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When we talk about digital marketing we often think first of techniques such as search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, email campaigns, micro sites, info graphics and even different forms of multimedia. One thing that is often overlooked is what a loyalty program app can do for your marketing efforts.

According to a Harris Interactive Poll, there are over 2.6 billion loyalty program memberships in the United States alone. That is 11 memberships for every adult living in the country. The reason there are so many loyalty programs out there is because they work. A recent study from Experian showed that three out of four (75 percent) U.S. companies with loyalty programs generate a return on investment. So, what about the other 25 percent: the ones that were not successful?

Those who did not generate a return on their investment likely failed because their loyalty program was not effective. They made mistakes along the way, or maybe they didn’t have a specific goal in mind. But this doesn’t have to be your fate. In fact, the odds are in your favor so if you do things the right way there is a good chance you will see some benefits from your loyalty program.

Focus on gathering data, not just repeat visits

If the average US shopper has 11 different memberships, then they are not shopping out of loyalty. They simply have cards they use at different stores. Early loyalty programs thought that the rewards offered would keep people coming back. You need to think differently. The rewards should be incentive to get your customers to use their loyalty card because this gives you the best opportunity to collect data on them and their shopping habits. You can find out what they bought, when they bought it, if it was during a sale, if it was a gift, etc. With this information on hand, you can better personalize your marketing efforts for that customer and that will really go a long way in building loyalty.

Give out the right type of rewards

The best rewards you can offer your loyalty program members are gift cards or coupons. To begin with, it encourages them to come back to your store, or visit a partner’s store. Secondly, it requires absolutely zero inventory on your part so you save money in stocking, shipping and receiving costs. You don’t even have to keep the gift cards on hand, they can be delivered via email and printed out by the customer.

This too can provide you with some interesting data. You can measure how long it takes for a customer to use their reward or even if they are more prone to cash in a reward after you send them an email or if they engage with one of your other marketing efforts.

Take a tiered approach

People love a little bit of competition so if they feel like they can earn a higher status through their loyalty, you may get them through your doors more often. However, don’t just give them a badge for achieving a higher level. Offer more points or special deals only available to those who have reached a certain status. That will really get them working to move up in the ranks. Also, it is important to make it possible for people to earn higher status through your program. If it is too difficult, they will get bored and move on.

You can even tie status and points into other efforts, such as social media marketing campaigns. Give extra points or badges to those who share content or experiences with other customers on a frequent basis.

Partner up

Another way to help your loyalty program succeed is through partnerships. Offer the opportunity to earn gift cards to partners, such as a coffee shop or an online retailer that doesn’t compete with you for customers. These programs have proven to be wildly successful and really helps drive your customers to earn more points.

Loyalty programs continue to grow, and with the advent of the smartphone customers are able to better track their program cards along with their points. If you are looking to start a program for your customers one last bit of advice is to embrace technology. Offer up an app to your customers and be sure to use technology to collect, store and analyze all of that data that will start coming in. Most important, though, don’t forget to market your loyalty program itself. If your customers aren’t aware of it and the value it can provide them, then you aren’t going to see it being used enough.