When Should You Start Thinking About Loyalty?

How do you know when it’s time to start thinking about loyalty?  Investing in loyalty is a big decision but has great rewards if deployed correctly and efficiently.  Loyalty is a solution for companies who want to drive incremental lift and better understand their customers.  If you are contemplating whether or not loyalty is the right solution for your company, ask yourself these three questions:

1.  Is your cost of customer acquisition high (and your customer retention rate low)?  

Most retailers, if not all, will answer yes to this question.  With methods like search engine marketing and paid search advertising, the cost of acquiring a customer is skyrocketing and hurting profitability.  Today, brands must focus more on retention rather than acquisition.  In the long-run, shifting your efforts towards retention will be more profitable as you will encourage repurchase rather than a one-time purchase with acquisition.  So how do you keep customers coming back for more?  Loyalty programs effectively maximize customer lifetime value by providing highly personalized user experiences and relevant rewards.  In incentivizing a customer to return, you will continue to capitalize on your investment.

 2.  Are you giving away your margin?

Are you constantly relying on discount codes and coupons to incentivize customers to purchase?  If so, this may be the perfect time to start thinking about loyalty.  Loyalty trains your customer to repurchase, rather than to expect discounts.  Substituting discounts and coupons for loyalty promotions will prevent you from giving away your margin, especially to customers who may already be loyal.  An example of a loyalty promotion that preserves your margin is early access to products for members.  While this comes at no cost to you, its initial exclusivity makes your loyal customers feel special and gives them the opportunity to buy.  Offering double points, rather than straight discounts, is another example of a loyalty promotion that can save your margin.  Consumers will earn a percentage in point value per dollar spent, which will go towards future purchases.

 3.  Are you having trouble understanding your customer across channels?

Nowadays, customers have the ability to shop online, in-store, through mobile, etc.  However, the data is siloed and it is difficult to connect the dots between systems.  Omni-channel loyalty programs solve this problem by incentivizing customers to self-identify and engage across channels.  Loyalty is a hub for customer data as it gives customers a reason to say who they are and provides a richer understanding of how customers interact with a brand.  Providing a consistent, omni-channel experience for your customer is mutually beneficial.  Investing in loyalty will give you a complete view of your customers and allow for targeted campaigns.  And in turn, your customers will receive rewards and benefits that are truly geared towards them.

These questions can help you begin to think about loyalty.  Loyalty has an array of benefits, from providing a holistic view of your customer to encouraging repurchase through the data it collects.  A program that encompasses multiple channels has the ability to drive profitability and may just be the solution you need to elevate your brand.

Reach out to Matt Brown, our Senior Director of Sales, at matt.brown[at]500friends.com if you need help answering these questions or request a demo of our loyalty program platform, LoyaltyPlus, to see if we’re the right fit for you.

Case Study: How U.S. Auto Parts Increased Spend Per Member 20% with 500friends

logo2High cost customer acquisition with no tradeoff of lifetime value defines today’s ecommerce landscape.  As most retailers struggle with customer retention, marketing teams deploy loyalty solutions to gain a competitive edge by connecting with shoppers and incentivizing repurchase. With the help of 500friends, a leading provider of end-to-end marketing solutions, U.S. Auto parts increased its spend per member by 20%, its repurchase rate by 14%, and its enrollment rate by 45% after updating the loyalty program of its flagship brand, Auto Parts Warehouse. We at 500friends published a case study (below) highlighting the success of U.S. Auto Parts in increasing customer retention using the 500friends LoyaltyPlus platform.

Although most ecommerce marketing teams are resource constrained, IR 100 retailer U.S. Auto Parts realized the competitive advantage of loyalty and decided to invest. The company debuted the Auto Parts Warehouse loyalty program, known as APW Rewards, in September 2012 with the help of 500friends.  After its initial success, the company understood the importance of investing in existing customers.  To continue the momentum and elevate APW Rewards, U.S. Auto Parts decided to shift marketing investment from customer acquisition to customer retention and engagement.  Working with 500friends’ customer success team, U.S. Auto Parts began to leverage capabilities such as increased rewards for high-margin products, personalized post-purchase enrollment offers, a status tier, and triggered email campaigns based off of a person’s repurchase history to maximize customer lifetime value.

“The refresh of APW Rewards, which we achieved in collaboration with 500friends, was a huge success, and there’s even more we can do to engage our customers across our brands,” states Houman Akhavan, VP of Marketing at U.S. Auto Parts.

Read the full case study to learn more about how U.S. Auto Parts maximized its customer relationships:


About 500friends
500friends is a leader in omni-channel loyalty marketing solutions. Its white-labeled service-as-a-software platform, LoyaltyPlus, offers a comprehensive suite of capabilities empowering retailers to deploy loyalty programs catered to their customers. 500friends works with over 50 of the top 1,000 retailers, including 1800Flowers, Omaha Steaks, and Kiehl’s, to maximize customer relationships. For more information, please visit http://www.500friends.com.

About U.S. Auto Parts
U.S. Auto Parts is a leading provider of aftermarket auto parts, with a reputation for quality service and competitively priced products. U.S. Auto Parts’ flagship websites include http://www.autopartswarehouse.com, http://www.jcwhitney.com, and http://www.AutoMD.com. For the company’s corporate website, visit http://www.usautoparts.net.

Watch-On-Demand: 10 Ways To Personalize The Holidays

Did you miss our recent webinar with Merkle?

The joint webinar is now available to watch below and features Merkle’s VP of Personalization, Zimm Zimmerman, as well as 500friends’ Senior Director of Strategy, Arif Damji, as they both explore ways retailers can enhance personalization for their customers. They highlight how loyalty programs  further enhance personalization for members through the data collected and aggregated.

Learn how to use the holiday season to drive long term loyalty throughout the year!

Upcoming Webinar: 10 Ways To Personalize The Holidays

What sets retailers apart from their competitors? It is the relationship that they have with customers. During this holiday season, it’s not just price that will separate winners from losers. Instead, retailers who can deliver relevant and personalized conversations with their customers —at scale— will realize the true advantage.

During this joint Merkle & 500friends webinar, we will explore consumer expectations for personalization and steps you can take now to improve your customer experience during the Holidays. Learn how to use the holiday season to drive long term loyalty throughout the year!

Title: 10 Ways To Personalize The Holidays (part of the Holiday Connected Consumer Series)

Date: Wednesday 17th September 2014

Time: 9am PST12pm EST

Speakers: Zimm Zimmerman (Vice President of Personalization) & Arif Damji (Senior Director of Strategy & Development)

Click here to sign-up!


Why I Like Facebook’s Ban on Rewarding Likes: Better Data

likeYou might think that, as CEO of a company that powers loyalty programs for over 50 retailers, I would be upset about Facebook’s recent announcement that the company will prohibit rewarding “likes” with incentives, monetary or otherwise.

In fact, I’m a big fan of Facebook’s move. For one thing, Facebook has restricted incentivizing social actions for years, so the new policy language only clarifies that stance. Also, I’ve long advised marketers against directly rewarding likes—500friends loyalty software actually disallows it—not only because it lives in a Facebook policy gray area, but also because it just feels wrong, and not in keeping with most brands’ values.

But the biggest reason I like Facebook’s like-rewarding ban? It has to do with the real value that Facebook offers for retailers. Some would say that’s attention or traffic, but I disagree.

It’s data. All-encompassing, personalization-powering, first-party data.

Just about every retailer I know has figured out that future success depends on personalizing customer experiences. That’s why loyalty programs are all the rage these days, with even Walmart getting into the game: not because rewards alone are retail’s salvation, but because rewards give consumers a reason to share information that retailers need to deliver on personalization. Transaction histories, of course, but also browsing behavior, service interactions, and product preferences. That’s also why you’re seeing more retailers offer rewards for non-purchase actions like filling out preference profiles, writing product reviews, and self-identifying in physical stores.

But even if they collected every possible byte during every single customer interaction, retailers would still be left with a highly flawed view, because those interactions add up to only a tiny fraction of who that customer is, what she does, and what she wants. To really power personalization, retailers need a window into what’s happening in the remaining 99.99% of her life.

And that’s where Facebook—along with other other pervasive social platforms—offers the greatest promise for retailers. When customers link their accounts to social profiles, the resulting customer picture, filled out with detailed lifestyle, demographic, and preference data, is like watching an HD movie after living your entire life with stick-figure drawings. Here’s just a glimpse of the picture that we show loyalty marketers based on social account linking:


Just some of the data that 500friends can offer retailers based on social account linking.

Imagine you’re a clothing retailer who wants to launch a new line inspired by a TV series, and you’re deciding between “Mad Men” or “Boardwalk Empire.” Without a socially enhanced data picture, the best you could do would be to make some guesses, perhaps educated by Nielsen, about the demographics of your customers and how those match the demographics of each show. But if a large portion of your customers have linked their social accounts, you’ll know not only which show is preferred overall by your customer base, but also how your most important segments weigh in.

Which is the real reason I cheer this move by Facebook, and why all marketers should join me. Because in the future, when you make a decision like tying up with “Mad Men,” you’ll be that much more certain that your customers will cheer too.

Justin Yoshimura is CEO of 500friends. Email him at justin@500friends.com.

500friends Talks Loyalty, Personalization at NRFtech 2014

At this year’s NRFtech, held earlier this week in Palos Verdes, CA, featured speaker Arif Damji of 500friends spoke about how innovative loyalty technology is disrupting retail.

Damji, Director of Strategy and Development at 500friends, described the trend in which 500friends customers are increasingly viewing loyalty programs as central repositories of customer information — aggregation hubs for POS, CRM, e-commerce, mobile, and social data. He also explained how the resulting holistic view is allowing 500friends retail clients to deliver remarkably personalized — and effective — customer experiences.


NRFtech Retail Technology Leadership Summit is a forum for leading retail IT executives and is the industry’s most influential senior-level IT event.

Does an Umbrella Loyalty Program Make Sense for Your Brands?

Is it better to have one loyalty program covering all of your brands, or separate programs for each? How you answer this question can have huge implications for customer experience and loyalty ROI. In a new paper from 500friends (below), we pose 5 key questions for senior marketers who are looking to determine the best approach.



Loyalty + Predictive Analytics = Personalization: The 500friends / AgilOne Partnership

In this video, recorded at IRCE 2014, 500friends Director of Strategy and Development Arif Damji talks about how 500friends LoyaltyPlus and AgilOne’s predictive analytics help retailers personalize customer experiences and offers.

500Friends + AgilOne from 500friends on Vimeo.

Mobile Loyalty Programs: 5 Emerging Must-Haves

(Originally posted on ExactTarget blog)

With Forrester reporting that mobile will account for 29% of online consumer purchases in 2014—up from 21% last year—it’s now imperative that your loyalty program be mobile too.

What, exactly, does mobile loyalty look like? When clients ask me that, I usually say the answer depends on what you sell, who your customers are, and what kind of relationship you’re looking to build. But so many loyalty marketers are now extending loyalty programs to mobile environments in ways that create new customer interactions and build brand value, that five mobile loyalty practices are quickly becoming essential:

1. Deliver full mobile access to loyalty benefits.

At a minimum, let customers enroll in your loyalty program, earn/redeem rewards, and see reward balances—all through mobile devices. Remarkably, many retail brands have not yet reached this point, but according to Howard Schneider, partner at loyalty consulting firm Metzner Schneider Associates, they will have to. “Customers today expect a program to deliver customization, value, and relevance everywhere, all the time,” Schneider says.

In addition, your loyalty program members should be able to redeem rewards at mobile checkout, and should not be forced to print out a coupon or visit a store. Walgreens goes one step further, allowing Balance Rewards members to clip digital coupons from the chain’s mobile app and link the savings to their loyalty accounts.

2. Tap location data to reward in-store interactions.

Retail brands with physical stores sometimes view mobile phones as the enemy, because phones enable showrooming by linking in-store customers with discounters. But savvy marketers are using loyalty programs to fight back, rewarding customers for interacting with their own mobile apps and websites. For example, loyalty program members at electronics retailer Best Buy receive 10 My Best Buy points just for logging into the Best Buy mobile app when near a store. Sephora, the cosmetics chain, sends alerts and messages to members who are in, or nearby, a Sephora store through an integration with Apple’s Passbook platform.

3. Nurture engagement with mobile promotions.

You want customers to engage with your brand in multiple environments—in-store, at their desks, and on the go. If you’re launching a new mobile app, offer a reward bonus for downloading it. Consider providing special bonuses to members who enroll through mobile channels. You can also send limited-time double points offers for buying through a mobile channel, encouraging customers to try it.

4. Integrate loyalty incentives with mobile experiences.

The most effective loyalty programs reward members beyond purchases. On mobile, this means offering rewards for social posts sent from smartphones, or for liking your page on Facebook’s mobile app. In Sephora’s mobile app, a “beauty board” allows loyalty program members to share photos of Sephora-created looks.

Since mobile customers are more likely to browse before buying, rewarding actions such as “add to wish list” can be especially effective at building valuable relationships. To illustrate just how common mobile loyalty is becoming, loyalty guru Schneider points out that even Sears, traditionally a technology follower, distributes a loyalty-powered app that promotes check-ins, product reviews, Instagram posts, and on-the-go sharing.

5. Leverage mobile loyalty data for a unified customer view.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a compelling mobile loyalty experience is that it gives mobile customers an incentive to identify themselves. That, in turn, makes it possible for marketers to get a clear, unified view of brand interactions across channels. Once you’re enabling and rewarding mobile interactions, make sure to integrate this data at the customer record level, which will power more effective clienteling—your ability to offer customers personalized service based on what you know about them—no matter how they shop with you. According to Steve Dennis, president of retail strategy and marketing firm SageBerry Consulting, mobile loyalty is the crucial bridge between offline and online. “If your loyalty program is not reflecting that all-channel view of consumer behavior,” he says, “you’re missing a big opportunity.”

This post originally appeared on ExactTarget blog here: http://www.exacttarget.com/blog/mobile-loyalty-programs-5-emerging-must-haves/