagement and makes shoppers more likely to come back or spend more money. With millennials – a generation raised on video games – poised to become a major portion of the market, you can capitalize on their experiences playing games.

For instance, e-commerce stores can create trackers and points systems that show customers a visual progress bar. As they shop, the bar fills up, and once they reach a certain level, it can unlock new rewards.

Encourage them to check-in
If you operate a brick-and-mortar retail shop, you can take advantage of the fact that nearly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket when they're out shopping. Encourage your customers to "check-in" at your location, either via social media or by building your own mobile app with this functionality. Once the customer checks in at your store, they can get a discount or a deal on a purchase. The trick is to provide better rewards or special offers as they check in more often or more frequently. This provides an incentive for people to continue coming back and spending more money. In addition, when shoppers check-in at your store and share it via social media, it raises brand awareness with their networks of friends, family and coworkers as well.

Invest in the program
Since it costs so much to acquire new clients and customers, taking a long-term approach to making a small, consistent effort to retain new clients provides better chances at finding success. However, some small business owners might not have the working capital to invest in a strategic loyalty or rewards program. Using a small business loan from an alternative lender could provide the crucial money needed to fund the creation and implementation or upgrade of a loyalty program.

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