Five insights from joining 39 loyalty & rewards programs in-store

I am always curious to learn how loyalty and rewards programs can continuously improve. On a quest for new insights, I decided to walk the streets and shopping centres, asking to join a retailer’s loyalty and rewards program.

Signing up members in a retail store is one of those critical moments of fortune or failure for a program.

Over the week of 13 - 20 August, I walked into a store of 39 retail brands (only one of their stores) asking to join their loyalty/rewards/VIP/benefits program or any variation of that theme.

I won’t shame any. I will only call out those who in my opinion were stars for reasons identified.

The retail brands visited were random and the only agenda I had was to experience their sign-up process. In alphabetical order they were:

Boost Juice, BreadTop; Country Road; Culture Kings; Dymocks; EB Games; Ferguson Plarre; Footlocker, Gstar RAW®; GusmanYGomez; Hype DC; Jay Jays; Just Jeans; Kikki K; L’Occitane; Levi’s; Lorna Jane; Lush; Mad Mex; Mecca Cosmetica; Myer, Nando’s, Pandora; Petbarn; Priceline; QBD Books; Rebel; Riot Art & Craft; SABA; Sephora; Shaver Shop ; Smiggle; Subway; T2; The Body Shop; Typo; Uniqlo; YD; Zara

My mystery shop process was simple and started with questions:

1.) Do you have a loyalty/rewards/VIP/benefits program for customers who shop here often? 2.) Can I join now? 3.)What details do you need?

I was looking out for:

1.    Instant and clear merchandising of a program throughout the store.

2.    Team members’ knowledge about the program and how they sold its benefits.

3.    Team members’ enthusiasm to sign me up immediately into their POS system.

4.    The data they asked me for and how they asked for the details.

5.    If I received an instant welcome message.

Five insights

In summary, the five insights I found to share with you are:

1. Visibility of the program increases sign-ups and reinforces reasons to join:

  • Only seven brands had clear and visible merchandising of their program - Sephora, Mecca Cosmetica, Country Road, Body Shop and Typo.
  • Sephora and Mecca Cosmetica had the most visibility which created awareness and desire to join plus it was easier to ask to join as all I did was point at the POS sign and ask...“Please can I join that program?”

2. Team knowledge sells the benefits:

  • All team members knew about their program (phew!!) and whilst I was not focused too much on the program structure and benefits, the team members from Levi’s; Dymocks; EB Games and Priceline had lots to share about their program.

3. Team enthusiasm and ‘love for the program’ makes it exciting to join:

  • Most team members were enthusiastic about their program and happy to sign me up at POS. Three were caught a little on the spot and asked me to write my details on a random piece of paper for them to enter later. This left me a little unsure, wondering if they would do it.

4. Sign up at POS to maximise the member growth opportunity:

  • Only four out of the 39 said they could not sign me up at POS and that I needed to go online or download their APP.
  • There needs to be a good benefit to ‘sign up later’ as there is always a drop off in signups if there is not an immediate POS option.
  • Gusman Y Gomez did not sign me up at POS however were very helpful and gave me a temporary card with instructions on how to access a free burrito if I downloaded their app, which took me 6.5 minutes (yes I timed it).
  • Four retailers had forms to fill out available at POS that I could have left behind for them to enter in their own time, however I persisted for instant sign up and they were obliging.

I understand the need to avoid crowding the POS with membership sign-ups when customer transactions must to processed, hence the forms are a good option to still capture a member's details when the team have a quiet moment.

There is extra work in this case, however speedy service and processing of transactions is paramount!

If there is still resistance by the business and the team to sign up members at POS or through entry of forms, then provide the customer with a receipt/voucher/info card to go online and join/register. It's very important to give them an incentive to join in their own time!

5. Obtain the minimum amount of data and give reasons for asking for sensitive data:

  • The quickest sign up only asked for my first name and email and the longest sign up asked for first name, surname, email, mobile, address (full), mobile.
  • 11 out of 39 asked for date of birth (day/month/year) with a good reason given… ”a little something for your birthday”.
  • The shout-out was for Mecca Cosmetica who only asked for “month of birthday” for a "month of savings". I think this shows sensitivity to people's reluctance to give year of birth. It's also focused on a genuine birthday offer in its pure sense, rather than a maximum data grab. Love that!

A few other findings worth mentioning:

1.    Four out of 39 had no program or email list to sign up to.

2.    13 out of 39 gave me a plastic card which they scanned and connected me to my signup details.

3.    One asked me to purchase an item in order to join which was a first for me.

4.    There was only one program that surprised me (no name or shame) when they asked me to pay a $5 admin fee to join. I did pay to go through the experience.

  • The value exchange was not immediate (critical for any fee-based program), nor was it a benefit-heavy program, which is mandatory for a fee-based program.
  • I don’t believe they approached this strategy in the optimum way. There is certainly a place for fee-based programs (different if there is a once off vs ongoing fee), however to say it’s an “admin” fee, is not customer focused, it’s company focused.

Finally, 10 days since my first sign-up and I have only received 11 welcome emails. This is a missed opportunity to get me back into store and more importantly to start a habit. Only Kikki K, Smiggle, Saba and JayJays had an offer for my next spend in their welcome emails.

Joining 39 retail brand programs in-store, gave me a good sense of what the sign-up experience is like, with plenty of room for improvement.

There are many factors to a program’s success, however without members you have no program, so it all starts with the sign-up! Please optimise this opportunity.

Have a happy loyalty day!