Things are pretty tough nowadays. The COVID-19 pandemic is not just causing people to worry about their health. It’s also causing serious financial damage, with the stock market seeing its worst day since the 1987 Black Monday crash. It even got to the point where people are wondering if we’re going to have a new recession on our hands.
As a business owner, you should pay close attention to health regulations and how to manage your employees safely. That should be your priority at this point. But, all that considered, it’s normal for business people to ask themselves: now that we have to review our budget, should my rewards program be cut out? Should we keep investing resources in our loyalty program? The fact is history proves that loyalty programs are most useful during financial crises, as they help to retain the current customers.
Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Loyalty Programs Right Now
First of all – you need your customers but your customers need you too, now more than ever. Many consumers have come to rely on brands for their daily routines, and some of them even trust brands more than governments. Not to mention 64% of them are belief-driven buyers, meaning they expect your business to take a stance on societal issues (like the current coronavirus crisis, for example).
So the last thing your loyal customers would need is to see your brand losing hope and panicking. They’re already bombarded with tons of fake news that only causes irrational panic buying and fear. They need a voice of reason that is helpful, honest, and objective. And a brand they do business with regularly is as good a place as any to get that.
Plus, you don’t want to lose their trust by giving into a panic. The moment you do, you’ll likely lose their business too. Nine out of ten consumers will stop buying from a brand they no longer trust. And that will cost your business significantly more than what you would invest in your loyalty program. Keep in mind – acquiring a new customer will cost five times more than keeping an existing one!
Also, even though spending tends to drop during recessions, brands that focus all their efforts on their most loyal and profitable customers are much more likely to keep their business stable. True, statistics have shown that customer loyalty can go down during recessions. However, it mostly happens to businesses that choose to ignore their loyal customers during those times, and just expect them to resume their normal purchasing behaviors “once everything is over.”
Loyalty Programs Made Huge Progress in Times of Crisis
Some of the biggest achievements in the loyalty industry happened during serious downturns. Here’s a quick overview:
- Betty Crocker officially invented Modern loyalty programs in 1929 by introducing the so-called “box tops” (redeemable coupons printed on product packages) during the Great Depression.
- American Airlines revolutionized the loyalty industry with its Frequent Fliers program in 1981 while the early 1980s recession was going on.
- Card-based loyalty programs became popular in the 1990s – although most of the Western World suffered a recession in the early 1990s.
- Starbucks launched its widely-successful loyalty program in April 2008 right when the financial crisis of 2007-08 was reaching its peak. And, as of March 2019, Starbucks attributes 40% of its total sales to the Rewards Program.
How to Make the Most of Your Loyalty Program Right Now
Keeping the program active and continuing to allocate resources to it is a good start. But it’s not enough for the time being. You need to adapt it to the current needs your customers will have during this crisis caused by the Coronavirus. Here are some tips to help you do that;
1. Offer Home Deliveries
Self-isolation is pretty widespread as people are reporting coronavirus symptoms or are coming back from a vacation abroad. Also, many businesses are moving to the work-from-home model to avoid unnecessary risks.
If you are a QSR, coffee shop, or retailer, you’ve most likely noticed that foot traffic has gone down at your stores. This doesn’t mean your customers don’t want to buy from you. They just can’t do it since they can’t leave their homes. Doing that would mean risking their health, putting others at risk, and potentially getting huge fines too.
That’s why, if you are still open, you should start offering home deliveries. Ideally, together with online ordering to make the whole experience more convenient for your customers. Also to have an alternative sales channel that doesn’t require social contact.
Just be sure to train your staff. They should wear gloves and masks, and also avoid direct contact with your customers. Instead, they should leave the items at their door, and notify them about it once they leave.
It’s a bit of a hassle for you, sure, but it will allow clients to keep buying from you while still, they are safe at home. Remember, handling home deliveries directly is more time-efficient and less of a health risk than using a third-party delivery service.
2. Incentivize Home Deliveries With Bonus Rewards
Home deliveries are convenient enough, but – right now – they need extra incentive to make sure your self-isolated customers will use them.
You can do that by offering extra loyalty points, bonus coupons, or discounts for home deliveries. Also, you can use eGifts. You just send customers who used home deliveries an eGift code via your loyalty app which they can later redeem at your place of business when they’re feeling better and can leave their homes. Home deliveries are convenient enough, but – right now – they need extra incentive to make sure your service is safe.
3. Promote Solidarity Between your Customers with eGifts
Difficult times bring out the best in people. People care about their family, friends, and work colleagues. Promote your eGifts as a way to show solidarity between people. This will give your business cash in advance while the customers receive affection from family or friends.
This option will work best for coffee shops. It’s likely not all your customers will be sick in self-isolation. Many of them will likely be okay, and will still have to get out of the house – especially if they can’t work remotely. For them, you should use the eGift to incentivize online ordering and mobile ordering. That way, they can order and pay ahead, and also reduce the time they spend at your location and the interactions they have with your staff.
4. Add Mobile Payments
Not all business models can support home deliveries. And in some situations, your customers will need to come down to your store, restaurant, or coffee shop.
You can reduce how much contact customers have with your staff through online ordering and mobile ordering, yes, but mobile payments offer much more.
They will keep your customers and staff safer by avoiding cash, which is a problematic source of germs. So much so that South Korea’s central bank even started taking all banknotes out of circulation for two weeks, while also burning others. Some even argue that the coronavirus crisis might boost the adoption of mobile payments.
So, you get to show how in touch your brand is with what’s going on in the world. Also, you’ll stay ahead of the competition. And lastly, mobile payments are simply more convenient, secure, and more profitable for your loyalty program since customers will be more likely to buy from you thanks to them.
Need Help With Your Loyalty Program?
Things can be overwhelming at this time, and we know how hard it can be to make the right call – especially if you don’t even have a loyalty program app yet. Well, that’s something we can help you with.
Instead of trying to develop it in-house or find a freelancer to do it, we can handle all that hassle for you. We have years of experience making white-labeled loyalty programs for dozens of retailers, quick-service restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels. So, we know how to make a program and app your customers will love to use every day. Also, we’ll start making mobile wallets soon too – which will go well together with your loyalty program.
Give us a call or send us a message today. We’ll give you a quote that perfectly fits all your business needs.
We know it currently might not seem like your loyalty program should be a priority, but loyalty is exactly what your customers need from you right now. To show them that you respect how loyal they’ve been to your brand over the years and that you let consumer demands, not panic and fake news, run your business.
So keep focusing your resources on your rewards program and adapt it to the coronavirus crisis to meet all your customers’ demands. It will pay off.
We recommend taking action as soon as possible, though. Don’t forget – your customers are watching your every move, especially in difficult times like this.