In May 2015, millennials surpassed Gen Xers and baby boomers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. As marketers seek to engage the purchasing power of this expanding consumer segment, loyalty programs will prove particularly vital.
A growing number of brands are launching loyalty programs - and for good reason. An Experian Data Quality survey found three out of four companies with loyalty programs generate a return on investment.
But even though loyalty programs have a great track record of success, it can be cost prohibitive to get one off the ground, especially when trying to keep up with modern technologies to speak directly to millennials, like their mobile devices.
Here are a couple of ways small business owners can use loyalty programs to connect with their most coveted demographic - millennials.
Implement Mobile Capabilities
From messaging friends to comparing pricing, smartphones play an integral role in the shopping experience of millennials. According to a study from My.com and Survey Sampling International, 55 percent of millennials spend more than four hours on their smartphone a day.
Mobile-friendly loyalty programs, whether in the form of a virtual punch card, mobile app or digital wallet, enable customers to track, exchange and redeem your business' loyalty points with just the touch of a smartphone screen, an attractive solution for the on-demand, technology-driven lifestyles of millennials.
While developing mobile loyalty capabilities may seem intimidating and costly as a small business owner, you can take advantage of existing technology that allows you to easily integrate mobile-loyalty into your own program. Some solutions, for instance, enable merchants and other businesses to easily implement digital loyalty, specifically balance tracking and the ability to transact with loyalty, into their products and services.
Not only do digital loyalty programs make it easy for customers to manage rewards in any of their programs - big or small - but they also represent a low-cost solution for small businesses eager to build loyalty among millennials.
Leverage Loyalty of Existing Brands
You don't have to reinvent the wheel to make your loyalty program appealing to millennials. Instead of spending countless hours and dollars developing your own program, leverage rewards from millennials' favorite loyalty currencies by giving them a chance to earn and spend rewards from other globally-recognized, mobile-centric programs such as Starbucks Rewards and CVS.
By rewarding millennials with loyalty currencies they are already passionate about you'll attract new business interested in claiming similar benefits, and also increase your brand equity and awareness among current and potential customers.
And to leverage the marketing strength of these well-known loyalty programs as well, use the power of mobile. Unless millennials are made aware of the offering, they'll likely miss out. To ensure your customers know this option is available, communicate in their language. Take advantage of an SMS program, social media and mobile-friendly email promotions.
Use Personalized Offers
A mobile loyalty program presents the perfect avenue for small businesses to collect actionable data from their shoppers. From number of purchase to basket size to location data, all this information can be used to offer personalized discounts and rewards that specifically matter to your customers. And because millennials are constantly connected to their smartphones, you can deliver those personalized offers directly to their fingertips. For example, if you find that a shopper has had a cashmere sweater sitting in their online shopping cart for a week, send a push notification for a discount on cashmere sweaters specifically to them, encouraging them to follow through with the sale.
Regardless of where they go or what they do, millennials routinely bring their smartphones along for the ride. By giving marketers the opportunity to reach millennials exactly where they are - with their devices - mobile wallets make building loyalty less complicated. As the purchasing power of millennials continues to rise, there is no better time for brands to take advantage of mobile loyalty.
Danielle Brown is the VP of marketing at Points, the global leader in loyalty currency management. Via a state-of-the-art loyalty commerce platform, Points provides loyalty ecommerce and technology solutions to the world's top brands to enhance their consumer offerings and streamline their back-end operations.