At Staebler we love small businesses, but we also know how competitive it is out there. Small and medium sized businesses need to do everything they can to get an edge on the competition and fight for every customer they can. One of the best and easiest ways to turn a customer from a random walk-in to a loyal repeat shopper is with a loyalty reward program that is properly scaled to your business.
The old fashion stamp card
Even the most humble cafe or book store can benefit from the simple loyalty card. This is the typical "buy nine coffees, get the tenth one free!” kind of system. While punch cards and stamps aren't exactly earth shattering ideas, their effectiveness has been proven time and time again. Customers like to feel like they are getting a little something extra when they make their purchase, that they're working towards something as well as receiving the product they came in the door for.
When implementing this kind of system, it is important to make it simple, sustainable, and motivating. You want something that is easy for the customer to use (a single card to keep track of a very defined reward instead of a deck of them representing different products or options), appealing, and affordable for your business. Think long term, you want a reward structure that customers will see as a value but won't hurt your own profitability too much, and you'll want it to be easy for staff to manage. Remember, in the future if you have to change or (gulp) cancel your loyalty program because it becomes too costly or difficult to manage, you'll be risking some hurt feelings. Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned.
The new way, loyalty networks
If your business is ready for a more elaborate rewards system several powerful turnkey options exist. Joining a rewards network will allow you to offer an excellent loyalty structure to your customers at a reasonable cost and without adding a huge managerial burden to your workload. Services such as the Rogers owned Vicinity card, the Vancouver based Belly, and the e-commerce focused Sweet Tooth among many others (you'll have to research which one would fit your business the best), allow customers to build and redeem rewards at a variety of businesses, increasing the value to the customer. You can also consider joining one of the larger, more established, loyalty systems such as Air Miles which have proven their value to consumers (as an aside, you can earn Air Miles points on the payment of your insurance premium if your insurance is placed with RSA, something you may want to ask your Staebler broker about!)
These services offer not only more flexible rewards to shoppers, but also more ways for your business to reach out to them. Personalized offers such as a birthday email with a small discount or just a friendly greeting lets your business build a connection to the customer. Customer referrals, social sharing, and cross-promotions with others businesses are just some of the potential advantages of joining such a system.
Not only do loyalty programs help cultivate a dependable customer base, they can also tell you more about your customers. Analyzing customer data and trends in loyalty card holders can reveal interesting tidbits of information that will help you serve your customers better and direct your marketing efforts wisely. You can see what kind of age range your average customer falls in, what social media they use, what kind of rewards they redeem and why. This is the kind of info that can be hard to eyeball going off of foot traffic but can be incredibly valuable!