Master Guide to Loyalty Solutions

If you're considering launching - or updating - your loyalty program in the coming year, consider the following findings.


Seventy-three percent of loyalty program members are more likely to recommend brands with good loyalty programs according to a 2016 survey from Visa and Bond Brand Loyalty. Even more telling, perhaps, is that 66 percent of consumers modify amount spent to maximize points (per the same survey). 


People are clearly ready to refer their peers to businesses and spend money to get rewarded but most loyalty programs are falling flat. For instance, Bond Brand Loyalty reports that only 24 percent of respondents "strongly agree" that they "love" their loyalty program and only 22 percent feel "very satisfied" with the level of personalization they experience with a program (28 percent in 2015).


Four Providers


Brands can do better if acquiring and retaining customers through a loyalty program is their aim. Let's explore loyalty program solutions that will help consumers refer more, spend more and feel the program is more tailored to them. 




With over $2.7 billion of transactions conducted on its loyalty technology platform, 500friends is a trusted loyalty solutions provider. Brands can leverage 500friends for strategic counseling, technology, integration and implementation, and other elements of its full range of loyalty offerings to collect (data and member information), act (on insights gleaned from member actions) and analyze (insights from member behavior). 


Mid- to large-size retail organizations seem to be 500friends most common customer. Top consumer brands like Hollister, Kiehls, Urban Decay and Deckers (parent brand of Uggs) are customers.  


It should be noted that the last time we published a list of this type, PunchTab was a favorite. It was later acquired by @WalmartLabs - the technology power behind Walmart global ecommerce. Roughly a year later, Walmart introduced a loyalty component to credit, debit and prepaid card offerings that provide an extra incentive to make online purchase.




Designed with local merchants in mind, Belly (aka Belly Card) provides retailers, grocery stores, salons, restaurants and other local businesses with a way to acquire and retain customers, digitally. It's an iPad-based loyalty and marketing platform that allows customers to sign up, check in and earn points redeemable for their favorite rewards. Beyond the iPad, Belly offers email marketing and marketing automation as well. The price for Belly ranges from $129 per month to $209 per month.  




With plans starting at just $25 a month, ReferralCandy is an affordable option to add a referral program to any ecommerce store. ReferralCandy is an ecommerce store plugin that helps retailers get more word-of-mouth sales by incentivizing referrals. It integrates with a host of platforms like Magento, Bigcommerce, Shopify and others. 




From affiliates and advocacy to refer a friend and retention programs, NextBee provides referral program and loyalty rewards software (including many social features and gamification). NextBee's referral program differs than its competitors in that it ensures that all of a company's customers, Facebook Fans and email-list subscribers are automatically registered in the referral program. NextBee then optimizes repeat referrals through auto-responders, regular sweepstakes, tiered rewards, special limited-time offers and dynamic leaderboard widgets. NextBee is a popular choice in the B2B space (like for software vendors) and for service providers. 


What to Look For


Loyalty and referral programs are nothing if they are not used and can even do damage to a brand's reputation if they don't meet customer expectations. The following is a quick list of features to look for in software of this type:

  • Rewards for social sharing (and not just Facebook)
  • Ability to redeem points online and in-person
  • Easy access to profile and rewards data regardless of channel
  • Mobile accessibility
  • Helps encourage involvement
  • Meaningful analytics
  • Builds customer profiles across channels 
  • Integrates with other systems in use
  • Bonus: Ability to predict customer churn