Creating your first loyalty program can be overwhelming. What rewards should you offer? What customers should you target? What should your program look like? With so many moving pieces, you’ll need to pare down the possibilities.

Here are ten high-level tips to help you kick off your program on the right track.


1. Know your customers.

The most successful brands drive home the points that matter most to their customers, and rewards programs are no different. Before you put a program in place, it’s vital that you know your customers well enough to give them tasks and rewards that will be mutually beneficial. Offering people things they already want is the quickest, most efficient way to see results that last. Lean on the people closest to your community for input in the early stages of your program as they can offer the best sense of who your customers are, what motivates them to engage, and what their personalities are like. Whether your social media manager, customer service team, sales team, or someone else in your org interacts with your customers the most, give them a stake in the success of your loyalty program and leverage their knowledge of your existing customers to help create a layout that will incentivize the majority.

2. Offer a variety of rewards.

Once you’ve nailed down what kind(s) of rewards will incentivize your customers, it’s time to offer them in a variety of ways. There are three main types of rewards brands can offer: sweepstakes (e.g. a lottery, instant-win giveaway, trip, etc.); digital (e.g. social media shout outs, points, badges, etc.); and tangible (e.g. coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc.). Here at BigDoor, we believe digital (typically non dollar-backed) rewards are the future of rewards programs as customers move farther into the age of all things online.

However, digital rewards are not the best solution for every situation. If your brand has the ability to offer a healthy dose of sweepstakes and tangible rewards alongside a digital-heavy program, you’ll have the competitive advantage of a stacked deck. Explore all the unique ways your brand can offer rewards to customers in order to come up with the most effective layout for your program.

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3. Make your tasks achievable.

The sky is the limit when it comes to sending your customers on tasks to redeem rewards, but remember to keep your feet on the ground when setting your goals. If you make tasks too difficult or time consuming for users to complete, you’ll probably see a negative response from your audience.

There is no set rule for the amount of tasks a user should complete in order to redeem a reward, so gauge every situation accordingly. Bigger rewards (like a $100 gift card) will likely require users to complete a higher number of tasks than small rewards (like a Twitter shout out), so be sure to walk through a customer redemption cycle in the planning stage of every reward you offer. The whole point of loyalty programs is to increase user engagement and loyalty, so make sure your customers can actually accomplish the tasks you’re setting them up for.

4. Go where your audience is.

This one isn’t rocket science, but is definitely worth a reminder. Your brand’s customers are congregating in groups around the web, and it’s up to your brand to reach them where they already are. Whether your customers engage through social media channels, hang out in web forums, or read certain types of blogs, you should place a priority on drawing them into your product or service from their pre-determined niches. Once your brand has their attention, use your loyalty program to make them stay.

5. Invest in UX.

User experience is part of every touch point customers hit when interacting with your brand, and offering a seamlessly integrated program is where brands who win invest their time and money.

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Your users will be more inclined to sign up, complete tasks, and interact with your site if your loyalty program’s look and feel matches the design and layout they are already familiar with. To ensure a smooth transition into your program, keep its onsite experience on-brand, easy-to-understand, light-weight, and versatile. There’s no question that this task will take a bit of time spent in the planning and development stages, but the payout is worth the effort.

6. Incentivize customer referrals.

People like to go where their friends are, and when it comes to brand loyalty, nothing is more powerful than a customer advocating on a brand’s behalf to their inner circles. Are you capitalizing on the powerful word-of-mouth reviews happy customers are giving your brand?

Incentivizing customer referrals is a great way to build loyalty. When a brand rewards for “soft actions” like referring a friend, they say thank you to their loyal advocates, while simultaneously gaining new users. Whether you reward referrals with gift cards, special deals, coupons, or other incentives, enabling this feature in your loyalty program will give your brand a competitive advantage.

7. Keep your loyalty program on-brand.

Although we mentioned on-brand design when talking about user experience, this step is so important that it deserves a category of its own. Loyalty programs are created to add value and increase loyalty within an existing customer cycle. Adding an online program means you’ll be adding a new feature onto your existing website; additional layers to existing sites can be confusing, and the more you can streamline the experience for your users, the more comfortable they’ll feel when signing up and engaging.

Keep your rewards program relevant to your brand in order to smooth the transition between customer to loyalty program member. If your brand chooses a third-party vendor to create your program, make sure white-labeling is an option that is offered (or just choose BigDoor as we white-label all of our program options!).

8. Communicate with members regularly.

Most people are creatures of habit, and your loyalty program should speak to these feelings. Create a pattern of communication between your brand and program members so they know what to expect and when to expect it. Whether you’re communicating through email campaigns, in-app messaging, social media channels, or other, it’s important to create a plan and stick to it.

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The earlier you set communication expectations with your loyalty program members, the better off their experience will be. The principals of reciprocal loyalty carry over to communication seamlessly – think of this step as “reciprocal communication.” :)

9. Offer multi-platform options.

It’s been said before, but we’ll say it one more time: offering multi-platform options for your program members to engage with your brand is key to success. Your customers are engaging with you everywhere: on their phones, at work, on their home desktop machines, and on their tablets. The wider you can expand your software’s reach the higher the chance of people engaging with your brand will be.

Like most good things, multi-platform software takes time to test and implement. Putting in the effort to offer multi-platform options at the beginning of your program will be worth the effort for years to come.

10. Grow with your audience.

Your audience is continuously evolving, and you should be, too! Be sure your loyalty program is equipped for change. As your audience expands, your loyalty program offerings will need to adapt in order to keep existing members and attract new ones. Creating a cadence is necessary to get your program off the ground, but have strong beliefs that are weakly held and be open to change along the way. Offering new types of rewards to incentivize your ever-evolving audience can put those inevitable growing pains to good use.


And there you have it! Hopefully these tips will help you zero in on what your program will look like. Do you have any tips outside of this list? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!