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3 Ways Brands are Reimagining Loyalty Programs

Innovation is happening in the world of retail loyalty programs. Learn how brands are embracing sustainability, web3 and community to bolster their efforts.
Photo credit: Starbucks

Sure, points and coupons are great, but today’s consumers are expecting far more from branded loyalty programs. While dollar savings may be top-of-mind for many shoppers today, “value” can have a very different meaning for others.

That is why consumers are looking for more diverse and robust programs that provide value in different ways. In fact, research from PwC indicates that 43% of consumers want programs to be more flexible in the rewards and benefits they offer. In a recent Hit List, editor Adam Blair spotlighted five very different brands for their unique approaches to loyalty programs and strategies. Some of the most innovative examples show how the world of loyalty is evolving, and how brands can adapt their programs and experiences to better align to critical consumer trends.

Trend 1: Sustainability

Although many associate sustainability with resale, there are many ways brands and retailers can encourage consumers to adopt more “green” behaviors. For example, Levi’s Red Tab program gives members unique access to services that help them extend the life of their existing wardrobe, such as tailoring services that include two free alterations a year plus discounts on custom embroidery and direct-to-garment printing.

The REN Clean Skincare loyalty program takes a different approach, allowing members to spend their points on “green” actions like planting a tree or investing in cleaning ocean plastic. Of course, these feel-good benefits are on top of the standard perks like free shipping and VIP access to sales and events.

Trend 2: Web3

Many companies are exploring the world of Web3 and how the metaverse, NFTs and more can drive brand immersion and loyalty. Starbucks is among the top-trending examples, thanks to the hype surrounding Starbucks Odyssey, which offers both associates and Starbucks Rewards members the opportunity to earn and purchase digital collectible assets that unlock access to new benefits and immersive coffee experiences.

Starbucks plans to integrate NFTs with its loyalty program at scale via this digital community, where members can play interactive games and purchase limited-edition NFTs through a marketplace built into the Starbucks Odyssey web app experience. The program also will offer real-world odysseys: as members collect “stamps” from their digital journeys, they will be able to buy and sell them to other members, increasing their point totals to access experiences like virtual espresso martini-making classes and even trips to the Starbucks Hacienda Alsacia coffee farm in Costa Rica.

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Trend 3: Community-Driven Commerce

We’ve seen brands and retailers develop new store concepts and event models that aim to get them closer to local communities. Who would’ve thought loyalty programs could have the same impact? David’s Bridal had a hunch, especially among its younger, prom-going audience.

The Diamond Prom program leverages the power of collaboration and crowdsourcing to drive action. Members earn points not only from their own purchases but also from those made by friends and family, and they can work together with other students to earn other perks such as a free travel getaway.


Check out the Hit List to see other brands leading in the new era of loyalty!

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