Thirty years of continuous business in the loyalty and engagement world has taught us this: discount programs work when people use them.
Discount programs on their own are great, and are especially attractive to prospective customers as part of a member benefits or incentive package. But where they truly make a difference is when people actually utilize them frequently, creating constant engagement between the customer and the brand offering them the discount program.
So how do you get the most out of your investment? What drives the constant usage and engagement that results in loyalty?
These are the six non-negotiable “musts” your discount program has to have to truly drive usage and result in the loyalty you’re looking for:
1. Relevant offers
Great discount programs feature in-store offers that are within a quick drive for the majority of the population, at merchants they use regularly (restaurants, retailers, service providers). Online offers and alternative-redemption (e.g., phone reservations) are important to have, but the majority of the network should be local, in-store offers.
2. Wide geographical coverage
Chances are your customers aren’t located in just a handful of major metropolitan cities. A discount program without deals that serve suburban and rural customers isn’t just irrelevant, it could be a detractor for those who have no nearby offers.
3. Continuous growth
This means new and exciting merchants, better offers, and evolving technological delivery methods. Members should be able to use a discount program as much for discovering new places as saving at their usual haunts.
4. Simple redemption
As much as people love deals, they won’t jump through hoops to get an offer. Printing or cutting out deals is okay, but complicated redemption processes – for example, a "mobile coupon" that instructs the user to return to their computer and print off a deal – are instant turn-offs for consumers.
5. Regular promotion
People love discount programs but they have to be reminded about new and popular offers. Emails, mobile push notifications, and even printed materials drive usage, which drives engagement and loyalty.
6. Merchant relations
Few things can hurt customer engagement (and therefore brand engagement) worse than a coupon that isn’t honored. Discount program providers have to frequently work with merchants to ensure that the deals are honored at the point of sale, every time.
If a discount program doesn’t have these six elements, then most members won’t bother with it, or they’ll simply disengage. Some companies are content to have a discount program, but aren’t concerned with usage. That’s their choice, but they're missing a golden opportunity with their customers.
For companies who want to do more than just check off the “discount program” box on their list of things to toss a member’s way - the companies who really want to add value to their product or service and engage customers 24/7/365 - these six elements are absolutely critical.