Customer Loyalty Program 101 : The Ultimate Guide to Cultivate Loyal Brand Ambassadors

Customer retention and loyalty are the ultimate goals for companies seeking long-term success. ‍With the ever-increasing competition in e-commerce, building customer loyalty has become more crucial than ever. 
Customer Loyalty Program 101 : The Ultimate Guide to Cultivate Loyal Brand Ambassadors

Fortunately, customer loyalty programs have proven to be powerful tools for fostering lasting connections with customers and stimulating business growth. 

What is customer loyalty program?

A customer loyalty program is a marketing strategy that encourages customers coming back for more and choose your brand over the competition.

In practical terms, the more they interact with your company, the more they're rewarded.

With exclusive rewards, incentives and benefits, companies aim to inspire customer satisfaction, nurture long-term commitment, and so increase customer lifetime value (CLV), and ultimately drive customer retention. 

13 statistics on loyalty programs

To get things off to a good start, I'd like to share with you some super-interesting statistics on loyalty programs.

We'll go into more detail later in the article.

13 statistics on loyalty programs

How do loyalty programs work?

Imagine walking into a store, making a purchase, and being rewarded with points, discounts, or exclusive perks. 

Loyalty programs work by rewarding customers as they engage with the brand, based on their purchases, frequency of visits, or other predefined actions (download mobile app, share company’s post on social media, etc.).

These accumulated points can then be redeemed for various benefits, such as discounts, free products or services, priority access to new releases, or even unique experiences.

The rewards are carefully designed to align with customers' interests and preferences, fostering a sense of value and appreciation. 

What are the 4 main types of loyalty programs?

There are 4 (main) types of loyalty programs:

  • Points-based loyalty programs
  • Tiered loyalty programs
  • Paid loyalty programs
  • Value-based loyalty programs

1. Points-based loyalty programs

The classic points system! This is one of the most common loyalty programs. 

Basically, customers earn points with each transaction or specific actions, like following on social media, leaving reviews…

These points can be accumulated over time and later exchanged for rewards, discounts, or freebies.

The more points a customer accumulates, the greater the rewards they can enjoy.

Points-based programs provide customers with a tangible and measurable benefit. It encourages them to continue engaging with the brand to unlock exciting benefits.

2. Tiered loyalty programs

Tiered programs classify customers into different levels, or tiers, based on how much they engage with the company

Each tier offers varying benefits and rewards, with higher tiers typically receiving more exclusive perks. 

From bronze to silver, gold to platinum, customers can progress through the tiers by meeting specific criteria, such as reaching a certain spending threshold or achieving a set number of points.

Tiered loyalty programs create a sense of achievement and status, incentivizing customers to strive for higher tiers and enjoy greater benefits.

Read our full blog post on tiered loyalty programs

Diamond Art Club's tiered loyalty program

3. Paid loyalty programs

With this type of loyalty program, customers pay a subscription or membership fee to gain access to premium benefits.

Now, this might sound counterintuitive. 

But it’s not. A McKinsey’s study found out that joining a paid loyalty program increases the likelihood of consumers spending more by 62%.

By paying a recurring fee or an annual subscription, customers gain access to exclusive perks, such as free shipping, early product releases, personalized concierge services, or members-only events.

These programs cater to customers seeking a more elevated and customized brand experience.

Here are the 3 key elements of successful paid loyalty programs:

  • The benefits offered clearly surpass the associated fees, effectively incentivizing sign-ups.
  • Members are enticed to stay due to the availability of experiential advantages, such as personalized experiences and exclusive members-only content.
  • These programs demonstrate high levels of engagement, with a continuous cycle of interaction that enhances the overall value of the program.

Amazon Prime is one of the most known example of a successful paid loyalty program.

4. Value-based loyalty programs

Value-based loyalty programs focus on rewarding customers based on their engagement with the company, beyond monetary transactions. 

This approach recognizes and rewards customers for their brand advocacy, social media engagement, referrals, or other non-monetary actions that contribute to the company's growth. 

By acknowledging and appreciating customers for their loyalty, value-based loyalty programs foster a deeper emotional connection and encourage customers to become ambassadors.

The 4 types of loyalty programs

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6 benefits of a loyalty program

Loyalty programs bring a wide range of benefits that can significantly impact a business's success. 

Let's explore some of the key advantages:

A loyalty program increases customer retention (and customer lifetime value)

One of the primary goals of loyalty programs is to cultivate long-lasting customer relationships.

By offering rewards and exclusive perks to loyal customers, businesses create a sense of loyalty and attachment among their customers. 

This emotional connection encourages customers to continue engaging with the company, leading to higher customer retention rates.

And, you know that, customers who remain engaged over time will generate a higher customer lifetime value.

They are more likely to make repeated purchases, explore additional products or services, and even become brand advocates, contributing to the business's long-term profitability.

2 photos of the same loyal customer at his hairdresser's, 20 years apart

A loyalty program encourages customer referrals

A well-designed loyalty program can incentivize existing customers to refer friends, family, or colleagues to the brand. 

With special rewards for successful referrals, loyalty programs can tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

This will help expand the customer base and attract new customers, who are more likely to trust recommendations from people they know.

And figures prove it.

Customers recommended by a friend are 4x more likely to buy and convert 5x faster.

Check this article to learn everything about referral marketing

A loyalty program boosts revenue

Loyalty programs can boost revenue by encouraging customers to increase their average order value. 

As they strive to unlock additional rewards or move up to the next program tiers, they are motivated to make larger purchases or explore additional offerings. 

This not only increases immediate revenue but also contributes to the overall profitability of each customer.

And more, a Yotpo’s study shows that 56% of respondents would agree to spend more for a brand they’re loyal to, even if cheaper options exist.

A graph showing answers abou "What would you do for a brand you're loyal to?"

A loyalty program builds brand advocacy

Loyalty programs create a sense of exclusivity and appreciation among customers, transforming them into passionate brand advocates. 

These loyal customers become enthusiastic about the company and its offerings, willingly sharing their positive experiences with others. 

Through testimonials, online reviews, social media posts, or even offline conversations, they become ambassadors, spreading positive word-of-mouth and effectively increasing its visibility and reputation. 

Their genuine endorsements and recommendations carry significant weight and influence, attracting new customers who trust the opinions of existing loyal customers.

A loyalty program differentiates you from competitors

In a crowded marketplace, loyalty programs serve as a unique opportunity to stand out from its competitors. 

Whether they offer exclusive rewards, personalized experiences, or innovative program structures, businesses can create their distinct identity and attract customers who are seeking more than just a transactional relationship.

Loyalty programs help build a competitive edge by enhancing the overall customer experience and develop stronger brand affinity.

Richard Branson saying "You're just gotta differentiate yourself"

A loyalty program generates UGC and Reviews

Customer loyalty programs can also incentivize customers to create user-generated content and leave reviews. 

These can be testimonials, social media posts, photos, videos, or written reviews. 

User-generated content and reviews serve as powerful social proof, building trust and credibility among potential customers. 

It not only enhances the company's online presence but also attracts new customers who are influenced by the positive experiences shared by existing loyal customers.

Read this new article to find tips to encourage User-Generated Content creation.

The 6 benefits of customer loyalty programs

How to create a customer loyalty program?

1. Define your goals

Start by clearly defining objectives of your loyalty program. 

Determine what you aim to achieve, whether it's increasing customer retention, boosting sales, enhancing brand advocacy, or gathering customer data. 

Get a clear understanding of your goals. This will guide you through the entire process.

2. Understand your target audience

Gain deep insights into your target audience's preferences, behaviors, and motivations. 

Analyze their purchasing patterns, engagement levels, and preferences to tailor the loyalty program to their needs. 

By understanding what resonates with your customers, you can create a program that delivers maximum value.

3. Determine the program structure

Decide which kind of loyalty program is best suited to align with your objectives and your customer base. 

Is it points-based programs, tiered programs, paid programs, or value-based programs ? 

Select the structure that best incentivizes desired customer behaviors and offers meaningful rewards.

Strive for simplicity and clarity to ensure ease of understanding and participation.

4. Design attractive rewards

Develop a compelling rewards system that appeals to your customers. 

First, try to incentivize a large range of customer actions.

And then, ensure that the rewards are relevant, valuable, and attainable. 

A Yotpo’s study shows that consumers want more than simply free shipping and discounts

A graph showing answers about "What do you want out of a loyalty program other than free shipping and discounts?"

So, consider offering a mix of monetary rewards, exclusive discounts, personalized experiences, free products or services, or access to VIP events. 

They should provide a sense of value and exclusivity, driving customer engagement and loyalty.

5. Implement the right technology solution

Choose a reliable tracking system to monitor customer engagement, track points, and manage reward redemption.

Whether it's a dedicated loyalty platform, CRM software, or a mobile app, choose a solution that makes it easy for customers to participate in the program, check their points balance, and redeem rewards.

Make sure it also enables personalized communication and data analysis to optimize program effectiveness.

Need to build a loyalty program? Check our list of top loyalty platforms.

Wiink's loyalty platform dashboard

6. Communicate and promote

Develop a comprehensive marketing and communication plan to promote your loyalty program, to existing and potential customers

Use every channel you can, such as email marketing, social media, website banners, and in-store signage, to create awareness and encourage sign-ups. 

Highlight the benefits, rewards, and unique value proposition of your program to entice customers to join.

During the year, do not forget to keep participants informed about exclusive offers and promotions.

7. Monitor and Analyze

Continuously monitor and analyze the performance of your loyalty program.

Track customer participation, redemption rates, customer feedback, and overall program ROI. 

Then, use data-driven insights and customer feedback to make decisions about future enhancements, reward optimization, and targeted marketing campaigns.

Check this 11 top KPIs to measure customer loyalty

7 steps to create a successful customer loyalty program

5 tips to boost your customer loyalty program

1. Inject your branding

Infuse your loyalty program with your brand's unique identity and personality. 

Customize the program's visual elements, including the program name, logo, colors, and design, to align with your overall aesthetics. 

Ensure that all your communications reflect your business" tone and values. 

By doing so, you will create a cohesive and memorable customer experience.

3. Make it easy to enroll

Simplify the enrollment process by minimizing barriers and ensuring an effortless experience. 

Enable customers to enroll through various touchpoints, such as your website, mobile app, social media, or even in-store. 

The easier it is for customers to join your loyalty program, the more likely they are to engage and participate.

Consider offering incentives, such as a welcome bonus or an exclusive discount upon enrollment, to further encourage participation.

Need inspo ? We gathered 15 proven techniques to help you persuade customers to join your loyalty program

3. Make it a game

Incorporate elements of gamification into your loyalty program to make it more interactive and enjoyable. 

Introduce challenges, milestones, or progress bars that track customers' activities and reward them for achieving specific goals. 

Consider adding leaderboards, badges, or virtual currency to create a sense of competition and achievement. 

Gamification adds a fun and competitive aspect that can increase customer engagement and loyalty.

4. Collaborate with partners

Work with complementary businesses to offer additional rewards or exclusive perks to your loyalty program members. 

This will expand the range of benefits available to customers and make your loyalty program even more appealing. 

Consider joint promotions, cross-brand discounts, or unique experiences that resonate with your target audience.

5. Evolve and Innovate

A loyalty program should never remain stagnant. 

Regularly review and evolve your program to meet changing customer expectations and market dynamics. 

Introduce new rewards, gamification elements, or program enhancements to keep customers engaged and excited. 

Stay attuned to customer feedback and preferences to ensure ongoing program relevance and success.

5 tips to boost a customer loyalty program

7 customer loyalty programs examples that really work


Sephora's Beauty Insider rewards program has become a shining example of a successful loyalty program. 

With over 25 million loyal members, it has played a significant role in driving Sephora's annual sales, with members accounting for up to 80% of their revenue.

The Beauty Insider program operates on a points-based system, allowing customers to accumulate points with each purchase. These points can then be redeemed for a variety of rewards, typically in the form of samples or exclusive merchandise, through the Rewards Bazaar. 

What sets Sephora's program apart is its integration of an online community, known as the Beauty Insider Community.

The Beauty Insider Community serves as a platform for customers to engage with one another, seeking advice, sharing their looks, and exchanging beauty tips. 

Moreover, Sephora's tiered structure incentivizes customers to strive for higher loyalty tiers, as each tier unlocks more enticing rewards and benefits. 

Sephora's loyalty program

The North Face

Their loyalty program, XPLR Pass, allows members to earn points through purchases or participation in special events.

What stands out about this program is their focus on offering unique travel experiences. For example, members can use their points to go on a mountain climbing trip in Nepal. 

The XPLR Pass program perfectly showcases The North Face's commitment to understanding and meeting the needs and desires of their customer base.

With these experiential rewards, The North Face taps into the aspirations and passions of its target market, forging a deeper connection between the company and its customers.

The North face's loyalty program

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club focus on creating a community-like experience for its members rather than incentivizing them to spend more. 

First, customers become members by making a simple purchase.

Then, unlike traditional loyalty programs that rely on spending thresholds or point accumulation, theirs offers immediate perks to members (access to new and exclusive products, personalized recommendations, member-only magazines, free shipping, etc.).

This approach aligns with Dollar Shave Club's subscription-based business model, where customers receive regular shipments of grooming products. 

The loyalty program complements this business model by offering additional value and convenience to members, without the need for complicated point systems or tiers.

Dollar Shave Club's loyalty program


Starbucks has developed a gaming-based loyalty program, known as Starbucks Rewards, that keeps customers coming back for their favorite caffeinated beverages. 

Their program use gamification, allowing customers to earn "stars" for every dollar spent, and motivating them to spend more within shorter periods. 

These stars can be redeemed for a variety of items beyond coffee, such as extra espresso shots or free merchandise.

The program operates through a mobile app, which not only facilitates the earning and redemption of points but also serves as a communication tool for notifying customers about new opportunities. 

To earn loyalty points, customers must order or pay using the Starbucks app. This enables the company to gather valuable behavioral analytics. It provides great insights into customers' preferences, including their go-to drink orders and seasonal favorites. 

Starbucks can then tailor their rewards to be more relevant and personalized, enhancing the overall customer experience.

Starbucks' loyalty program

REI Co-op

REI Co-op has created a customer loyalty program that aligns with its cooperative roots and delivers substantial value to its members. 

For a one-time fee of $20, customers can become lifetime members. 

This membership allows them to get 10% back on all purchases and get exclusive access to heavily discounted "garage sales," where they can find great deals on a wide range of outdoor gear.

REI Co-op members also enjoy discounts on experiential offerings, such as adventure trips and classes. This adds an extra layer of value by allowing members to access unique outdoor experiences.

REI Co-op's loyalty program shows how a loyalty program can drive real value for customers and offer meaningful benefits that resonate with the target audience, and so contribute to long-term customer loyalty.

REI Co-Op's loyalty program

The Body Shop

The Body Shop has crafted a loyalty program that not only rewards customers but also aligns with their ethical values and desire to make a positive impact. 

Their Love Your Body Club is a mission-driven loyalty program that offers customers the choice to donate their rewards to charitable organizations.

As members of the Love Your Body Club, customers earn points for every dollar spent. Once they accumulate 100 points, they receive a $10 reward that can be redeemed for products. 

However, what sets this program apart is the option for customers to donate their $10 reward to one of The Body Shop's charity partners.

By integrating charitable giving into their loyalty program, The Body Shop enhances its ethical brand image and provides customers with an opportunity to contribute to social causes they care about. 

This fosters a deeper emotional connection between the company and its customers.

The Body Shop's loyalty program


Expedia has developed a rewards program called Expedia Rewards that operates on a three-tier system.

Members earn points every time they book a service. Then they unlock more perks and rewards as they increase their travel activity. 

This strategy not only encourages customer retention but also creates an incentive for travelers to consolidate their bookings through Expedia.

This reinforces the company's position as a trusted and cost-effective travel partner.

Indeed members are said to save an average of $35 per hotel or flight reservation.

Expedia's loyalty program

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