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Loyalty Through Email

  |  August 14, 2000   |  Comments

Customer loyalty. A coveted treasure we all strive for. What's the best way to achieve it, and where does it come from? A good portion of it stems from a strong perceived value by the customer, as well as solid, relevant content and excellent service. Additionally, your customers must truly believe that your offerings hold the best solution for them. Kim tells you how to launch a program to help instill customer loyalty through the wonderful channel of email.

Customer loyalty. It's like a coveted treasure one of those desirable things we all strive for. What's the best way to achieve it? Where does it come from? Sure, a good portion of it stems from a strong perceived value by the customer... as well as solid, relevant content and excellent service. Additionally, your customers must truly believe that your offerings encompass the best solution for them at all times.

Of course, there are programs we can implement to help instill customer loyalty. And, luckily for us, some of those programs can be launched through the wonderful channel of email. How? Well, rewarding customers is one way, and it sure can go a long way...

Look at the success of MyPoints Cybergold. Even before MyPoints and Cybergold joined forces, each became well adept at offering emailed incentives to customers who made online purchases with any of their affiliates.

Just about any online merchant can implement rewards programs such as this for their own products and services provided the technology and the right incentives are in place.

How about creating a loyalty program similar to ye olde S&H green stamps? I remember my grandmother used to collect these from her local supermarket. Every time she made a purchase, she'd collect another stamp or two. Once she had a certain amount (stored in her handy dandy stamp book), she'd "earn" a free gift of her choosing.

The gifts weren't bad, either: a coffeemaker, a lamp, a ceramic bowl set, a radio. The more stamps you collected, the higher the gift's value.

Yes, it was similar in model to any online points system. Not to mention frequent flyer miles another incentive-based loyalty program. And we've all seen those punch-out cards offered by video stores (and others), where every purchase or rental earns an additional punch or two. Once your card has been completely punched, you earn a free video.

So how can you apply this type of program to your own emailed customer communications? I'm sure someone's done this, but I envision a campaign built around earned gifts, similar in setup to the green stamps model.

Suppose you've made a couple of purchases at VitaminsAplenty.com. You're not a "regular" yet, though you find the selection and service to be first rate. Despite that fact, however, you occasionally shop at other online vitamin stores. Just how does an email marketer at VitaminsAplenty get you to be completely loyal?

If she doesn't already offer an emailed newsletter of some sort, she needs to. However, she also needs to add an incentive component to it. Maybe the incentive consists of an offer in every newsletter to earn emailed digital "gold coins" or not to be unoriginal even stamps, for that matter. Like S&H, every purchase earns an extra coin or stamp. Once customers hit a certain point, they can apply those trinkets to a free gift from your site.

The coins or stamps could be sent electronically in an HTML format within an email confirmation after every purchase. This way, they can be seen by the customer and even printed, if desired - in their full graphics glory.

The message in the confirmation could read something like, "Congratulations, Mr. Customer! As you can see, you just earned two more gold coins from your last purchase! You now hold 16 TOTAL gold coins. Just four more to go, and you can get ANY vitamin or natural herb gift from Section A on our Gifts page. But remember, if you can collect a total of 40 gold coins, you can begin earning more extravagant gifts such as those found in Section B..."

Who wouldn't want to play?

Of course, there would need to be a plain-text version of the newsletter as well. That particular version can link customers to their own "special customer" page, where they can see their earnings showcased for themselves.

Even though the coins would be digital, and not truly "tangible," a reward such as this can still feel tangible and can make your customers' online shopping experience both fun and rewarding. And, of course, the rewards can be whatever you deem them to be. Free gifts don't hit your market? Hey, cold, hard cash usually works.

Granted, some type of automated tallying solution would need to be put in place for this to work properly. And the aforementioned "must-haves," including excellent products, service, and selection, HAVE to be a part of the entire scenario. No question.

As I develop my own loyalties to certain online retailers, I know for a fact I would be open to more programs such as this. Free gifts for buying stuff I would already buy anyway? Where do I sign up?

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Kim MacPherson

Kim MacPherson is President and Founder of Inbox Interactive, a full-service email marketing agency specializing in promotional copywriting, HTML design, planning, and deployment/tracking solutions. Kim is also the author of "Permission-Based E-mail Marketing That Works!"

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