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Mission: Loyalty — Create Lasting Loyalty Through a Genuine Customer Connection

After exploring innovative ideas that put a unique spin on your loyalty program in last week’s Mission: Loyalty episode, this week I’ll be investigating how you can create lasting loyalty through genuine customer connections.

Why are customer connections so important? We all know that keeping loyal customers costs far less than acquiring new customers. They come back more often, spend more, and they promote your brand by talking about their positive experiences. It’s essentially a form of free marketing. But customer loyalty is like air… you only notice how important it is once it’s gone. So how can you cultivate and maintain unwavering loyalty with your customers? Watch the video and read the article to see how some of the biggest brands have achieved lasting loyalty and find out what you can do to make a real connection with your customers — with the help of your rewards program.

What Makes Customers Loyal to a Brand?

True loyalty goes beyond a rewards card or points system. Taking a transactional, non-personal approach just doesn’t cut it anymore. Today’s loyalty programs need to include emotional benefits, perks, and privileges that recognize members for their engagement. Examples of emotional benefits include letting customers into the store after-hours to have a private shopping experience, providing a concierge service, or 24/7 customer service.

To build a strong relationship with your customers, go beyond the power of your product or brand by fostering emotional loyalty. Don’t forget: an emotionally invested customer is a loyal customer. Find their emotional connection to your company and build the relationship around that connection point.

Join me on the latest investigation of Mission: Loyalty, and let’s “spy” on some of the biggest brands. How do they create genuine customer connections through loyalty? 

How You Can Create a Genuine Customer Connection

In order to create an authentic customer connection with your loyalty program, members need to feel that they truly matter. Don’t just reach out to members of your loyalty program when you want their business. Find ways to continuously show them you care, listen to them, and develop a customer-oriented mindset. You need to know what motivates loyalty in your customers, because nowadays purchasing decisions often depend on whether or not customers share an emotional bond with your brand.

In order to make an impact, you must build a relationship with your customers and develop emotional loyalty. When you create a real connection with your customers, they will not only keep shopping with you when your competitors offer a better deal, but they’ll also post about your brand on social media and spread the word to friends and family, too. People who love your brand spend more, recommend more, and become your advocates.

As Mike Capizzi, Dean of the Loyalty Academy (who you might have noticed, also made a cameo appearance in our Mission: Loyalty trailer), put it “Emotional loyalty is when every communication and brand action makes customers feel recognized and important.”

Statistics showing the shift towards emotional loyalty
According to our Global Customer Loyalty Report 2022 20.7% of companies classify their loyalty programs as emotional. Fortunately, we saw a big jump toward emotion among companies that are planning to introduce a loyalty program in the next two years: 54% of respondents said that their future program will be more emotional than rational.

Best practices to make a shift towards a deeper connection through emotional loyalty:

1. Get Personal – Like Sephora

Nowadays, people are so used to personalization that most of the time they don’t even bother to open welcome emails that don’t include their name or a product that they are interested in. That’s why using a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. You want your customers to feel special. Use personalized communication and relevant product recommendations so customers know you’ve made an effort to make their experience relevant.

For instance, Sephora’s mobile shopping app not only allows members to view and use their loyalty points and Beauty Insider Cash, but they also have unique offers available. Their in-app messaging is also personalized and is consistent with user profiles, which includes information such as hair and skin type. Their loyalty app also gives the brand an opportunity to use push notification communications about special bonuses, new rewards, and motivating messages about how close customers are to their next big milestone or reward in the program.

Sephora’s beauty app.
In some countries, non-transactional in-app actions of Sephora’s Beauty Insider members are rewarded with points, for example, app downloads and product review submissions.

Tips to Try in Your Own Program

  1. Provide a great digital-to-store experience. Sephora does this by using digital channels to encourage customers to book makeovers and consultations.
  2. Ask for more than just the name and email information of your customers so that you can send special personalized surprise and delight offers on their birthdays and customer anniversaries. This will enable you to show them that — yes — it’s personal.
  3. Create tailored product recommendations based on customers’ past purchases to build a stronger bond and entice members to reengage.

2. Get Passionate – Like Bergzeit

Think about what your customers love and what they are passionate about. Is it going out for a run or a hike? Or, is it living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle? Sharing the same values as your customers is crucial for companies, whether it’s working out, bringing back old clothes, or donating to charity. Rewarding members’ lifestyle choices is a great way to boost loyalty and connect with them even when shopping isn’t on their minds. Being part of your customers’ everyday lives strengthens the emotional bond with your brand and creates a genuine customer connection.

Bergzeit, a German mountaineering product retailer, caters to their athletic-minded loyalty community by rewarding them not only for shopping but also for living a healthy lifestyle. Members of their loyalty program, the Bergzeit Club, earn points for doing sports activities, like climbing to specified heights and reaching the different milestones within the program.

Bergzeit’s loyalty program.
Bergzeit rewards customers for completing non-transactional activities thanks to its loyalty program’s integration with the popular athletic app, Strava.

Tips to Try in Your Own Program


  1. Provide helpful content for members to access, such as advice on activities they can do to achieve their goals, or ways they can use your products to see better results. To make sure your customers consume your content, offer additional points for reading your articles.
  2. Reward customers for bringing old clothes back to your store. Making sustainable choices helps the environment and also provides increased traffic and brand loyalty for your company.
  3. Give members the opportunity to elect between using their points to treat themselves to their favorite products or donating to a charity of their choice.

3. Get Appreciative – Like Brewdog

To create a brilliant customer connection, it’s important to reward loyal customers outside of the buying cycle. Encourage them to write reviews, complete their profiles, answer survey questions, or refer their friends and family. This not only builds trust and authenticity, but also provides marketers extra collateral to work with. A truly engaging loyalty program should go beyond simply offering transactional rewards, and instead focus on the experience. Experiential benefits, VIP treatment, challenges, and gamification can all greatly enhance the member experience.

BrewDog, the Scottish craft beer company, went with a completely points-free concept for its loyalty program. Instead of points, Planet BrewDog members earn badges when they complete transactional and non-transactional activities. Their program lets members refer their friends using a referral link found in the member profile area of the company’s website. When members place orders using a referral link, both parties receive a discount. BrewDog’s loyalty program also rewards members for completing their profiles and for helping the company achieve its sustainability goals.

Example of a gamified loyalty program.
BrewDog wanted to make Planet BrewDog an interactive, fun, community-focused experience.

Tips to Try in Your Own Program

  1. Apply game-like elements that will hook your customers and keep them engaged. This can build a strong sense of community and provide your company with new opportunities to collect data about customers.
  2. Incentivize loyalty program members to share pictures and videos on social media, and give them extra points for doing so. UGC is a great strategy for building word-of-mouth and a great form of non-transactional engagement.
  3. Let customers participate in your company’s processes to help build an emotional connection. For instance, let them share their design ideas or artwork for future products, or offer top-tier members the chance to test certain features before launch as a reward.

Go the Extra Mile

Loyal customers are at the core of every successful brand. These customers are always ready to spend their money on your products and services as long as you keep delivering the quality they expect. Also, in spite of the fact that discounts will play a more important role in the age of inflation, companies that reward customers outside of the buying cycle, provide experiential rewards, and make the shift towards a more emotional loyalty model will be able to truly differentiate themselves from the competition.

Adiclub rewards members for participating in challenges through their app.
Adidas’ Adiclub is an interactive tiered loyalty program in which members can also earn points for every run and workout, thereby encouraging them to level up while doing what they love.

So listen to your customers, respond to their needs, and continuously find ways to add value to their lives. Because loyalty achieved through an emotional bond is always stronger than financial incentives.

If you are interested in learning more about what Antavo’s technology has to offer, feel free to book a demo or include us in your RFP.

In the meantime, here’s a useful worksheet to help inspire your rewards program’s concept design.

A banner recommending to download Antavo’s ‘Loyalty Program Concept Worksheet’



Author: Antavo

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