Life keeps getting harder for brick and mortar businesses.  Retail stores face fierce online competition.  Restaurants have similar problems with delivery services, and fast food.  So how can you level the playing field?  How do you get people to keep coming in the door?  The answer, Loyalty Cards.

Loyalty Cards and Loyalty Programs

Loyalty cards are a simple way to keep people coming in the store.  They give people a sense of belonging, and they give you crucial data to run your business. They also keep people coming back.  But why are loyalty plans successful?  How do they keep clients coming back day in and day out?

Exclusivity

People with loyalty cards, especially well branded cards, feel like an exclusive group.  Start with branding the cards as “Platinum Rewards Cards.”  Or “Gold Member Cards.”  These give people the sense that they’re in a club not everyone gets to be in.

Also, make sure to offer rewards.  These will likely be tracked in your POS system.  But with most systems you can track points, give cash back, or even get free stuff with rewards accrued.  If you don’t have a POS system with loyalty features, we’ll get to that before the end!

You could also have different levels of customers.  A bronze, silver, gold system if you will.  This would allow you to tailor the rewards to the amount the customer spends in your store.  Say, Gold customers spend $3500 annually.  Silver members spend at least $500.  And anyone else falls below.

Depending on how good the rewards are, you can even charge for membership, like Sam’s Club, or Costco.

Data

Loyalty and rewards programs give you essential information about your customers.  How often does a member shop?  How much do they spend on average?  What do they buy most often?  What do they never buy?  What times and days are they most active?

You could answer those 5 questions and have tremendous insight into your customers.  Inventory you should carry, or shouldn’t.  You’ll also get insight into the types of customers come in and out, and how often.  Imagine how you could cut down on overhead. Cut down on payroll.  And increase sales in the right departments.

If you sold men & women’s clothing, and realized 80% of the money in your store is spent by women, then scale back the men’s stuff!  

If you realize that you’ve only sold 2 of a type of sweater, get rid of it!  If you realize that 90% of members who spend over $200 a month buy winter boots from you, GET MORE TYPES OF WINTER BOOTS!!

Marketing

Watch the promos you see at Kohl’s.  There’s a huge number of people who only shop at Kohl’s, because they have “Kohl’s Cash” to spend.  Meaning, they wouldn’t have even walked into a store unless they’d gotten something in the mail.  That coupon with “$15 of Kohl’s Cash” is a HUGE marketing advantage.

Using the data you got in the last section, you can start using it to market to people.  Someone bought a winter coat last week, send them a 20% off hats and gloves coupon.  This improves the chances they return, and get accessories.

Or if you have a restaurant, someone spent $140 last week, send them a “Free Dessert when using your member card” email.  This also improves the chance they come back.

This type of email is something Hubspot calls a “Nurture Path.”  Makes it simple to anticipate the needs of different customers and fulfill them.  This is how Kohl’s keeps you coming back!  Learn from the big box guys.  They know what they’re doing!

But my POS System doesn’t track loyalty cards!

Worry not, good buddy!  We’ve got you covered there too.  Many POS systems fall short in the loyalty department.  Even POS systems that have loyalty programs often don’t have great ones.  Many aren’t pliable enough to give the type of rewards you want.  So make sure you have the tracking software to keep everything straight.  You don’t want your loyalty program on the back of a napkin.

But there are some secondary app solutions that could help in a big way.

Thirdshelf   www.thirdshelf.com

This is my favorite.  Because on top of offering a very cool loyalty program, it helps to automate marketing.  Meaning it takes a lot of this marketing stuff off your hands, and lets you focus on your business.

It currently integrates seamlessly with Vend POS, Springboard Retail, and Lightspeed.   And my understanding is that they’re working on a plugin for Revel Systems.  So all the major iPad guys on this one.

Appcard   www.appcard.com

Appcard is another awesome loyalty program.  It offers a ton of features, and plugs in to a bunch of POS systems.  So this is a great option for those who can’t use Thirdshelf.

Loyalty Gator   www.loyaltygator.com

Loyalty Gator doesn’t work inside your POS system.  It works independently of other software.  So if you don’t use a POS, or if yours is really old school and there’s no way to replace it, then Loyalty Gator is your pick for sure.  It works well, it’s easy to use, and they have good tech support.

What about the loyalty cards themselves?

Loyalty cards can be anything.  A standard credit card size card is a great option.  Keytags are wonderful options, too.  At my company, Plastic Printers, we offer a few different options where you get a card and a keytag.

But when it comes to the cards, what you want is something with a premium look and feel.  Make sure you consult with real graphics people.  But you want to make sure that it speaks to your brand, and tells people why they need to keep coming back.

To sum it up…

The biggest companies on the planet all have loyalty programs.  And it’s because they know they work.  Target, Kohl’s, most gas stations, etc.  They all use loyalty programs to examine your purchasing habits, and find out what they can sell you more of.  They do it because it works, and they do it because it’s big money.  It’s also a fantastic way for them to mine data from their customers, to decide what products to carry, and what promotions work best.  Why not take a hint from the big box stores, and get geared up for the retail revolution? Gift cards are a great way to make money in the short term, but your long game is in customer loyalty and loyalty cards.

Make sure you check out my other blogs at POSRumor too!  And if you need to order loyalty cards, you can always contact my company, PlasticPrinters.

Cole Goebel
Cole Goebel is a POS Industry insider. He's an expert in encoding and barcode data, and has a great knowledge of POS integrations. Cole currently works at Plastic Printers in Minnesota, where he's the Channel Manager. He works directly with POS providers to deliver gift, and loyalty cards to their clients.
http://www.posrumor.com

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