Three Priorities When Launching a Loyalty Program

Earlier this month, Target announced that they were launching their new loyalty program. Launching a new rewards program – or revamping an old one – can be an exciting time for any retailer. After months of planning, it is finally time to share all your hard work with customers. And (hopefully) start watching the sales roll in.

But while launching a new relationship marketing initiative can be exciting, it is also sure to be stressful. Technical glitches, customer confusion, and store employees who are still getting up to speed on the new program can all cause challenges in those early days. Yet starting on the right foot is critical. Don’t get the experience right at the start, and customers may not give you a second chance. After working with retail clients around the globe and living through some launches ourselves, we have put together this list of where to focus to ensure your program launch is a success.

Loyalty Program

 1. An easy sign-up experience

Retail shoppers are busy, distracted, and pressed for time. Sure, most of them are happy to get some savings and a few extra perks. But they are also not nearly as interested in your new rewards program as you are. Whether it is in-store marketing, online registration, or an app download, once you get them to the point of being interested in joining, you had better make sure it is quick and easy.

This means avoiding lengthy registration forms or too many steps. Sure, you might like to know if your customer has a dog, or where they live, or what they like to eat for breakfast. But is it essential to know right now? Every question you add to the registration process will increase your abandon rate. Studies show that 67% of site visitors will abandon an online form forever if they encounter complications.


2. A deep offer bank

We have written before about the need for a deep offer bank. It is the key enabler of effective retail personalization. I know it is tempting to start with a small offer bank and build it up after launch. All I can say is, don’t do it. If your personalized marketing program is built on getting highly relevant offers to your shoppers, don’t you want to do that well on day one? In fact, if you don’t get the offers right in the early days, you might not even have a second chance. Customers who check their offers in the first couple weeks and find nothing of interest to them are not likely to come back to check-in four months once you have had time to build a proper offer bank. Get this right at the start and it will pay dividends for a long time.


3. Training front line staff

The customer messaging in your launch marketing is important. But even more important is the message that your customers are getting from store employees. If the staff in the store don’t like or understand the program, they obviously won’t be great ambassadors.

 I know of one executive who was in the middle of launching a national loyalty program. when she visited another retailer as part of her personal shopping. She noticed they were also launching their a rewards program. On the desk next to the POS was a box of cards for the new program urging customers to sign up today. The box was still wrapped in cellophane. She motioned to the box and asked the cashier if she could tell her about the new program. The response? “Oh. I’ve never seen those before.”

She shared this story with the launch team, who immediately decided to ramp up their investment in staff training. The decision paid off. On launch day, the store staff were informed, excited, and ready to answer any questions that came their way.

In the early days of a new loyalty program, there will be many things fighting for your attention. Focus on the three listed above and you will be well on your way to a successful launch.

Now that you know where to focus, it might be helpful to know some things that can be left on the back burner. Watch for our upcoming blog post on three things you don’t need to focus on during the launch of a new program.