Customer Loyalty Programmes for Small Businesses

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 19:00
 Customer Loyalty Programmes for Small Businesses

When it comes to customer loyalty your small business has a secret weapon - its size. The general public perceives small businesses as more patient and responsive to their needs. This gives you an advantage in attracting and retaining customers over chain stores, even though they have far, far larger marketing budgets.

If this is so, why should you bother with a loyalty programme? Because people say that they are more likely to engage with businesses that offer a loyalty programme. Put simply, your best customers value and appreciate these programmes, and loyalty schemes also increase customer lifetime spend.

Given that most people like small businesses and loyalty programmes, implementing a scheme for your business is likely to be a good decision. This post will give some ideas on how you can get started.

Loyalty Cards

There are many different ways to implement a loyalty programme, but the most common is to establish either a paper or digital loyalty card system.

Traditionally, paper loyalty cards have been easier and cheaper to administer than their digital, barcode-enabled cousins, but this is no longer true if you use an EPOS system. A digital card system is just as straightforward to get started and can be run from your point of sales system without additional paid services.

A points-based loyalty scheme is especially worthwhile for businesses with high-volume, low-cost products. In this case, customers get points for purchasing products, which they can later redeem for store credit. Think ‘buy nine get one free’. This scheme incentivises repeat business without costing you too much.

Another slightly different take on the loyalty card system is to offer ‘gold customer’ status after a certain number of loyalty points have been attained. Think ‘10% off everything for our best customers.’ This means that your best customers, once they’ve spent a set amount in-store, get exclusive benefits and discounts and are more likely to keep coming back to maintain their status.

Whether you choose a paper or digital version of the loyalty card system, either option means that your branding is carried around by your customers. Happily, this ensures that there’s a prompt to visit your business each time a customer takes out their keys or opens their purse.

Loyalty Based Events

Aside from using loyalty schemes as a way to track purchases and offer discounts, you can also use your loyalty scheme to offer exclusive event invitations to your best customers.

When you’re competing with Clubcard and Nectar, you have to get your loyalty scheme to stand out by making it fun. Yes, people like to save money, but you can use your small size and flexibility to your advantage. By getting personal with your customers you can establish relationships that the national chains could only dream of.

Exclusive events are a great way to reward customers and also create a buzz around your business, especially when you create social media conversations alongside them.

Some event ideas could include:

  • Introducing and sampling new products
  • Offering a master class on how to use specific products
  • A ‘thank you’ event to show your best customers that you value their business

Events play to the natural strengths of your small business by keeping your loyalty programme tailor-made, personal, and exclusive. Programmes with millions of members simply can’t compete.

Reward Ideas - Thinking Outside the Box

There are many quirky ways to engage loyal customers and grow your business. Directly asking your customers what kind of loyalty perks they’d like is a good idea; it gets them engaged with your business and it shows that you’re responsive.

When you know about your customers - what they like to do and where they like to shop - one option that can add value to your loyalty scheme is to team up with similar local businesses. You can cross-promote each other's business and offer a reciprocal discount programme.

For example, a clothes shop could join with a hairdresser and jewellery shop to help each other's businesses and also reward their own customers with relevant promotions. This is a great way to support the local business community, thank your loyal customers, and attract new visitors.

Loyal Customers Means a Growing Business

Small businesses are in a great position to create personal relationships and inspire loyalty. People like to shop locally to support their communities, and they also like incentivising loyalty programmes.

It’s important to remember that these programmes don’t have to be expensive to implement. Your business can take advantage of your existing EPOS technology to administer a loyalty card system.

Keeping your best customers happy can be as simple as hosting a small event to say 'thank you' and introduce your new products. Customers will appreciate the effort and the chance to get to know you, the owner of one of their favourite local stores.

The key for a successful small business loyalty scheme is to recognise your size advantage; make the most of being small by being personal. Well-run loyalty programmes can help you identify and build relationships with your best customers, who are the backbone of any thriving business.

Nick Blackbourn