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Loyalty programs · 

9 minutes

Cormac O'SullivanPiggy

Boosting eCommerce Success with Top Loyalty Programs

In today's competitive ecommerce landscape, customer loyalty is not a given - it's earned. That's where ecommerce loyalty programs come in. These programs, when implemented correctly, encourage repeat purchases, boost customer retention, and foster brand loyalty.

This article will delve into what ecommerce loyalty programs are, how they work, and the pivotal role they play in ecommerce. We'll also provide examples of some of the best programs out there, and a step-by-step guide to setting up your own ecommerce loyalty program.

What are Ecommerce Loyalty Programs?

Ecommerce loyalty programs are structured marketing strategies designed by online businesses to encourage customers to continue shopping or using services associated with each business. Much like a traditional brick-and-mortar loyalty program, these ecommerce strategies incentivize repeat customers with rewards.

How are Ecommerce Loyalty Programs Different to Traditional Programs?

The main difference between ecommerce loyalty programs and traditional ones lies in the customer experience and touchpoints. Ecommerce loyalty programs make use of the digital realm, encompassing customer interactions from online purchases, social media engagements, and email marketing responses. For example, while a traditional loyalty program may offer a punch card with a free item after a certain number of purchases, an ecommerce loyalty program might offer points for sharing their purchases on social media, alongside the standard points-per-purchase model.

The Types of Ecommerce Loyalty Programs

There are several types of ecommerce loyalty programs, each with its unique benefits and best use cases. Understanding these types can help businesses choose the right one for their needs.

Points-Based Loyalty Programs

Points-based loyalty programs are the most common type of program. Customers earn points for each purchase, which can later be redeemed for rewards. This program is straightforward and easy for customers to understand. An example of a successful points-based program is the Sephora Beauty Insider program, where customers earn points for every dollar spent.

Tiered Loyalty Programs

In tiered loyalty programs, customers unlock new levels of rewards as they spend more or engage more with the brand. This can motivate customers to make more purchases in pursuit of higher-tier rewards. Starbucks' rewards program is an example of a successful tiered loyalty program, offering perks like free drinks and special offers as customers move up tiers.

Cash-Back or Rebate Programs

Cash-back or rebate programs provide customers with a percentage of their purchase back as credit towards future purchases. This straightforward value proposition can be very appealing to customers, and helps drive repeat business. An example is the Amazon Prime Reload program, which gives Prime members 2% back on purchases when they load their balance with a debit card.

Subscription-Based Loyalty Programs

Subscription-based loyalty programs require customers to pay a fee in exchange for continuous benefits. This kind of program can create a sense of exclusivity and can be lucrative for businesses. An example is Amazon Prime, which provides benefits like free two-day shipping and access to exclusive deals.

Hybrid Loyalty Programs

Hybrid loyalty programs combine elements from different types of programs to create a unique customer experience. For example, a program might combine points-based earning with tiered rewards. A well-known hybrid program is The North Face's VIPeak, which gives points for purchases and participating in outdoor activities, and offers unique experiences as rewards.

Social Media or Engagement-Based Programs

Some programs reward customers not just for purchases, but for engagement activities like social media shares or product reviews. This can help boost a brand's visibility while rewarding customers for their engagement. An example of an engagement-based program is The Goodyear's program, which rewards customers for reviews.

Each of these types of loyalty programs has its strengths and can be the right choice for different businesses and customer bases. Understanding the nuances of each type is key to creating an effective loyalty program.

10 of the Best Ecommerce Loyalty Programs Examples

The digital landscape is ripe with exemplary ecommerce loyalty programs. While a full exploration of each program is beyond the scope of this introduction, the following names are among the most recognized.

1. Sephora's Beauty Insider

Sephora's Beauty Insider program offers a tiered points system, with customers earning more points per dollar as they ascend the ranks. Points can be redeemed for products, and higher tiers also offer benefits like free shipping and exclusive gifts.

2. Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime charges an annual fee in exchange for a host of benefits, including free shipping, access to streaming content, and exclusive deals.

3. Starbucks Rewards

Starbucks Rewards transitions seamlessly from in-store to online, with customers earning stars for every dollar spent, which can be redeemed for free menu items.

4. Nordstrom's The Nordy Club

Nordstrom's The Nordy Club offers points for purchases, with bonus points events and early access to sales for higher tiers.

5. The Body Shop's Love Your Body Club

The Body Shop's Love Your Body Club offers points for purchases, as well as a gift on your birthday and special member-only discounts.

6. Chewy's Autoship & Save

Chewy offers a discount on eligible products when customers subscribe for regular deliveries, encouraging repeat business.

7. ASOS A-List

ASOS A-List offers points for purchases, with every 500 points resulting in a $5 voucher. Customers also get a bonus on their birthdays.

8. Zappos VIP

Zappos VIP program offers free expedited shipping, points for purchases and logging in, and a one-point-per-dollar-spent exchange rate.


DSW VIP members get points for purchases, as well as free shipping and other benefits.

10. Ulta Beauty's Ultamate Rewards

Ulta Beauty's Ultamate Rewards program provides points for every dollar spent, with points increasing at higher tiers. Members also get a free birthday gift.

The Role & Benefits of Loyalty Programs in Ecommerce Industries

Loyalty programs have a crucial role in ecommerce industries. They drive customer loyalty, promote customer retention, and provide valuable customer data. Below, we explore these benefits in more detail.

Enhancing Customer Retention

A key role of loyalty programs is promoting customer retention. Research from Bain & Company shows that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can boost profits by between 25% to 95%. Loyalty programs incentivize repeat purchases by offering rewards, making customers more likely to stick around.

Boosting Average Order Value

Loyalty programs can also help boost the average order value (AOV). For example, customers may receive extra points or a special discount when they reach a certain spending threshold. This incentivizes customers to add just a little bit more to their cart to reach that threshold, thus increasing the AOV.

Encouraging Customer Advocacy

A well-executed loyalty program can turn customers into brand advocates. Satisfied loyal customers are more likely to recommend the brand to their peers. In fact, according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know. Loyalty programs often include referral benefits, encouraging this kind of word-of-mouth marketing.

Providing Valuable Customer Data

Loyalty programs can provide businesses with valuable customer data. By tracking the purchases, preferences, and behaviors of loyalty program members, businesses can gain insights that help them tailor their offerings, personalize their marketing, and improve their overall customer experience.

Building Brand Loyalty

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, loyalty programs play a crucial role in building brand loyalty. By rewarding customers for their repeat business, loyalty programs make customers feel valued and appreciated. This can strengthen their emotional connection to the brand, driving long-term loyalty and engagement. A study by Yotpo found that loyal customers are five times more likely to make a repeat purchase and four times more likely to refer a friend to the company.

By providing these significant benefits, loyalty programs play a crucial role in driving the success of ecommerce businesses. They provide a direct line to customers, allowing businesses to incentivize desired behaviors, foster deeper relationships, and ultimately drive their bottom line.

Reward Ideas for Ecommerce Loyalty Programs

Choosing the right rewards is a critical component of any successful loyalty program. The best rewards will offer real value to the customer while also encouraging behaviors that benefit your business. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Points for Purchases

The most straightforward reward, offering points for purchases, gives customers a clear, tangible benefit for each transaction. These points can be redeemed for discounts on future purchases, offering a compelling incentive for repeat business.

2. Tiered Rewards

Tiered rewards create a sense of exclusivity and aspiration. As customers rise through the ranks, they unlock increasingly valuable rewards, encouraging continued engagement.

3. Free Shipping

Free shipping is a powerful incentive in the ecommerce world. It can be offered as a universal perk for loyalty program members or a reward that can be unlocked with points.

4. Birthday Bonuses

Offering a gift or special discount on a customer's birthday adds a personal touch to your loyalty program and helps to foster an emotional connection with your brand.

5. Early Access to Sales

Early access to sales gives loyalty program members a sense of exclusivity and value. It also helps to drive initial sales volume when a sale begins.

6. Exclusive Products

Offering products that are only available to loyalty program members can drive sign-ups and make members feel valued.

7. Bonus Points Events

Periodically offering bonus points on purchases can create a sense of urgency and excitement that drives sales.

8. Referral Bonuses

Offering rewards for referrals not only incentivizes existing customers to spread the word about your brand, but also brings new customers into the fold.

9. Social Media Engagement Rewards

Rewarding customers for engaging with your brand on social media can help to increase your brand's visibility and reach.

10. Rewards for Reviews

Offering points or discounts in exchange for reviews can help to build up a bank of user-generated content, while also providing valuable feedback on your products.

10 Steps to Setting Up an Ecommerce Loyalty Program

Building a successful loyalty program requires careful planning and execution. Here are ten steps to guide you on this journey.

1. Define Your Goals

First, you need to determine what you want your loyalty program to achieve. This could include improving customer retention, increasing purchase frequency, or acquiring new customers.

2. Understand Your Customers

Analyze your customer data to understand their buying habits and preferences. This will help you design a program that will be truly engaging and rewarding for them.

3. Choose the Right Type of Program

Choose a loyalty program structure that best fits your business model and customer preferences. This could be a simple points system, a tiered rewards program, or a hybrid of the two.

4. Select the Right Rewards

Based on your understanding of your customers, select rewards that they will find truly valuable. This could include discounts, free shipping, exclusive products, or experiences.

5. Make it Easy to Join

Make the sign-up process as easy as possible. The fewer barriers there are to joining, the more likely customers are to sign up.

6. Market Your Program

Promote your loyalty program through all your marketing channels, including your website, social media, email marketing, and in any physical locations you may have.

7. Train Your Staff

If you have a customer service team, make sure they are well trained on the ins and outs of the loyalty program so they can answer customer questions and promote the program effectively.

8. Test and Refine Your Program

Launch your program as a beta version and gather feedback from customers. Use this feedback to refine and improve the program before you roll it out more widely.

9. Monitor Your Program's Performance

Use analytics to track the success of your program. Monitor key metrics such as enrollment rate, active participation rate, and program-induced purchase uplift.

10. Regularly Update and Refresh Your Program

Keep your program fresh and engaging by regularly updating your rewards and running special promotions.


Ecommerce loyalty programs can be a powerful tool for increasing customer retention, driving repeat purchases, and ultimately boosting your bottom line. By understanding your customers, offering meaningful rewards, and continuously refining your program, you can build a loyalty program that truly adds value to your customers and your business.

Remember, a successful ecommerce loyalty program is about more than just transactions; it's about building lasting relationships with your customers. With the right strategy and execution, your loyalty program can help turn your customers into your most effective brand ambassadors.

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