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If you aren’t already, here’s why you should be.


As South African consumers, we’re used to racking up points in loyalty programs and being rewarded for repeat purchases. And many of us belong to multiple programs – a 2017 Nielsen survey found that 62% of South African respondents were members of up to five schemes, while 6% belonged to up to 10.

That’s great as a consumer, but if you’re a brand with a loyalty program, you’re operating in an increasingly competitive environment. And that’s not surprising when you consider that, according to an Experian study, 75% of companies with a loyalty program see a return on investment from it.

So, how do you differentiate yourself when your customers are used to being rewarded for their business?

A world of information

“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.” – Carly Fiorina

The more you know about your customers – what products they buy, when they buy, where they shop, what kind of rewards they enjoy, and so on – the more you can enhance their experience of your brand, offer them the products and services they really want, and design your rewards strategy to surprise and delight them.

Where does this data come from?

Each time someone engages with your brand (whether to buy something, redeem something or return something), it’s an opportunity to find out more about what makes them tick.

If you currently have a loyalty program, you probably already have a large amount of data on your customers, from their buying behaviour to the rewards they’re most likely to redeem. Start consolidating and analysing this data – and make sure you’re tracking all customer interactions with the program, from sign up to reward redemption.

You can also gather customer information from areas like your brand website and social media channels. What content are customers engaging with, which products are they browsing and buying, what articles are they reading? Use these platforms to give you insights into the products, events, competitions and rewards your customers are most interested in.

You can also actively gather information through customer surveys and polls. For example, you could send an exclusive survey to a particular segment of loyalty program members and include a reward or competition element to encourage engagement. If it’s well designed and personalised, this type of communication can also show your customers that you’re interested in them and value their opinions.

A Starbucks story

In an article for, Bernard Marr highlights how international coffeehouse chain Starbucks is using data and artificial intelligence to inform their business decisions and improve the customer experience. According to Marr, the coffee chain is able to collect a significant amount of data through their mobile app and reward program.

They then use this information to, among other things, personalise their customers’ Starbucks experience (e.g. suggesting new products a customer might enjoy based on their previous buying behaviour), target their marketing efforts (e.g. personalised offers), make timely and relevant changes to their menu, and even decide on locations for new stores.

What data can do for you

“The retail loyalty programs of the future will be precise, personal, and geared to what consumers really want.” – Russell Mackey

As the Starbucks example shows, analysing customer data effectively can give you the insights you need to deliver (and keep delivering) the best possible customer experience. Here are some of the ways you can use this information to refine your rewards strategy:

Improve your program

The right information and analysis can help you improve your customer journey and customer experience. By tracking user behaviour, you can identify which parts of your program are most popular (and least popular), how customers are engaging with your website or app, and what your various customer segments are most interested in.

Offer the right rewards

Data helps take the guesswork out of your rewards selection, as you’ll know which rewards are most likely to drive engagement, which are most likely to be redeemed, and which resonate most with your different customer segments. And that means that you can select the most impactful and meaningful range of rewards to include in your program.

Create a personalised experience

Most of us want to feel valued and appreciated, and personalising the customer experience is an effective way to build and strengthen your customer relationships. In fact, a 2016 Accenture Interactive study found that:

  • 56% of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer that recognises them by name
  • 58% are more likely to make a purchase when a retailer offers recommendations based on their past purchases
  • 65% are more likely to shop at a retailer that knows their purchase history.

So, create a rewards strategy that aims to make the most of your customer insights. Personalise your messaging, choose rewards that are relevant and appealing to your customers, and create offers that are based on their purchase behaviour. The result? Increased customer loyalty that will pay off over time.


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