Loyalty programs based on industry

One size doesn’t fit all, especially not when it comes to loyalty programs. Here’s what type of loyalty program you should be using for your company.
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Note: This is article #6 in the The Ultimate Guide to Creating Repeat Customers

Loyalty programs come in all different shapes and sizes. Some programs send offers in the mail every now and then, while others go as far as having their own credit card!

It’s clear that some types of loyalty programs don’t fit your company’s needs. For example, if your company is a small town candy store, your customers don’t need to have a credit card with you because they aren’t making big enough purchases to warrant one.

Because there’s not a one-size-fits-all loyalty program, here are some ideas for loyalty programs based on these common industries:

Entertainment & Leisure

Statistics: 156.5 million loyalty program members as of 2015--specific to gaming (source)

Types of rewards: Early access, exclusive content, and discounts

Sample loyalty program: Offer your loyalty program members previews to new content (songs, movies, etc.), personalized recommendations to existing songs, movies, leisure activities. For example, if your members select a genre of music that they like, you can send them emails targeted at that genre. You can also offer your members exclusive movie trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, and blooper reels.

Real-world example: For $12 a year, AMC Stubs members can get free upgrades on movie theater snacks such as popcorn, drinks, and candy. Every dollar spent using the AMC Stub card goes toward future discounts on movie tickets. Because this loyalty program charges a membership fee, customers might feel more inclined to use the program to its fullest extent in order to get their money’s worth.

Financial Services

Statistics: 577.9 loyalty program memberships as of 2015 (source)

Types of rewards: Cash-back offers and discounts

Sample loyalty program: It’s a good idea to give your loyalty program members cash back for grocery shopping because this targets a wide audience, and people go grocery shopping on a regular basis. Pair up with popular companies to offer cash-back options. It’s a win-win situation: these companies advertise through you and you encourage your customers to stick with you.

Real-world example: Discover Card has teamed up with many companies to offer their customers discounts via paying with a Discover Card. For example, at amusement parks like Six Flags, employees are encouraged to offer guests a 5% discount on their purchase if they use Discover. In addition to this, Discover also offers a 5% cashback bonus with home improvement stores, department stores, and Amazon.com.

Food Services

Statistics: 54.8 million loyalty program members as of 2015 (source)

Types of rewards: Free food (appetizers, desserts, drinks, etc.)

Sample loyalty program: Offer your loyalty program members free appetizers and desserts after coming to your food establishment every x number of times. Let your customers to track their rewards and purchases using a website or a plastic card (or both!). Get to actually know your customers so you can send them offers based on their location. For example, if you know your members are going to be traveling soon, locate the nearest branch of your restaurant to their vacation spot and share it with them.

Real-world example: Starbucks Rewards has its own smartphone application, which gives coffee addicts easy access to their favorite drinks at their fingertips. Rewards members get free drinks and food. You can even pay with the smartphone app itself!

Retail & Wholesale

Statistics: 229.6 million department store loyalty program members as of 2015 (source), 267.6 million drug store memberships as of 2015 (source) 169.7 million grocery memberships as of 2015 (source), and 24.5 million fuel/convenience memberships as of 2015 (source)

Types of rewards: Discounts, special offers, and rebates

Sample loyalty program: Give your customers a plastic card, either the size of a credit card for easy storing in wallets or the size of a keychain for convenient safekeeping. When customers check out in store or online, they can swipe this card, which will keep track of how many points they accumulate per purchase. Offer your customers discounts and free gifts based on their points. You can also reward your customers for more than just shopping: give them points for filling out surveys and tweeting about your brand!

Real-world example: Barnes and Noble gives their members 10% discount on every purchase and free express shipping for a fee of $25 a year. Though this costs money, many customers testify that it pays for itself in the end.


Statistics: 355.9 million loyalty program members as of 2015--specific to airlines (source), 355.9 million loyalty program members as of 2015--specific to hotels (source), and 44.9 million loyalty program members as of 2015--specific to car rentals (source)

Types of rewards: Free or discounted flights, car rentals, hotels, and merchandise

Sample loyalty program: Frequent flyer programs are the most common type of airline loyalty program. Stick to the traditional model by keep tracking of how many miles your customers travel with your airline, then letting them redeem those miles for offers such as free flights, discounted flights, hotels, etc. If you’re not a believer of the frequent flyer strategy, another approach to airline loyalty programs is to stray away from calculating mileage-related rewards and focus instead on customer experience and brand loyalty. For example, nowadays many airplanes are equipped with TV screens on every passenger’s seat. You could target in-flight movies as part of your loyalty program. One thing you could try is have an exclusive “movie club” where customers pay an annual fee to have unlimited movies every time they fly with you.

Real-world example: Check out the American Airlines AAdvantage Program, where you earn points for every mile you fly with them. You can use these points to redeem free flights, hotels, car rentals, and much more. A new approach that American Airlines took is teaming up with popular retail companies such as Converse, Nike, Bose, and Apple, to offer miles for each dollar spent at these companies. This involves both the traditional and the modern approach.

Pro tip: No matter what industry you’re in, you should use a CRM to track and manage your loyalty program.

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