Best-in-Class Loyalty Program Features Worth Emulating: Parts One & Two

December 8, 2015CCG Retail Marketing Blog

Part One


Take some tips from the big guys.

One of the most common questions we’re asked is: What’s the best retail loyalty program out there?

The answer, however, isn’t as simple as you might think. Although there are elements of several consumer-facing programs that stand out, there isn’t a single program that hits on all cylinders.

It’s alive, alive! Now I know it is really possible…
-Dr. Henry Frankenstein

Create a Compelling Reward Structure
Let’s take Sears for example. Sears? Yes, Sears. While the big-box store may have big troubles, it also has some big wins hidden in its Shop Your Way Rewards program.

Who knew that you could earn SYW Rewards on your Starbucks purchases? Surprise! Members can enroll their major credit card in SYW Rewards to earn points for online purchases with a host of third-party partners, such as Starbucks, Burger King and Avis. They can even earn points by purchasing Groupons with their linked credit card.

SYF Rewards also has apps that allow you to earn points, such as:
Who Knows Me Better? Choose five of your favorite products to test your friends’ knowledge on how well they know you. See how well you know them by correctly choosing their five favorite products out of a list of 10. If you know your friends well enough, you’ll earn a point for every product you choose correctly!

As the plethora of SYW Reward earnings show, the plain vanilla days of offering a simple discount as a reward are going the way of dial-up Internet access. Although the best loyalty program can’t make up for a lackluster product assortment and poor real estate decisions, the smart marketer might find some useful benefits to spice up their own loyalty program.

Find unique ways to keep customers engaged — even when they’re not buying!
Although it’s a newcomer in the loyalty program scene, Walgreens’ Balance Rewards is leading the way in the rewards department. While it may still follow the time-honored points-per-dollar structure, it’s making waves for what you can earn points on.

Walgreens launched the program by offering points for prescriptions and member discounts on specific products. But the real game-changer was the ability to earn points for wellness activities. It started with Steps with Balance Rewards and has now expanded to Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices, which gives points for tracking activities such as walking, running and cycling.

Members can also earn badges for meeting milestones. They can sync their badges with leading fitness devices and apps, and then track activity and earn points automatically.

Another recent addition to the program is the Everyday Points option, which is an opt-in benefit that offers 10 points per dollar spent on thousands of items.

Start Building Your Customized Program
As you can see, there’s more than one top-notch loyalty program to imitate. Maybe not every best in class feature will work with your program — that’s okay. Pick the features that your members will use and appreciate.

Want to know about more best-in-class loyalty program features? Stay tuned for part two of our series next month where we’ll discuss unique ways to offer personalized rewards.

Part Two


Offer unique ways for customers to earn and burn rewards.

As promised, we’re back this month with more best-in-class loyalty program features worth mirroring. As we mentioned last month, there’s no single loyalty program that outlines exactly how it should be done for everyone. So we’ve picked a few for this issue that offer distinct opportunities for you to consider.

Give Your Customers an Adventure
The North Face VIPeak Rewards program is a sleeper program that flies under the radar compared to the heavy hitters we mentioned last month, but it offers some unique redemption options. The VIPeak Rewards Catalog allows members who have amassed over 10,000 points to use them on a variety of unusual rewards, from a free lift ticket, to a Nepali climbing adventure with a pro.

Another unique spin: Besides earning 10 points per dollar on purchases, members also earn points by participating in The North Face-sponsored events, such as the Endurance Challenge and ongoing speaker series.

Create a Program That Offers Variety
Another retailer that creates exciting ways to redeem points is Gilt. Just as the merchandise is always changing, so is the loyalty program. With more than 10 million members, Gilt connects users with dramatic sales on designer clothing and accessories. Members can earn points by shopping, referring friends or even just visiting a sale on These points can then be redeemed for exclusive sales, early access to merchandise, free shipping and more.

But here’s the twist: Early access and other perks earn you points. There are a variety of ways to earn and redeem points. Early sale access—a huge advantage at a flash-sale site—starts at 250 points, free shipping at 3,500 points, and discounts up to 30 percent require 20,000 points.

Create a Personalized Experience
Sephora’s Beauty Insider is a standout for creating a feeling of exclusivity for members at a mass merchandising level. The loyalty program not only leverages preferences to personalize the member’s experience through product recommendations and beauty tips, but it also uses that information to create curated product sets for rewards. Members can also request a free gift any day during their birthday month.

At $350 in spending, you enter VIB status and earn advance access to events. But at VIB Rouge, with a threshold of $1,000, you unlock the door to exclusive events, free gifts and even exclusive merchandise.

Make It So Easy to Use They Don’t Know They’re Using It
You knew My Starbucks Rewards program had to be on the list somewhere, didn’t you? There’s no denying that Starbucks has done a lot of things right. And one of the aspects we like best is how easy the program is to use.

The mobile app is user friendly, never requires accessing the website or dealing with the register if that’s not your thing and completely manages all of rewards program benefits, such as monitoring your rewards status, access to new products, mobile ordering and even payment.

Members can earn stars (points) whether you purchase their product from their namesake stores, Teavana or La Boulange, or buy a prepackaged coffee from a grocery store. Members also collect stars by paying with their registered Starbucks, Teavana or La Boulange cards at participating stores. Stars can be redeemed for different rewards, and members can gain higher levels of rewards by using their Starbucks card more frequently. Perhaps best of all, you can receive a free iTunes song each week — which is music to our ears.

Get Started on Your Unique Loyalty Program
These best-in-class programs represent just a few examples of how you can offer unique ways for your customers to earn and use their rewards. As always, you should consider incorporating only the features that fit with your program and members.

Still thirsty for more best-in-class loyalty program features? Don’t miss part three of our series, when we’ll discuss how to give exclusive rewards for high-tiered members and large purchases.

Need help figuring out which best-in-class loyalty program features will work with your members? CCG is here to help. We’ve assisted top retailers in a variety of industries create and refresh their loyalty programs. Learn more about what we can do for you: Call us at 800.525.0313 or send us an email today.

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