Enough with the Loyalty Apps Already!

Enough with the Loyalty Apps Already!
Enough with the Loyalty Apps Already!

A sample size of one isn’t data, but I can’t be the only tech-savvy person frustrated by the number of apps that are replacing old-fashioned customer loyalty programs. When Box Tops for Education switched from clipping boxes to scanning receipts into an app, shoppers revolted. Months later, the Box Tops’ Facebook page is still covered with hundreds (thousands?) of comments like these:

Enough with the Loyalty Apps Already!
Enough with the Loyalty Apps Already!

I predict the trend of moving loyalty programs to apps will result in lost revenue (and loyalty) for many retailers– especially small businesses.

Last summer, Cincinnati favorite Graeter’s Ice Cream transitioned from a phone-number-based loyalty program to an app. The previous program was so easy– customers provided their phone number with each transaction, and when they reached a certain number of points, they got $5 off.

I’m not sure what rewards are included in the new program. I downloaded the app and tried to transfer my points, but that didn’t seem to work. Later, I deleted the app to make room for a 3GB video. When I visited Graeter’s a month later, the app was gone, and I gave up on being a “loyal customer.”

“If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.” – 5 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Stick With Successful Loyalty Programs

Enough with the Loyalty Apps Already!
  1. If you have a successful rewards or points program that customers seem to enjoy, asking those customers to switch to an app will meet with reluctance and frustration. They’ll think, “What? I have to learn a new thing? Don’t bother me with this!”
  2. Managing a loyalty program on their phone requires more work for customers than simply giving the cashier a phone number or punch card.
  3. Customers only have so much space on their phone. Is your app more precious than their favorite game or photo library?
  4. Upon launch, your app might not work as expected. And customers are extremely impatient with “technical glitches.”
  5. Apps tend to take a simple concept (rewards for shopping more frequently) and make it too complex for casual shoppers to remember.

Here’s one more story from Once Upon a Child, a baby and kids’ clothing and gear consignment chain. Originally, the store’s loyalty program was straightforward: fill up the punch card and get 20% off your next purchase.

Then, they launched an app and texting program that has proved worthless to me as a consumer. My mother-in-law and I are both convinced the points portion of the program is broken, because we never seem to earn rewards anymore. Along with that, I now get unwelcome text messages trying to rush me into the store for this or that promotion. Before, I could manage my rewards on my own schedule. Now, I don’t have the time or inclination to fit my schedule to their promotions.

In marketing, simplicity is often key to success. Make it simple for customers, and they will reward you with their loyalty.

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