The question of when to launch your rewards program usually arises when retailers do not have a solid rewards program implementation plan. The right time to launch a loyalty program varies from business to business, depending on the goals you want to achieve. However, you don’t want to waste time delaying the launch because as soon as you start increasing customer retention in your online store, you are potentially losing customers who may want to join the program.
Is it better to launch during a peak season or a less busy season?
The plain truth is that there is no right or wrong answer to the right time you decide to launch a loyalty program. Hence we cannot establish the fact that one season is better than the other. Both seasons have pros and cons, but it is up to your brand to determine which one is a good fit for your business goals. For instance, if you believe releasing your loyalty program in the peak season is ideal for your business, you first need to consider which times in the year you receive the most traffic. These could be special days or periods such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, Black Friday, or Christmas. Of course, launching your program either right before or during these rush periods will enable you to stand out since a large volume of customers will want to benefit from a new rewards program from your brand.
On the other hand, launching a loyalty program during a less busy time of the year also makes perfect sense. With this strategy, you will not experience the big-bang feeling. Yet, you will have a lot of time to test your program, measure community interest and implement some tremendous improvements. Using this approach also allows loyalty members to become familiar with your program, love it, promote and engage with it and eventually help you multiply your membership base.
Advantages of launching during or just before the peak season
Peak seasons such as Christmas, other Holidays, and Black Fridays have long been thought of as an important period for retailers. During these times, both online and offline retailers compete to sell their products and acquire new customers. While many do so by offering huge discounts, time has proven that although price drops effectively earn more sales, you can’t rely on them to build brand loyalty. Since peak seasons are great for selling, retailers should take advantage of them to launch their customer loyalty programs right before or during them.
Stand out from the competition.
The key to really succeeding with a newly launched loyalty program is to differentiate yourself from the competition. Especially during peak seasons, you don’t want to be added to the sea of e-commerce businesses that only try to empty their stock by dropping prices. Instead, customers want to enjoy acknowledgment and special care. Building a good loyalty program can enable you to provide the extra care and special rewards that can win customers’ hearts. Research shows that at least 72% of shoppers would rather buy from a retailer with a loyalty program in place than from one without. The psychology behind loyalty program success is simple. They know they can expect a more valuable and personalized experience if the retailer has a loyalty program.
Spend less on upfront discounts in favor of long term rewards
While giving upfront discounts are great for acquiring new customers, especially in holiday seasons, you can focus on offering long-term rewards when launching your loyalty program. Long-term rewards and experiences have the potential of increasing customer loyalty and retaining quality customers for your brand. This will help you increase the average cart value for your store. Meanwhile, spending too much on upfront discounts could hurt your profit margins and attract only price-driven shoppers to your online store.
Make a good first impression.
As you are likely to acquire more new customers during peak seasons, it is advisable to capture the customer’s attention by giving a great first impression. It is the right time to incorporate delight and surprise elements into your rewards. People already enjoy receiving gifts, but they appreciate it more when they are not expecting them. You could start by adding some Sweepstakes to your loyalty program since they have that gamification effect. Or for instance, during the Christmas holidays, your brand could offer time-bound bonuses every day. This will certainly catch the attention of new customers and amaze them. Offering additional reward points in a loyalty program during peak seasons is powerful enough to keep members engaged.
Advantages of launching during a less busy season
It is beneficial to launch a loyalty program during the less busy season because it gives you enough time and freedom to make certain adjustments before the program blows up.
Test the water and iterate without stress
Before launching the rewards program, ensure that it has been well integrated with all the other systems you use. Again, you need to build and implement a strong marketing plan to promote it. Launching during the off-season, where sales are generally low, will give you adequate room to test these milestones and ensure that the entire program is solid before strongly promoting it.
Study loyal customers pattern to maximize your marketing strategy during peak season
Having industry insight on purchase frequency and buyers' habits will help you t. take wiser decisions. This approach enables you to predict the purchasing behavior and customers’ response to your new loyalty program. Then, as you pick up insights and study the reports, you can easily maximize your marketing strategy to acquire more customers in the peak season.
Gradually increase and add more benefits to your rewards program.
Another advantage of launching in less busy seasons is that you can build enough momentum to increase the value of your rewards program. For instance, instead of investing heavily in the initial stages, you can launch the program with fewer rewards and gradually increase the perks depending on customer behavior. Customers will certainly appreciate an increase in rewards over time rather than starting big and reducing the rewards along the way.
Suppose your goal is to set your brand apart and retain all the customers you acquire during busy seasons. In that case, you need to implement an evolving strategy that uses the most recent innovations. The era of the “one size fits all” or “set it and forget it” approach may no longer work. Instead, customers are getting more acquainted with enjoying personalized experiences that allow them to interact better with your brand, not just when they want to shop but also in their day-to-day lives.
So whether you decide to release your loyalty program in the first quarter of the year, during spring, summer, or during the peak seasons, ensure that you have tested the integration with your store adequately and have a solid marketing plan in place to promote the program.