UK Loyalty Cards
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Photo of Jodi8 Tips for a Successful
Loyalty Card Scheme

By Jodi Cook, Plain-Talk Print Ltd

1. Formulate offers which seem valuable to customers but cost you very little

The most important thing to decide on when setting up a loyalty scheme is the offers you're going to make to your customers. I deliberately use the plural 'offers' because too many schemes only have a single reward, which won't appeal to everyone. By offering two or even three rewards, you'll 'press the buttons' of a far greater proportion of your customers, and therefore engage many more to take part.

Keeping the cost of your offers as low as possible sounds obvious but it's surprising how many schemes include offers which cost a substantial amount of money, when they really don't need to. There's no rule of thumb for how much an offer redemption should cost or be worth, but the 'holy grail' is to offer something with a high perceived value, but which doesn't cost you much.

The classic example is the bottle of wine in a restaurant. Consider this offer: "Receive a stamp every time you dine with us and spend over £15, then swap 5 stamps for a FREE bottle of house wine worth £10.95 or 10 stamps for a FREE bottle of champagne worth £27.95."

Even if a customer is very careful to spend the absolute minimum (£15) on each visit, then they will have spent £75 to obtain a bottle of house wine which probably costs the restaurant no more than £5, or £150 for champagne which only cost £12.

Here's another example: "Collect one stamp for every £3 you spend, then swap 5 stamps for a FREE medium coffee with flavour shot." Again, simple maths will tell you the absolute minimum spend is £15 for a coffee and shot which probably costs in the region of 75p.

My favourite type of offer is one which brings in the customers' friends (this is particularly effective if most of your customers are women): "Collect a stamp for every £2 you spend with us, then once this card has 20 stamps on it, you and a friend can both enjoy a homemade cupcake and a Special Hot Chocolate with Cream and Marshmallows ABSOLUTELY FREE!"

Using the friend offer in this way also introduces a potential new customer to your loyalty card scheme and to your establishment.

2. Make sure all staff are clear what the deal is

It's really important that all of your staff know what the loyalty scheme allows and doesn't allow. For example, if certain high-value items are excluded from the redemption offer, make sure all the staff know this, so there is no confusion at the till.

You don't want a customer saying "Well, such-and-such let me have that product last time I redeemed card, so why not now?" It's embarrassing for your staff and undermines your customers' confidence.

3. Make your offer as generous as you can afford

If you offer one stamp for spending £3 (for example), then staff need to know whether you get two stamps if you spend £6, three for £9 and so on. Or is it just one stamp regardless of the amount spent?

If you decide to give a stamp for every £3 spent rather than just a single stamp regardless of the amount spent, it's definitely a favourable thing in your customers' eyes – it can seem mean not to, and the whole point of the scheme is to generate good will and influence customers to choose you over your competitors.

4. Promote your loyalty scheme everywhere

Make sure your customers know about your scheme and use it. Leave cards on tables for customers to pick up, put a poster in your window and behind the till, consider having a special 'launch' day with balloons, banners, the lot! And it goes without saying to make sure staff ask every single customer if they have a card (more about this below).

If you know a customer is from a local workplace, such as an office complex or a call centre, why not give them a handful of loyalty cards and ask them to distribute them or pin them to a noticeboard? It might sound a far-fetched idea, but you might be pleasantly surprised by the number of customers who are happy to help you advertise in this way.

5. Make sure staff ask every single customer, every single time if they have a loyalty card

I can't stress this point enough. It needs to become automatic for staff members to ask customers at every purchase whether they have a loyalty card. Make sure your staff always ask if the customer has a card and, if they don't, give them a card (with a stamp on it, naturally!) – the trick here is not to ask if they want one; just give it to them and they'll almost certainly keep it.

6. Run 'promotions' such as double stamps at Easter, Halloween, Christmas and so on

Offering double stamps at certain times of the year, or even just for one day here and there, is a great way of raising the profile of your scheme. If you have collected email addresses or mobile phone numbers (see tip number 7), you can email/text your customer list to tell them about one-day double stamp events and the like.

You can even do these things on a whim and get a reputation for doing so – if you regularly have sellers of the Big Issue in your town, how about double stamps for those who have bought the most recent issue? Or if the NSPCC are collecting today and giving out stickers to those who have dropped a few coins in the collecting boxes, double stamps to reward those customers will most certainly be appreciated and will generate significant good will. Keep your eyes open for opportunities like that.

7. When card is redeemed, collect email or mobile numbers

When designing your cards, we can easily add a space for a customer to write in their email address or mobile phone number for you to keep in touch with them. Even if you're not sure how to use these details at the moment, it makes sense to start collecting them for when you're ready – even if that's several months away yet. If the only thing that a customer needs to do to earn their reward is to give you their email address or mobile number, many of them will give that information quite readily. Of course, if they decline, they must still get their reward.

8. See if other local business will promote you

If you're friendly with other local businesses, why not ask them if they'll display some of your cards in their shops/on their counters?

A great example of this that I've seen a few times is to ask your friendly local business to tell customers who take a card, "Mention you picked up this card from here, and you'll get double stamps to start your card off" – it makes your customer feel like a VIP, and generates good feeling towards the premises where they picked the card up from.


Remember: the whole point of the scheme is to generate good will, so always give the customer an extra stamp in these circumstances:

  • The customer has forgotten their card and asks for the stamps on next visit
  • The customer hasn't got a card but wants to put it on their friend's card
  • The customer is just cheeky enough to ask for an extra stamp!

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