Resource Page: Loyalty Programme 101

What is a Loyalty Programme?

A loyalty programme, also known as a rewards programme or customer loyalty programme, is a structured marketing strategy implemented by brands to encourage and incentivise customers make repeat purchases and add-value to increase retention.

These programmes are designed to develop customer loyalty and build a long-lasting relationship between a brand and its customers.

Customers typically earn rewards or benefits in exchange for their ongoing custom and engagement with the brand. These rewards can take various forms, such as points, discounts, cashback, exclusive offers, free products, or access to special events or services.

The ultimate goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship: customers receive value and rewards for their loyalty, and businesses gain customer retention, increased sales, and the opportunity to better understand and serve their customer base.

Benefits of Loyalty Programmes

Having a robust loyalty programme has many advantages. It guides businesses towards sustainable growth and enhanced customer relationships. 

Breaks the Over-Reliance on Price Cuts

They offer a strategic alternative to the race for lower prices. By developing emotional bonds, you reduce the need for constant price-based promotions. This allows you to focus on retaining customers through meaningful interactions.

Boosted Sales and Revenue

Loyalty initiatives, with their exclusive perks, boost transaction frequency and overall sales, creating a win-win scenario for both businesses and customers.

Enhanced Customer Retention

Loyalty programmes are the unsung heroes of customer retention. By providing value beyond transactions, you can build bonds that transcend ordinary buyer-seller relationships. This helps you to foster loyalty and trust among your customers.

Increased Customer Engagement

With a loyalty programme, you can engage customers on a personal level. You can do this by offering tailored incentives and creating memorable experiences. Real-world examples, like Sephora’s Beauty Insider programme, showcase the transformative power of personalised engagement.

Boosted Brand Loyalty

By tapping into the human desire for exclusivity and recognition, loyalty programmes leverage exclusive offerings to foster lasting emotional connections with consumers.

Customer Insights and Data

Beyond rewards, loyalty programmes serve as invaluable tools for collecting customer insights and data. Examples like Amazon Prime illustrate how businesses can enhance the shopping experience through personalised offerings derived from data analysis.

Drive Repeat Business

Loyalty programmes incentivise repeat business through tiered structures that offer rewards of increasing value. This strategic approach turns customers into advocates, contributing not only to business growth but also to customer loyalty.


Types of Loyalty Programmes

A Loyalty programme is an essential tool if you’re seeking to enhance customer engagement and retention.

Here is a summary of the main types of loyalty programme. For a more in-depth review visit our article, which discusses the different types of loyalty programme.

Always On (Instant Reward) Programmes:

Always On Instant Reward Programs are designed to provide immediate gratification to customers for their actions or purchases. Unlike traditional points systems where customers accumulate points over time, instant reward programmes offer immediate benefits, creating a sense of instant value and customer engagement.

Customers receive instant discounts, freebies, or upgrades upon completing a purchase or performing a specific action, making the overall experience more rewarding and encouraging continued interaction with the brand. Real-time rewards reinforce positive behaviour, boosts customer satisfaction, and cultivates a sense of loyalty by delivering instant, tangible benefits.

Points-Based Loyalty Programmes (Earn & Burn):

Points-based programmes are among the most popular loyalty initiatives, allowing customers to accumulate points based on their purchases. These points can be redeemed for discounts, free products, or other incentives. This system incentivises repeat purchases, encouraging customers to stay engaged and loyal.

Tiered Loyalty Programmes:

Tiered programmes categorise customers into different levels based on their engagement and spending. As customers progress through tiers, they unlock increasing benefits, such as exclusive discounts, early access to sales, or personalised services. This approach motivates customers to ascend tiers, nurturing long-term loyalty.

Loyalty Partnership Programmes:

Coalition or partnership programmes involve partnerships between two or more businesses to offer customers a broader range of earning and redemption options. Customers can earn points or other rewards across various participating businesses and redeem them for other incentives or products within the partner network. This collaborative approach expands the programme’s appeal and enhances the partnering brands value proposition. Partnership programmes also allow participating, non-competing, brands to access each others audience to extend their reach.

Premium Loyalty Programmes:

Premium (or subscription-based) loyalty programmes involve customers paying a regular fee to access exclusive benefits and rewards – e.g. Amazon Prime. This model encourages ongoing engagement and provides predictable revenue for the business. Subscribers enjoy perks like free shipping, special discounts, or early product access, reinforcing their loyalty.

Gamified Loyalty Programmes:

Gamified programmes introduce an element of fun and competition by incorporating gaming mechanics like challenges, badges, or levels. Gamification can also be incorporated into other types of loyalty programmes such as ‘Tiered’ to increase engagement.

Customers engage with the programme through interactive and enjoyable experiences, earning rewards as they complete tasks or reach milestones. The gamification aspect adds excitement and entices customers to participate actively, reinforcing loyalty through entertainment and rewards.

Referral Loyalty Programmes:

Referral loyalty programmes harness the power of existing customers to expand a brand’s customer base. Customers are incentivised to refer friends, family, or acquaintances to the business, often in exchange for rewards such as discounts, credits, or exclusive products/services.

This type of programme capitalises on word-of-mouth marketing and leverages the trust and influence of satisfied customers. It not only boosts customer acquisition but also creates loyalty among existing customers who are rewarded for advocating for the brand. Referral programmes create a win-win scenario, driving growth through enthusiastic brand ambassadors while nurturing a loyal community of engaged customers.

Drive growth & revenue by choosing the right type of loyalty programme for your business:

Loyalty and Reward Programme Guide (2)

Loyalty Programme Examples

Showing different examples of active loyalty programmes is the most effective way of demonstrating the nuances between them. As you’ll see, each example benefits specific businesses, industries and business goals in various ways.

1. HelloFresh – Always On (Instant Rewards)

HelloFresh offers meal kit subscriptions alongside their ‘Always On’ loyalty programme. This programme provides 24/7 access to exclusive offers and benefits for all active subscribers. Unlike many loyalty programmes with complex earning criteria or delayed rewards, HelloFresh’s approach ensures continual engagement. Accessibility means customers are rewarded at any stage of their journey with HelloFresh, fostering ongoing interest and participation without the hassle of meeting specific requirements.

2. Graze – Always On (Instant Rewards)

Graze, a provider of curated healthy snack boxes also uses an ‘Always On’ or ‘Instant Rewards’ loyalty programme. This strategy instantly rewards customer engagement without additional charges, offering tangible benefits like savings on groceries or essential expenses. Like HelloFresh’s, Graze’s programme ensures ongoing customer involvement. The simplicity and immediate value of these rewards contribute to sustaining customer interest and loyalty.

3. Starbucks and Spotify – Loyalty Partnership

The partnership between Starbucks and Spotify leverages technology to personalise the coffeehouse experience. ‘My Starbucks Reward’ members curate Spotify playlists to enjoy in-store. This collaboration enhances customers’ personalised experiences and drives engagement. Customising customer interactions also creates opportunities for both brands to expand their customer base and establish differentiation with one another’s audiences.

4. Marriott Bonvoy and Uber – Loyalty Partnership

Marriott Bonvoy and Uber’s collaboration is based on a points-based system that incentivises desired customer behaviours across both platforms. Customers earn points for various activities, including using Uber services and dining at Marriott restaurants. This synergy between hospitality and transportation services amplifies engagement by offering rewards for routine activities, encouraging cross-brand interactions and tangible benefits.

5. Airbnb – Referral Programme

Airbnb’s referral programme creates a win-win situation for both current users and their referrals by providing travel credits. The programme fosters engagement by incentivising existing users to share positive experiences with their friends and family. The inherent trust synonymous with referral marketing and programmes, naturally leads to higher engagement from newcomers more inclined to have long-term relationships with the brand.

6. Duolingo – Gamified Loyalty

Duolingo’s gamified loyalty programme integrates playful elements into language learning. Through a points-based system, users earn Experience Points (XP) for completing lessons and maintaining consistent learning habits. Daily streaks, challenges, and leaderboards create a sense of accomplishment and competition, encouraging users to return regularly. This approach keeps users engaged and committed to their language learning goals.

7. Panera Bread – Gamified Loyalty

Panera Bread’s loyalty programme employs gamification through exclusive challenges and savings for members. By creating a sense of anticipation and satisfaction, Panera Bread effectively encourages customer participation. The programme not only retains existing customers but also attracts new ones by highlighting the exclusive benefits of joining.

8. Ulta Beauty – Tiered Loyalty

Ulta Beauty’s multi-tiered loyalty programme, ‘Ultamate Rewards’, operates on a structure where members earn points for purchases, unlocking higher tiers with more valuable benefits. This tiered system is an example of a loyalty programme working exceptionally well with a specific niche. In this case, aligning well with beauty and cosmetic products that perpetuates a sense of social status and exclusivity. Elevated privileges at higher tiers encourage continued engagement and incentivise customers to strive for elite status.

9. Chase Bank – Earn and Burn

Chase Bank’s Ultimate Rewards programme linked to specific credit cards allows customers to accrue points or miles for various purchases, redeemable for travel, cash back, and more. This flexible redemption system transforms routine spending into tangible benefits, fostering ongoing engagement and loyalty among cardholders. With their versatile rewards system, Chase adapts to diverse customer preferences, securing long term retention and consistent engagement.

10. JD Gyms – Premium Loyalty

JD Gyms’ Plus Membership, a premium loyalty programme, adds value to existing gym memberships by incentivising engagement through gamification and triggered incentives. Encouraging specific actions such as referrals and regular gym attendance has resulted in significant uptake of premium subscriptions. This model demonstrates how customers are willing to invest more for added benefits and enhanced experiences.

Loyalty Programme Features

Crafting an effective loyalty programme involves considering both overarching traits and specific features. Successful loyalty programs prioritise a seamless user experience, creating emotional connections through hassle-free interactions from enrolment to reward redemption. This not only boosts engagement but also creates long-term relationships.

High levels of personalisation, engaging communication, and alignment with brand values are essential for connecting with customers. Loyalty programs need to provide measurable results, establishing clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track and optimise programme performance. Scalability is crucial for adapting to evolving market trends and accommodating a growing customer base.

Key loyalty programme features include

  • Dynamic rewards stand out
  • Mobile-first user interfaces are critical
  • Data insights 
  • API architecture 
  • Anti-fraud measures 
  • Points and tiers
  • White label technology
  • Conditional reward triggers
  • Referral programme integration
  • Gamification
  • Card-linking
  • Affiliate network integration

Backing up loyalty programmes with additional services, including technical, customer, and marketing support, is crucial for ensuring smooth operations, addressing participant needs, and fostering positive relationships. This comprehensive approach drives sustained engagement and promotes brand advocacy, ultimately contributing to the programme’s overall success.

Gamification in Loyalty Programmes

Gamification in customer loyalty programmes is a dynamic and effective approach that appeals to the desire for fun, competition, and recognition, while also delivering real value to customers. It’s a win-win strategy that builds lasting relationships between brands and their customers.

Boosts Customer Engagement:

Gamification in customer loyalty involves applying game-like elements and mechanics to loyalty programmes, transforming the customer experience. By introducing elements such as points, badges, leaderboards, and rewards, businesses can make interactions more engaging and enjoyable. This results in increased customer engagement, as individuals are motivated to participate and earn rewards through these playful and competitive elements.

Creating Incentives for Loyalty:

Gamification provides a powerful tool for creating incentives that drive customer loyalty. Customers are drawn to loyalty programmes that offer not only tangible rewards but also the thrill of competition and achievement. By gamifying the loyalty experience, businesses can make customers feel that their loyalty is not just appreciated but also an exciting and rewarding journey.

Improving Customer Retention:

Customer loyalty programmes are designed to keep customers coming back, and gamification plays a key role in achieving this. Through challenges, quests, and interactive experiences, businesses can build a loyal customer base that returns frequently. The competitive and fun nature of gamification keeps customers hooked, reducing churn and increasing customer lifetime value.

Data-Driven Personalisation:

Gamification provides valuable data on customer preferences and behaviors. This data can be used to personalize marketing efforts, tailoring offers and recommendations to individual customers. By analysing game-related data, businesses gain insights into what motivates their customers, allowing for more effective and targeted engagement.

Enhancing Brand Loyalty:

Gamification not only boosts customer loyalty but also deepens brand loyalty. When customers associate a brand with enjoyable and rewarding experiences, they are more likely to become brand advocates and recommend it to others. Gamification, when done right, can turn customers into enthusiastic supporters, positively impacting a brand’s reputation.

Staying Competitive:

As more businesses adopt gamification in their customer loyalty programmes, staying competitive requires staying ahead in the gamification game. Innovative and creative approaches to loyalty can set a brand apart in a crowded marketplace, helping it attract and retain a loyal customer base that values both the product or service and the rewarding experience that comes with it.


Earn and Burn Loyalty Programmes

With technology providing abundant choices for consumers, brands face challenges in setting themselves apart and retaining customer loyalty.  Many businesses turn to earn and burn loyalty programmes as a solution to these challenges.

How Do Earn and Burn Loyalty Programmes Work?

This type of loyalty programme involves customers earning points for purchases or desirable actions, which they can then redeem for exclusive rewards, discounts, or other perks. This approach, also known as a point-based transactional programme, is particularly effective for businesses with a high purchase frequency.

Benefits for Customers:

This type of loyalty programme provides several benefits for customers, including exclusive rewards, savings, personalised experiences, reward flexibility, and recognition and status. All these benefits contribute to an enhanced overall customer journey.

Benefits for Businesses:

For businesses, earn and burn loyalty programmes lead to increased customer retention, access to valuable customer data, improved customer engagement, brand advocacy, and a competitive advantage in the market. When properly implemented and managed, such programmes have a transformational effect on businesses and support long-term growth.

Tips for Designing Earn and Burn Loyalty Programmes:

To build a successful earn and burn loyalty programme, you must follow several best practices. While the needs of each programme may vary depending on the brand, there are general tips that can improve your chances of designing a successful programme. These tips and best practices include:

  • defining objectives,
  • customer segmentation,
  • simplicity and transparency,
  • diverse reward options,
  • offering tiered reward levels,
  • gamification, and
  • strategic promotion.

Pitfalls to Avoid:

Avoiding potential pitfalls is another crucial component of building a successful earn and burn programme. Learning to identify and mitigate the common risks associated with loyalty programmes sets you up for a better outcome. Potential pitfalls to avoid include:

  • inadequate alignment with business goals,
  • overly restrictive expiration policies,
  • underutilisation of customer data,
  • insufficient monitoring and analysis, and
  • inadequate integration across channels.

Case Studies of Successful Earn and Burn Programmes:

You can learn a lot from case studies of successful earn and burn loyalty programmes. Notable examples include Starbucks (Starbucks Rewards), Delta Air Lines (Delta SkyMiles), Sephora (Sephora Beauty Insider), and Hilton (Hilton Honors). These successful programmes showcase the impact of well-designed earn and burn loyalty programmes on customer engagement and brand loyalty. They emphasise the importance of loyalty programmes in today’s competitive markets and encourage businesses to adopt a proactive approach to cultivating customer loyalty.

Tiered Loyalty Programmes

Tried, tested and proven to be a favourite of brands that want a compelling point of difference, higher engagement and more detailed segmentation of their customer bases. Tiered loyalty programmes offer businesses opportunities to flex their creative muscles and build brand identities synonymous with novel and unique experiences.

How Do Earn and Burn Loyalty Programmes Work?

Customers must fulfil certain actions or behaviours e.g., a certain amount of repeat purchases, to reach higher ranks or tiers. Rewards and benefits grow in value to entice customers to progress to higher levels of the loyalty programme. Customers are driven by psychological drivers such as the fear of missing out (FOMO) and the desire to attain higher social statuses.

Benefits for Customers:

Higher valued rewards, more personalised experiences, additional benefits in services (e.g., free shipping or early access to new products), and experiences that make loyal customers feel seen and appreciated.

Benefits for Businesses:

Increased accuracy in data collection due to segmentation tailored around specific audience groups. Also benefits businesses by securing long term engagement and consistent revenue streams. Customers are less likely to abandon higher ranks – which they perceive higher value. As a result, spending increases in tandem with the frequency that customers shop with your brand.

Tips for Designing Earn and Burn Loyalty Programmes:

Follow the best practice, tip and strategy below to get your tiered loyalty programme off to a good start:

  • Make the journey towards higher ranks and rewards clear and simple to follow.
  • Use branded names for each tier to make them more aligned with your business and unique.
  • Support the programme with omnichannel support and communications to make the experience cohesive.

Pitfalls to Avoid:

Some of the most common pitfalls seen when businesses attempt to implement tiered loyalty programmes include:

  • Not striking a balance between valuable rewards and attainable tiers in the customer journey.
  • Underestimating the tech burden of designing, building and monitoring a tiered loyalty programme
  • Inadvertently designing a tier progression path that’s unfair in the eyes of their customers


B2B Loyalty Programmes

B2B loyalty programmes are designed to develop enduring relationships between businesses, focusing on creating mutual growth and trust. These programmes often prioritise long-term value creation, offering tailored rewards, incentives, or discounts based on business volume, consistent purchases, or partnership longevity.

Unlike B2C programs, B2B loyalty initiatives tend to focus on enhanced support, and value-added services. They often involve tiered structures with scalable rewards that cater to the unique needs of business clients, prioritising outcomes like increased efficiency, cost savings, or access to exclusive resources. Additionally, B2B programmes commonly emphasise data-driven insights, catering to specific business goals and providing measurable ROI for both parties involved.

Comparison with B2C Loyalty Programmes:

In contrast to B2C programmes which typically target individual consumers, B2B loyalty initiatives focus on nurturing relationships between businesses. While B2C programmes often emphasise emotional connections and immediate gratification through discounts, points, or exclusive offers, B2B programmes prioritise long-term partnerships, often featuring tailored solutions, dedicated support, and incentives aligned with business objectives. B2B loyalty programmes frequently revolve around volume-based incentives, contract renewals, or service enhancements rather than individual purchase transactions or subscriptions.

Why Loyalty Programmes Fail

Loyalty programmes can fail for various reasons, including a lack of differentiation, complexity, poor communication, and failing to adapt to changing customer expectations and market conditions. Successful loyalty programmes require careful planning, personalisation, effective communication, and regular evaluation and adjustments to remain relevant and effective.

Failure to Deliver Value:

Loyalty programmes must offer and tangible value to customers. If the rewards offered do not align with the needs and desires of the customer base, the programme will fail to retain customers. Customers want rewards that are relevant, compelling and worth their loyalty.

Lack of Personalisation:

Modern customers expect personalisation. If a loyalty programme fails to tailor offers and rewards to individual preferences and behaviours, it can miss the mark and not drive engagement.

Lack of Differentiation:

One common reason for the failure of loyalty programmes is a lack of differentiation. When loyalty programmes offer benefits and rewards that are not significantly different from competitors, they fail to stand out. Customers may not see a compelling reason to remain loyal when they can receive similar rewards elsewhere.

Inadequate Communication:

Poor communication about the loyalty programme’s benefits, updates, and rewards can lead to failure. If customers are unaware of the programme or don’t understand its value, they are less likely to participate.

High Redemption Hurdles:

Programmes that make it difficult for members to redeem their rewards, either through complex processes or limited options, can lead to frustration and reduced engagement.

Data Privacy Concerns:

In the age of data breaches and heightened privacy concerns, customers may hesitate to join loyalty programmes that collect and store their data without clear assurances of protection.

Failure to Adapt:

Market dynamics and customer preferences change. Loyalty programmes that remain static and fail to evolve may become outdated and ineffective.

Complexity and Confusion:

Overly complex programmes can lead to confusion and frustration among customers. When the rules, redemption processes, or rewards structures are difficult to understand, customers may become disengaged or abandon the programme altogether.

Lack of Engagement Strategies:

A successful loyalty programme requires ongoing engagement strategies. Programmes that do not create a sense of community, interaction, and ongoing connection with members may experience a decline in engagement and loyalty.

Failure to Measure and Adapt:

Without effective measurement and analysis, it is impossible to understand what works and what doesn’t in a loyalty programme. Failure to regularly assess and adapt the programme based on data and feedback can result in missed opportunities and declining success.

NFT Loyalty Programmes

NFTs Transforming Loyalty Programmes:

The advent of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) is revolutionising traditional loyalty programmes, offering a unique and secure way to tokenise rewards and incentives. NFTs, which represent ownership of digital or physical assets, provide a novel approach to loyalty by offering exclusive, one-of-a-kind items or experiences that customers can claim. These digital assets, often tied to a blockchain, not only add a layer of scarcity and authenticity to rewards but also allow for seamless tracking and verification, enhancing the transparency and trustworthiness of the loyalty ecosystem.

Enhancing Engagement with NFTs:

Incorporating NFTs into loyalty programmes presents a radical change, providing customers with tangible, digital assets that hold intrinsic value. Brands can create limited-edition NFTs as rewards, tying them to special events, milestones, or premium membership tiers. This not only adds an element of exclusivity but also taps into the growing interest in digital collectibles.

The transparency and traceability offered by blockchain technology ensure the authenticity of these digital assets, creating trust and encouraging greater engagement among consumers participating in loyalty programmes. NFTs, with their unique properties, offer a futuristic dimension to reward programmes, aligning with evolving consumer expectations.

Loyalty Programme Fraud

Loyalty programmes are designed to reward and retain loyal customers, but they also present an attractive target for fraudsters.

Loyalty programme fraud is a growing concern.  Fraudsters exploit weaknesses in programmes to steal points, rewards, or personal information, harming both companies and their customers.

Types of Loyalty Programme Fraud:

Loyalty programme fraud comes in various forms, including account takeovers, points theft, and fraudulent redemptions. Criminals often use tactics like phishing, social engineering, and data breaches to gain access to customer accounts, and then they exploit accumulated points or rewards, leaving legitimate users unaware until it’s too late.

Impact on Businesses and Customers:

The consequences of loyalty programme fraud are significant. Businesses suffer financial losses and damage to their reputation, while customers face the risk of identity theft and lost rewards. Fraudulent activities can also strain customer trust and lead to decreased participation in loyalty programmes.

Preventing and Combating Loyalty Programme Fraud:

Companies need to implement robust security measures to prevent loyalty programme fraud. This includes strong authentication, monitoring for unusual activities, educating customers about security best practices, and collaborating with law enforcement to track down fraudsters. Staying vigilant and proactive is crucial to protecting both businesses and loyal customers from this emerging threat. Propello partners with SEON, to help prevent customer loyalty programme fraud.

Key takeaways

In conclusion, loyalty programmes serve as indispensable tools for businesses aiming to nurture customer loyalty, increase brand advocacy, and achieve sustained growth.

Loyalty Programmes Drive Business Success:

  • Effective loyalty programs contribute significantly to increased customer retention, engagement, and overall business success.
  • The data-driven insights gained from these programs enable businesses to make informed decisions and personalise customer experiences.

Diversity in Programme Types:

  • Various loyalty programme structures, from points-based systems to tiered memberships, provide businesses with flexibility to choose models that align with their goals and customer demographics.

Strategic Adaptability:

  • The adaptability of loyalty programmes allows businesses to evolve with changing customer expectations and market dynamics, ensuring sustained relevance and effectiveness.

Customer-Centric Approach:

  • The emphasis on personalisation and a customer-centric approach positions loyalty programmes as valuable tools for enhancing the overall customer experience and building lasting relationships.

Future-Ready Trends:

  • Integrating emerging technologies such as NFTs and AI, and aligning with sustainability trends ensures loyalty programmes remain innovative and resonate with the values of modern consumers.

Measuring and Refining Success:

  • Using key performance indicators (KPIs) enables businesses to measure the success of loyalty programmes, identify areas for improvement, and refine strategies for continuous enhancement.



Loyalty and Reward Programme Guide (2)



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