Jun 10, 2016 | Customer Loyalty News

How to Supercharge Your Rewards Program Sign-ups

by  Alex Propp — Merchant Success at Thanx

A loyalty program is only as good its engaged users. At Thanx, our merchant success team focuses on maximizing three components of loyalty program success: 1) user sign-ups, 2) user retention, and 3) customer engagement. In this article, we'll show you how we keep the sign-ups rolling in at impressive rates, even in years-old programs.

The first step in retaining customers: Figuring out who those customers are.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Despite this, businesses often fail to gather any information about their customers — including valuable information about how often they visit and how much they spend.

Most businesses can't identify their best customers, and certainly have no way of contacting them if they wanted to solicit feedback or thank them for their business.

This is one of the more compelling reasons why the strongest brands in the world have implemented loyalty programs: They want to be able to identify and communciate with their guests. You can’t offer targeted rewards to customers who you can’t reach. You can’t winback lapsing or lost customers when you don’t know when they last came in. And as we wrote about last week, you can’t proactively reach out to “silent” customers unless they’ve given you a way to reach them. This is why it's not enough to simply have a loyalty program — in order to be successful, businesses must actually enroll customers in their program!

 

Starting off hot

Most loyalty programs do a good job of advertising when they're first launched, but sign-ups tend to taper as the program becomes old news. Signups are often strongest at the beginning — customers and staff are excited, everyone is freshly trained, and you’ve advertised through all of your promotional channels. The sign-ups just seem to roll in!

But after some time, if you don’t continue to promote your program, your sign-ups will begin to tail off. Even if you're doing a good job of retaining customers in your program – which is possible if you offer customers a seamless way to participate in the program – you need to continue to sign up new customers in order to maximize the profitibility of your program. So, how do you keep the magic alive months (years?) down the road? 

 

Boosting your customer base

The most effective way to ensure that you continue to enroll customers is to run regular loyalty membership drives. A well-run membership drive allows you to focus and educate your team, and target your program marketing without shifting focus away from your other initiatives.

Our Merchant Partners have seen incredible results using the following sign-up boosters:

  • Store competitions: Find out which of your stores are enrollment superstars by launching a cross-location competition. The most effective competitions have lasted 2 – 4 weeks, with merchants giving away monetary and/or team outing awards to winning team members.
  • Employee competitions: For merchants who track key metrics across customer-facing employees, we recommend running an inter-employee program signup competition. Awards typically include compensation and/or non-monetary awards (i.e. T-shirts).
  • Super signups: Increasing the value of the initial sign-up reward for a limited time can give you an opportunity to promote your program to those hard-to-impress guests. Instead of a free iced tea, maybe you upgrade newly enrolled members to a free dessert! We’ve seen merchants increase their signup base ~100% with 1–2 week "super sign-up" promotion periods.
  • Secret shopper: Want to make sure everyone is promoting the program and stores have the proper signage? Secret shopper visits can help you assess how your different locations are performing. This can be combined with store competitions and/or enhanced rewards.

 In addition to the initiatives mentioned, our merchant partners like juice their signups by getting a little bit of press. We've seen lots of success pitching to local news, which helps bring more people in from the community who are excited to sign up for your loyalty program. 

 

Now, it's your turn: design the perfect membership drive

This is a "choose your own adventure" moment for management; the exact specifics of your plan should depend on your marketing strategy, brand culture, and management style. However, we suggest asking some questions when designing your membership drive:

  • Type of promotion: Do you run employee competitions? How often do you send out promotion offers? Have you ever used secret shoppers?
  • Cadence: Do you have regular events throughout your calendar? Do your managers focus on monthly performance or quarterly?
  • Timing: Do your customers come in on the same day of the week? How often do they come back?

 

At Thanx, the Merchant Success team is the best in the world at helping our customers develop innovative strategies for membership campaigns. Is your loyalty membership sign-up lagging (or maybe people are just disengaging faster than you can sign up new members)? Contact us and we'll troubleshoot your loyalty program. 

In the mean time, see how The Ruby Slipper — a 5-location restaurant in New Orleans — signed up over 1000 guests in their loyalty program IN THE FIRST WEEK. Want to know their secrets? Check it out:

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