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10 Tips for Loyalty Program Success

Creating your first loyalty program can be overwhelming. What rewards should you offer? What customers should you target? What should your program look like? With so many moving pieces, you’ll need to pare down the possibilities.

Here are ten high-level tips to help you kick off your program on the right track.

1. Know your customers.

The most successful brands drive home the points that matter most to their customers, and rewards programs are no different. Before you put a program in place, it’s vital that you know your customers well enough to give them tasks and rewards that will be mutually beneficial. Offering people things they already want is the quickest, most efficient way to see results that last. Lean on the people closest to your community for input in the early stages of your program as they can offer the best sense of who your customers are, what motivates them to engage, and what their personalities are like. Whether your social media manager, customer service team, sales team, or someone else in your org interacts with your customers the most, give them a stake in the success of your loyalty program and leverage their knowledge of your existing customers to help create a layout that will incentivize the majority.

2. Offer a variety of rewards.

Once you’ve nailed down what kind(s) of rewards will incentivize your customers, it’s time to offer them in a variety of ways. There are three main types of rewards brands can offer: sweepstakes (e.g. a lottery, instant-win giveaway, trip, etc.); digital (e.g. social media shout outs, points, badges, etc.); and tangible (e.g. coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc.). Here at BigDoor, we believe digital (typically non dollar-backed) rewards are the future of rewards programs as customers move farther into the age of all things online.

However, digital rewards are not the best solution for every situation. If your brand has the ability to offer a healthy dose of sweepstakes and tangible rewards alongside a digital-heavy program, you’ll have the competitive advantage of a stacked deck. Explore all the unique ways your brand can offer rewards to customers in order to come up with the most effective layout for your program.

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3. Make your tasks achievable.

The sky is the limit when it comes to sending your customers on tasks to redeem rewards, but remember to keep your feet on the ground when setting your goals. If you make tasks too difficult or time consuming for users to complete, you’ll probably see a negative response from your audience.

There is no set rule for the amount of tasks a user should complete in order to redeem a reward, so gauge every situation accordingly. Bigger rewards (like a $100 gift card) will likely require users to complete a higher number of tasks than small rewards (like a Twitter shout out), so be sure to walk through a customer redemption cycle in the planning stage of every reward you offer. The whole point of loyalty programs is to increase user engagement and loyalty, so make sure your customers can actually accomplish the tasks you’re setting them up for.

4. Go where your audience is.

This one isn’t rocket science, but is definitely worth a reminder. Your brand’s customers are congregating in groups around the web, and it’s up to your brand to reach them where they already are. Whether your customers engage through social media channels, hang out in web forums, or read certain types of blogs, you should place a priority on drawing them into your product or service from their pre-determined niches. Once your brand has their attention, use your loyalty program to make them stay.

5. Invest in UX.

User experience is part of every touch point customers hit when interacting with your brand, and offering a seamlessly integrated program is where brands who win invest their time and money.

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Your users will be more inclined to sign up, complete tasks, and interact with your site if your loyalty program’s look and feel matches the design and layout they are already familiar with. To ensure a smooth transition into your program, keep its onsite experience on-brand, easy-to-understand, light-weight, and versatile. There’s no question that this task will take a bit of time spent in the planning and development stages, but the payout is worth the effort.

6. Incentivize customer referrals.

People like to go where their friends are, and when it comes to brand loyalty, nothing is more powerful than a customer advocating on a brand’s behalf to their inner circles. Are you capitalizing on the powerful word-of-mouth reviews happy customers are giving your brand?

Incentivizing customer referrals is a great way to build loyalty. When a brand rewards for “soft actions” like referring a friend, they say thank you to their loyal advocates, while simultaneously gaining new users. Whether you reward referrals with gift cards, special deals, coupons, or other incentives, enabling this feature in your loyalty program will give your brand a competitive advantage.

7. Keep your loyalty program on-brand.

Although we mentioned on-brand design when talking about user experience, this step is so important that it deserves a category of its own. Loyalty programs are created to add value and increase loyalty within an existing customer cycle. Adding an online program means you’ll be adding a new feature onto your existing website; additional layers to existing sites can be confusing, and the more you can streamline the experience for your users, the more comfortable they’ll feel when signing up and engaging.

Keep your rewards program relevant to your brand in order to smooth the transition between customer to loyalty program member. If your brand chooses a third-party vendor to create your program, make sure white-labeling is an option that is offered (or just choose BigDoor as we white-label all of our program options!).

8. Communicate with members regularly.

Most people are creatures of habit, and your loyalty program should speak to these feelings. Create a pattern of communication between your brand and program members so they know what to expect and when to expect it. Whether you’re communicating through email campaigns, in-app messaging, social media channels, or other, it’s important to create a plan and stick to it.

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The earlier you set communication expectations with your loyalty program members, the better off their experience will be. The principals of reciprocal loyalty carry over to communication seamlessly – think of this step as “reciprocal communication.” :)

9. Offer multi-platform options.

It’s been said before, but we’ll say it one more time: offering multi-platform options for your program members to engage with your brand is key to success. Your customers are engaging with you everywhere: on their phones, at work, on their home desktop machines, and on their tablets. The wider you can expand your software’s reach the higher the chance of people engaging with your brand will be.

Like most good things, multi-platform software takes time to test an implement. Putting in the effort to offer multi-platform options at the beginning of your program will be worth the effort for years to come.

10. Grow with your audience.

Your audience is continuously evolving, and you should be, too! Be sure your loyalty program is equipped for change. As your audience expands, your loyalty program offerings will need to adapt in order to keep existing members and attract new ones. Creating a cadence is necessary to get your program off the ground, but have strong beliefs that are weakly held and be open to change along the way. Offering new types of rewards to incentivize your ever-evolving audience can put those inevitable growing pains to good use.

And there you have it! Hopefully these tips will help you zero in on what your program will look like. Do you have any tips outside of this list? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!


A Quick Guide to Customer Journey Mapping

How many funnels have you made over the years? A dozen? Two dozen? More?! Same here. Funnels are what we do as marketers. You create funnels and you calculate your conversion rates from step to step, and there you have it. But what if I told you that funnels were the models of yesteryear? What if I told you…funnels just don’t cut it anymore?

BAM! Enter customer journey mapping. Fully-equipped with real customer data, behavioral stages, touch-points for interaction, cross-team resourcing, sentiment, and more. No more guessing what motivates customers to grow with your brand. Instead, uncover exact moments that help customers succeed, and allocate your efforts to encourage more of them.

Sound too good to be true? We think not! This quick guide to customer journey mapping with cover a number of important topics as it relates to providing the best customer experience. We’ll cover why they are important, what dimensions you should be exploring, the different visualization options, show off some examples, and then leave you with common challenges and how to overcome them. It’s a lot, so let’s get moving and jump right in!

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map is a framework that enables you to improve your customer experience. It documents the customer experience through their perspective, helping you best understand how customers are interacting with you now and helps you identify areas for improvement moving forward. Great customer journey maps are rooted in data-driven research, and visually represent the different phases your customers experience based on a variety of dimensions such as sentiment, goals, touch points, and more.

customer journey map definition

Instead of a traditional marketing funnel, many customer journey maps are not, in fact, linear. A customer can jump from one phase to another based on a number of factors. They will interact with some touch-points and miss others entirely. A marketer’s job is to understand the different moments of impact a customer could have when engaging with your brand and products, and then set those customers up to succeed through education, communication, and discovery.

This new approach to customer research is helping marketers everywhere better see the world through the customer’s eyes, which helps us serve them better. At BigDoor, we think this customer-centric approach to business is at the heart of reciprocal loyalty, and we are loving our adventures in customer journey mapping. Want to learn more? Here we go…

What is a customer journey map?

As mentioned above, traditional funnels tend to be very linear in nature. Because of that, they often feel very templated. We marketers have often inherited funnels when we take new jobs or new projects on. These funnels come with a number of assumptions about our customers, their needs, goals, and more. You know what is scary about that?

Every freaking thing. Truth.

A customer journey map is rooted in research and provides us the freedom to explore new “truths” about our customers. Since there is no “template,” they have to fit into they provide a great deal of freedom for us to explore. A customer journey map ultimately exists to improve the customer experience and these days that requires creativity. We need to revisit what we think we know, and really understand every touch point a customer has with our brands. This is at the heart of creating a better customer experience. But that’s not all customer journey maps are good for, here are a few others;

Customer journey maps help us develop the best product roadmap.
One of the biggest challenges a company faces is deciding what to build next. Most companies have lists of feature requests, bugs, new product ideas, new service opportunities, and more. Where do you invest? What gets bumped to the top? This is hard stuff.

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When you map out how your customers explore your products, it becomes very evident where they are hung up and what they are missing. You literally start to see what they see, and from there you see the holes. It’s these “ah-ha” moments that should steer your product roadmaps. Don’t just build for the new ten thousand customers you hope to acquire, and don’t forget to build for your customers today. After all, 80% of your company’s future revenues come from just 20% of your current customers. To succeed in the future, you need to make educated next moves, and mapping the journey like this can help take out the guesswork.

Customer journey maps help us prioritize competing deliverables.
Similarly, these maps can help a company decide what should be the main business goal right now. Maybe it’s product enhancements? Maybe it’s improving your customer service team? Maybe it’s doubling down on documentation and education material? It’s through the mapping exercise that we can most clearly see the points of friction that face customers. This is low hanging fruit like you’ve never seen.

Rather than relying solely on your business intuition, you can navigate these tough prioritization decisions with real customer data, testimonials, feedback, and more. We’ve all been in those meetings where every team’s need is a P0 (aka “the most important thing ever), and the truth is that without the customer voice weighing in…that is actually the truth. But when you take the time to map our your customers’ hurdles, you can easily communicate cross team about what the business needs to be focusing on. It’s a win-win.

Who wouldn't prioritize rubber ducks?

Who wouldn’t prioritize rubber ducks?

Customer journey maps help us plan for hiring and team expansion.
This is a great additional benefit that many of us forget about. Once you know where your main points of friction are and you’ve prioritized the projects that will have the greatest impact, you can hire and expand teams accordingly. Too many organizations let resource bottlenecks alone determine what positions to open up, but what if you are investing in the wrong area? What if your limited resources are going to the wrong team to have the biggest impact on your customers — the very people keeping you in business in the first place!

Terrifying, right?! A great customer journey map will require a great deal of investigation into what is working, what isn’t working and what needs to happen to keep your customers engaged and invested in your brand. What better information than this to help steer you on how to grow your company to best serve them? Not much. It’s like customer data gold…if customer data gold existed.

Customer journey maps help us bring different teams together for a common goal: the customer experience.
It seems like an obvious one, but man is this hard. Like, really hard. We’ve all been there. We get caught up in the day to day. We have our own team goals – increase that count, hit that metric, drive that margin, and so on and so forth. But hold up; what about the customer experience? Wouldn’t is be great if the entire company has something to point to as the beacon of customer experience conversation?

The customer should be the #1 priority of everyone at your company.

The customer should be the #1 priority of everyone at your company.

It sure would, and that’s where the customer journey map comes in. These documents should be at the nucleus not of just one team, but the entire organization. They are as important and cross-team relevant as your company revenue goals and your customer personas. Everyone should be well-versed on what your customer is asking, what they need, how they feel at different points of the journey, and most importantly, what the company can be doing to deliver an exceptional experience. Putting these documents at the heart of the conversation helps every team work toward a common goal — and the best goal at that — the customer’s happiness.

What does a customer journey map include?

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of it all. As a reminder, there is no official template to point to based on your company’s goals the specific stages and dimensions of those stages may differ, but there are some best practices to look at when mapping out your customer’s journey. All in all, the visualization is less important than the information you include (although the more clearly you layout the info the better, obviously).

Here are some of our best practices when it comes to exploring customer dimensions in your customer journey map.

#1: Nail down your personas: Oh, personas. You’re so fun and so important. If you haven’t yet taken the time to identify your customer personas, you should start there. Here at BigDoor, we’re hoping to create a guide soon on how to tackle this important feat, but for now, here is a great resource to help you get started. Once you have personas built out, you can jump into mapping each persona’s own journey.

#2: Create customer stages: This is probably the most important piece for you to decide: what are the behavioral stages your customers go through when getting to know your product, service, and brand? What is the step-by-step experience for a customer? You can also include a non-customer stage in here if you’d like (which can be very useful in helping you move them into the customer bucket).

Some common customer stages include: discovery, research, explore, choose, purchase, and advocate. Don’t over-think these. Start simple. You will collect lots of data moving forward to help you refine these phases. Here is an example of what it could look like and also an example of what we use here at BigDoor.

customer behavior phases

Here at BigDoor we see our customers as having to discover us, then we usually see them move on to comparing us (both to competitors and to building internally) and then they move on to the sales cycle where they get to know the ins and outs of our products. During this consideration phases they move on to a commitment (contract signed), and from there our team of loyalty experts works to expand and build out partnerships that last. By outlining those phases we can begin to understand what customers need as they move through this journey.

#3: Know your customers’ goals: Although it may seem backwards, this customer journey map isn’t about your company’s goals; it’s about your customers’. Your map should identify these clearly by customer phase, and then you’re able to see what touch-points are needed to help support customers in reaching those goals. If they are seeking education about a product and you fail to have a education resource touchpoint, that is a mismatch. Your customer goals should be laid out clearly, because you can only accomplish your goals if your customers complete theirs.

Here, you can see the questions our customers have at each phase and how we back those out to a customer goal for each phase. This helps us better answer their needs with our touch-points.

customer goals by phase customer journey mapping

#4: Identify touch-points: During the stages, have you identified what are the different moments of interaction you have available to connect and engage your customers as they try to reach their goals? Think of this as your customer “needs” as they try to accomplish what they are hoping to accomplish. This includes moments that happen off site, onsite, through marketing, in person, and over the phone. Some of these touch-points are more critical than others (often called “moments of truth”) and the goal is to map these out and then work to create them more often in your favor.

Below, you see some examples of our customer touch-points we use at BigDoor, and you get a sense of just how many opportunities we have to reach our customers and help them succeed, no matter what phase they are in:

touchpoints for customer behavior phases

#5: Leverage data and time frames when possible: As mentioned above, a customer journey map is founded on real customer data. You should be surveying your customers, pulling from your customer analytics, and leveraging as much data as you can to identify your phases, touch-points, customer sentiment, etc. Another great thing to include when possible is the time frame; how long does each phase usually last? How long do some touch-points take to be effective ones (e.g. how long are your most successful customer calls)? The more specific you can get when mapping out the landscape, the more successful this data will be for you when making business decisions.

#6: List what teams are involves and how much effort is required: For each different phase, you will see gaps in what your customer needs are and what you have available for them. This will begin to highlight what you need to work on as a company. It is sometimes helpful to list out what teams are best suited to resolve these gaps and also what level of effort is required to resolve each gap. By doing this right in the journey map, your teammates can easily understand why you might prioritize action items over others moving forward.

Hopefully the above steps give you an idea of where to jump in when kicking off your first customer journey map. Remember – not all journey maps are the same. They will differ significantly based on your business model, your company structure, and your approach to it all.

The important part is to add as much real information as you can to best understand; what do customers need? How can you help them succeed? And where should you be investing more to provide a better customer experience? From there, the rest will fall into place as you get into it.

What challenges will you face?

Like any big cross-team project, customer journey maps will likely create a few challenges for you. Doing something for your company that is as important as customer journey mapping or personas or roadmaps always bring with them their own bag of challenges.


Let’s run through some of the common ones we’ve seen and address some tips for facing and overcoming those challenges.

This is not linear. No matter how much you want it to be, things won’t be as black and white, or as tidy as the funnels of yesteryear. So embrace the “all over the place” nature of a customer journey map, because that is where the magic happens.

Focus less on how pretty it is, and more on how valuable it is. Inevitably, someone from design will see this project and want to jump up in there. Suddenly, the conversation will turn to legends, color codes, formatting, and more. Avoid the rabbit whole that is visualizations and bring it back to the data. If you have valuable data, the visualization is just a vehicle for the valuable story.

Position your map as a living document, not one that’s set in stone. Don’t get caught up in making it perfect or exhaustive in nature. Start primitive and build from there. This is not meant to be something you do and never touch again. You will update as you collect more information and as your business grows. Position it as such and you’ll see much more buy in from other teams looking to weigh in as it evolves.

Lets wrap this party up

So there you have it – a quick guide to customer journey mapping. I know we covered a lot today, but hopefully this gives you a place to get started. The truth is, a project like this can be very intimating. I remember avoiding maps and personas for the longest time as past companies — afraid I wasn’t qualified or that I’d screw up and ruin our business in the meantime. But tackling these big internal resources can be the most important work we do as marketers and product marketers.

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In addition to the steps and suggestions above, I thought it would be great to include some of our favorite customer journey mapping resources here so you can check them out. If you have others, feel free to leave them in the comments.

10 Tips for Creating a Customer Journey Map –
Improving UX with Customer Journey Mapping –
CX Journey Mapping Toolkit –

Good luck with your mapping, and let us know how it goes. *high five* #yougotthis

Rewards: The Best Choice for Brands Building Reciprocal Loyalty

Long-lasting loyalty is reciprocal, where both brands and consumers benefit from the relationship. But what fosters reciprocal loyalty? What can a brand offer its consumers to cultivate the type of two-way relationship that will keep them coming back time and time again?

When loyalty is reciprocal, rewards become the most important way to bridge the gap between a brand and its consumers. BigDoor is leading the charge on the concept of reciprocal loyalty, and today we want to help your next loyalty campaign become mutually beneficial. This post walks you through the basics of the types of points and currency that back rewards; outlines three main types of rewards brands offer customers; provides examples on how you can implement rewards into your next loyalty campaign; and offers advice about which reward(s) is the best choice for your audience.

There are two main perspectives when it comes to building reciprocal loyalty through rewards: the brand side, and the consumer side. We’ll talk about rewards from the brand perspective in this post, and will cover the consumer perspective in a post that’s coming soon.

Let’s dive in!

Points & Currency: Dollar-backed vs. Non Dollar-backed

Dollar-backed currency is what all traditional rewards programs are built on. With dollar-backed currencies, the financial liability of the reward occurs when a consumer earns the points, not when the consumer redeems those points. A perfect example is an airline mileage program. A consumer buys a ticket, flies 500 miles, and they get 500 mileage points that they can redeem at a future date for a flight, an upgrade, or a discount. While the points they are receiving may not have a true cash value, they do have a real cost to the airline. As a result, the airline needs to carefully account for how many points are outstanding, and their associated financial liability. This means that the airline can only afford to grant points when a consumer is making a purchase and spending real dollars with the airline.

Non dollar-backed currency is a new concept being pioneered by BigDoor (we’ll be writing more about it soon), and provides significantly more flexibility than traditional dollar-backed currency. With non dollar-backed programs, the financial liability of the rewards occurs at the point of reward redemption, not at the point of earning. Any rewards that have underlying costs associated with them must have inventory and time limitations, and non dollar-backed rewards provide an opportunity for no inventory restrictions at all as they do not have direct cost associated with redemption. This structure allows a brand to set a pre-determined monthly or annual rewards budget, and whether the consumers earn a million points or ten million points, the pre-determined budget for the brand stays the same. The consumer can then be rewarded for a number of what we call “soft actions” like visiting a site, referring a friend, following the brand on Twitter, watching a video, or engaging in content. Consumers can also earn points for making purchases with non dollar-backed rewards, as well.

Dollar-backed and non dollar-backed currency support different types of rewards, but both directly effect the value of the reward a brand is offering. The quadrant below breaks down the value of a reward based on the two points that spur a brand to choose the type of currency backing the reward: brand affinity and cost.

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Brand affinity is the feeling of goodwill a customer or community member holds about a brand. When a company’s brand affinity is high, consumers are feeling good about the products and/or services they company provides. When  brand affinity is low, consumers are unsure about the goods, or message behind the goods, that they are paying for. Cost can be thought of as “incremental cost,” where the cost to a business is higher or lower depending on the cost of the units of output processed.

When analyzing how brand affinity and cost work together to yield the value of rewards, we see four possibilities: decreasing brand affinity with high incremental costs (i.e. using a dollar-backed campaign to send cheaply made mugs to a large volume of consumers); decreasing brand affinity with no incremental costs (i.e. using a non dollar-backed campaign to send an off-brand message to an online community); increasing brand affinity with high incremental costs (i.e. using a dollar-backed campaign to ship high-priced swag bags to consumers as rewards); and increasing brand affinity with no incremental costs (i.e. using a non dollar-backed campaign to encourage users to interact with your online content for points).

Out of the four choices displayed in the quadrant, it’s best to aim for the sweet spot of increasing brand affinity with no incremental costs. A reward that increases brand affinity and lowers costs is the most cost-effective and consumer-pleasing value that any reward can offer reciprocally; the consumer is happy with the reward and continues to love the brand, and the brand is happy that costs are low and that the consumer is pleased. This is where dollar-backed or non-dollar backed currency comes in.

The grid speaks directly to brands deciding whether their rewards should be supported by dollar-backed or non dollar-backed currency. Both options yield a variety of possibility for the types of rewards a brand can offer, but when a brand is supported to use non dollar-backed currency, they gain a huge competitive advantage.

Through non dollar-backed currency, brands can “pay” users for completing “soft” actions, like gaining points for interacting with the brand through social channels, commenting on and sharing content, providing feedback on how to improve the customer experience, and more. If you’re giving users the opportunity to rack in points or coins only for dollar-backed purchases, you are offering a limited experience to increase brand affinity, and run into a problem. In today’s world, so much of what builds brand affinity — and increases loyalty — occurs outside of the traditional pay-to-purchase model, and those actions need to be rewarded. Even though you may not be rewarding users for soft actions, you can bet your competitors are – or will be very soon.

Another advantage of non dollar-backed currency is that a brand can calculate exactly how much they’re going to spend on a rewards program or campaign before it even begins, regardless of user behavior. In traditional dollar-backed transactions, the cost of rewards rests solely on consumer redemption (i.e. the number of people who redeem the reward drives the amount of swag that needs to be manufactured, stored, and shipped). Non dollar-backed currency allows you to set your budgets outside of you customers redemption cycle, which allows for cutting unnecessary costs out of your budget and for your accounting accrual to remain steady.

Rewards: Dollar-backed  vs. Non Dollar-backed

Dollar-backed rewards have an underlying cost to the brand (i.e. discounts or a free airline flight). Non dollar-backed reward programs may include some rewards that have an underlying cost, but each of those rewards needs to have limited overall inventory, and then also provide rewards that have no underlying cost to the brand that have no inventory restrictions (i.e. sweepstakes, exclusive content access, or trial versions of products). Just like non dollar-backed currency, there is an advantage to being able to offer non dollar-backed rewards.

With traditional dollar-backed rewards, companies tend face high upfront costs without knowing the full mechanics of the program. For example, brands have to account for the cost of storing the dollar-backed rewards in a warehouse, paying for shipping, and setting a logistics process in place to deliver the rewards to the consumers.

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On the consumer side, dollar-backed rewards don’t yield immediate results, and the “instant gratification” factor that drives return visitors to complete incentivized actions gets swept away. This lack of engagement, coupled with internal uncertainty around costs and fulfillment, can be a pain in the you-know-what for your accounting, marketing, and legal teams. With non dollar-backed rewards, you can take back control over your rewards budget and put your team at ease.

However, there is definitely a time and place for dollar-backed rewards that can skyrocket user engagement for a chance to redeem. Let’s go back to the example of frequent flier miles programs. Frequent flier miles are always dollar-backed as they are rewarded only after a transaction has been made, but airline consumers LOVE their frequent flier miles and will complete unprecedented actions to keep and grow their milage. You know that friend you have who takes three or four weekend trips near the end of the year just to keep her gold status on her favorite airline? She’s not alone. In January 2006, the US alone boasted over 120 million customers enrolled in frequent flier miles programs. Airlines have found the golden ticket through dollar-backed rewards.

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Three Types of Rewards

Now that you know the two ways to back rewards, it’s time to decide what type of rewards to offer your consumers. Just like customers, rewards come in all shapes and sizes. Despite the endless possibilities of specific rewards brands can offer their customers, there are three main categories that all rewards fall into. Here we go!

1. Sweepstakes (a BigDoor must-have)

A sweepstakes is an opportunity given to a consumer by a brand to enter for a chance to win a prize. The most common sweepstakes offer experiential rewards, where consumers can collect points by completing incentivized actions in order to enter a chance to win a trip, instant-win giveaway, or product. At BigDoor, we see sweepstakes as a key reward to have in your loyalty campaign arsenal, and encourage our customers to implement them into their loyalty campaign strategy.

Why we love sweepstakes:

Instant gratification. While lotteries and sweepstakes are very different mechanically (and legally), the human psychology of participating in both is very similar. Purchasing a lottery ticket is instantly gratifying for participants, regardless of whether or not they win. Lotto participants create an experience out of purchasing a ticket; they watch the “pot” until it reaches certain levels, eagerly rush to grocery stores or gas stations to purchase their tickets, and even go so far as to strategize their purchases and map out where previous winners bought tickets. Part of the fun of entering is receiving the ticket. This frenzy is fueled by the aspirational opportunity to win an incredible prize (just check out these folks) that speaks directly to the consumer psyche. Harnessing the energy sweepstakes provide to power your customer engagement yields incredible results, with entirely predictable financial costs.

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 11.27.54 AM Courtesy of The Guardian.

Calculated reward cost. Sweepstakes are monitored rewards that can be planned down to the cent, which is incredibly cost-effective for your business. As a brand, you will only spend as much as the sweepstake is worth, without any hidden fees or logistics associated with redemption. You can alter the cost for each sweepstakes as you push the campaign live, which means this reward can match the flux of your brand’s cash flow at any given time. Talk about a win-win!

Awesome prizes. When you have total control over the cost, you can craft seriously awesome rewards based on your budget. Sweepstakes are typically only rewarded to one person at a time, so instead of spending $10K on a batch of coffee mugs to ship you, you can spend $10K on sending one lucky winner on their dream trip to interact with your brand in some capacity. Incredible prizes entice users to complete the actions allowing them to enter, which directly affects user engagement and behavior.

Flexible entry timeframes. Whether you’d like your sweepstakes to run for one day or three months, any entry timeframe is possible. Before you set your entry parameters, make sure you consider the goal of your sweepstakes. For example, if you’re giving away a last-minute trip to see the finale of a show, you might want to shorten the timeframe for entry. If your goal is to send users on quests in order to earn points to enter the sweepstakes, you might want to increase the timeframe for entry so that a large amount of users are eligible to win. You should judge the timeframe for your sweepstakes based on the results you’d like to receive from participants.

The downside:

Sweepstakes are only as good as you make them. This goes without saying, but a sweepstakes will only give you what you give it. If you’re a fashion retailer who is planning to send one lucky sweepstakes winner to Maui, you could advertise the trip as “Win a trip to Maui!” and see a mediocre response. On the other hand, you could send your winner on a trip to Maui where they will get the chance to meet with one of your designers and talk fashion, and then enjoy a $500 shopping spree at one of your stores. When it comes to sweepstakes, the devil is in the details. Put in what you want to get back.

2. Digital (a BigDoor must-have)

Digital rewards are any reward that is redeemed online (i.e. social media shout outs, badges, points, coins, etc.). Digital rewards are the newest — and fastest growing — category of rewards as retailers and publishers move further into the digital experience when interacting with their consumers. BigDoor sees the future of rewards living in this category, and considers the option of digital rewards a must-have for all brands to want to dominate their markets over the next few years.

Why we love digital rewards:

Bridge the gap. Digital rewards are one of the best ways to bridge the gap between a brand and a consumer. More than ever before, consumers are reaching out to brands where they expect to get immediate responses: online. Experiential rewards that are delivered digitally, like Twitter shout outs or points for interacting with online content, offer a connection between a brand and consumer that is new, exciting, and increasingly expected from your brand’s loyalist fans.

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Cost-effective. When a brand offers digital rewards, they have total control over how much the campaign will cost the company. Digital campaigns are easy to turn on and off depending on audience response, with few costs associated with pulling the plug early. Digital rewards are also some of the lowest costing rewards available; many times, they’re even free. Outside of paying employees to deliver digital rewards through social media and running loyalty campaigns (don’t have one of those? Check our our product!), digital rewards can be created to fit even the tightest budgets. No other type of reward can ensure such a controlled environment.

Instant delivery. Through digital rewards, brands can respond to consumers and provide rewards instantly. Rather than shipping a product as a reward, or opening a waiting period for people to enter to win a sweepstakes, digital rewards can be awarded as soon as the incentivized action has taken place. This type of reward instantly delights consumers, driving engagement and fostering loyalty through positive interactions with a brand. For example, this year Starbucks used a digital, non dollar-backed rewards campaign to entice buyers to purchase bags of coffee from their local grocery stores. When a consumer purchased a bag and entered the promotional code on the Starbucks website, they were instantly rewarded by collecting Stars, which encouraged them to buy more coffee until they had enough stars to reach their goal and receive a gift card (which was also redeemable digitally). Digital rewards are a perfect way for retailers to award users instantly for purchases.

Endless possibilities. In the digital world, the possibilities of reward are as endless as the interwebs itself :) Leveraging existing platforms, experimenting with online communities, and even directly asking your consumers what they want as a reward make these rewards incredibly relevant for any brand. The sky is the limit, and we’re just getting started with harnessing the potential of digital rewards.

The downside:

Not everything can be delivered digitally. Even today, there are still some rewards that are better delivered in person. Until we find a way to pixelize limited-edition, branded swag, we’ll have to stick with snail mail every now and again. Better start investing in Wonka Vision.

Large online communities yield the best results. Digital rewards typically do best when they’re presented to large online communities, which means the more you put into building and growing your digital presence, the more digital rewards will help build loyalty. If your consumers and fans aren’t online, digital rewards probably won’t be right for your business. Targeting your consumers where they already are is still the best approach to rewards.

3. Tangible

Tangible rewards are the physical products given to consumers when they complete incentivized tasks (i.e. completing on-site quests, redeeming a set number of coins, etc.). Here at BigDoor, we believe that the future of rewards lives most heavily in the first two categories (sweepstakes and digital), but tangible rewards still leave a strong mark on the rewards categories landscape. They’re here to stay for the time being, and should be considered whenever a brand puts rewards together for their loyalty program.

Why we love tangible rewards:

Novel, rare merchandise. Tangible rewards are the quickest way to deliver limited-edition merchandise or memorabilia. Novel merchandise can still be considered experiential because the customer is offered the opportunity to have a fantastic experience with the reward; receiving a special piece of merchandise can be a fantastic experience depending on delivery, packaging, and branding. For example, a baseball hat signed by a baseball player is a great piece of unique merchandise to reward consumers with.

Branded rewards. Tangible rewards also offer an opportunity for a brand to engage consumers in a forward-facing way. Building off of the example above, a branded baseball hat signed by a famous player delivers a positive experience, but also ties the consumer directly back to your brand, increasing brand affinity and building loyalty. Just be sure to give some serious thought onto what your brand slaps its logo on before sending it out as a reward. Many a-failed marketing campaigns have occurred when branding goes horribly wrong.

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The downside:

Tangible isn’t sustainable. Fulfillment costs, paying humans to pack things, and figuring out shipping logistics; this process is limiting, and is just not sustainable for many businesses. Rewards programs should include items outside of physical goods as tangible items are not always the best way to boost loyalty. Even though there might be added value to the brand and the program through tangible rewards, the cost to the brand might not be worth it.

Lackluster products. When brands consider giving away tangible rewards, they tend to be on the cheaper side as they are mass-produced. These rewards do not entice consumers as much as an experiential or state-of-the-art reward would. The selection of these rewards could be due to the fact that the brand has to find a quick way to get in front of a large group, but the brainstorming behind tangible rewards tends to be a little dismal. The next time you even consider giving away that free coffee mug, stop yourself before you end up with a warehouse that looks like this:

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And your customers’ homes start looking like this:

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 11.44.35 AM Courtesy of The Daily Herald.

Physical products don’t drive loyalty. Time and time again, studies prove that physical rewards don’t have desired effects. Consumers choose experiences with brands, and as we continue to move into the digital world, digital rewards and experiential rewards really drive it home. Tangible items might drive brand affinity for a short amount of time, but when it comes to driving lasting loyalty, consider yourself pushed to the bottom of the pile — much like that $5 t-shirt you sent out last month.

So, What Rewards Should I Offer?

Brands have diverse goals when it comes to selecting rewards to offer through a loyalty program, but one thing is always certain: brands want rewards to delight their consumers.

It’s best to work backwards from your consumer when selecting which type of reward your brand will offer. What entices your audience the most when completing incentivized tasks? Does your community have a large social following that you can leverage when introducing new rewards? Have you polled consumers to see what they’d be most excited to receive? Study your users’ habits, and offer rewards accordingly. If you haven’t spent much time figuring out what specifically drives your users to engage, feel free to reach out to us and we’d be happy to provide you with more of our insights and learnings.

At BigDoor, we see the future of loyalty programs being forever changed by both non dollar-backed rewards that serve to increase brand affinity. However, a truly complete loyalty program allows for flexibility across all available rewards. The best rewards programs provide the brand with predictable and controllable costs, while giving their consumers flexibility in redeeming rewards that serve to increase brand affinity. This is the sweet spot of reciprocal loyalty.

Now that you know the in’s and out’s of selecting the right reward for your program, we’d love to hear from you. What types of rewards does your brand offer? Do you find that one (or two, maybe all three!) category works best? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

If you’d like to hear more about our thoughts on rewards, stay tuned for a continued series on the blog. If you’re inspired to continue the conversation, drop us a line any time at
, and one of our loyalty specialists will provide you with all the information you need.


What Makes A Brand?

What a question. It’s a tough one. Funny enough, a lot of us out there are tasked with building a brand, and I would argue that we are spending a lot of our time on the wrong priorities. As a result, brand marketing is getting a bad rap, and we are failing to help our companies stand out in the right ways.

Here at BigDoor, we talk a lot about the importance of building a brand when you are trying to grow customer loyalty, so we thought it would be worth outlining exact what a brand isn’t, what a brand is, and tips to get you there. Let’s jump on in!

A brand isn’t…

All too often, marketers rely on pieces of the brand to “be” the brand. We focus our time on things like the logo, brand colors, byline, etc., when those alone do not make a brand. These features are the tangible execution of a brand. They change over time, and evolve as the brand grows. They may help us represent ourselves in a crowded room, but they are not what differentiates us. not a brand Today more than ever before, we need to pay attention to the many pieces of our brand, but pay the bulk of our attention to the sum of those parts and the underlying foundation to these pieces. So what the heck goes into that foundation? We’ve got ya covered.

A brand is…

Rather than focusing on tangible pieces of a brand, it’s critical to look at and invest in the bigger picture. The “bigger picture” includes your company’s perspective in the market, the philosophy you take towards your product, your tone/voice, your company’s story or history, and your actions. These are really what drives your brand. this is a brandWhen it comes to building a brand, there are some tangible steps you can take to get down to what really matters. It’s all about identifying what your brand is promising, how you communicate that promise to the market, how you deliver on the promise, and how your promise grows over time. Here’s a bit more on these four steps:

1. Take a stand

What is your company passionate about? This passion lies at the heart of your brand. Here at BigDoor, we believe in reciprocal loyalty, which is the belief that companies should be as loyal to customers as they hope customers are loyal to them. Because we’re so passionate about reciprocal loyalty, we put it at the heart of what drives our brand. You’ll see our tangible assets (like our byline, website, etc.) reflect this in the coming weeks, but we plan on having reciprocal loyalty at the core of everything we push out. It’s a promise we are making to the market: that we will help educate brands on this philosophy, but more importantly, that our products will help them do this for their customers.

It’s crucial to take a stand as a company, and it’s a promise or differentiator that is the foundation for everything you do with your brand. Your team, your products, and your assets should all magnetically tie back to this promise.

2. Shout your promise from the rooftops

Once you know what your brand’s promise is, shout it from the rooftops! Take your resources, budget, and channels, and leverage them for brand story sharing. You can’t simply push out a big promise and hope the market shares it around on your behalf.

A great example of spreading a company philosophy and mission is HubSpot’s Culture Code deck. Company culture videos, like this one from Epipheo (a video studio agency out of Portland), spread a message to the masses in a meaningful way. Communicating your promise in a beautiful, effective way is what enables you to begin to build your tribe of brand advocates. Delight them by providing them with content that is shareable and effectively relays your brand’s promise.

3. Don’t just talk; do

After you’ve promised people something, it’s important to deliver on that promise. Your brand is very much dependent on following through, whether it’s shown through great products, great service, great customer communications, or otherwise. You must make sure that brand promise is consistently delivered so it’s believed; only then will it be shared on your behalf. Brand advocates need to know they are sharing a brand that they can trust, and delivery is where that trust is solidified. No great logo or byline can outweigh the importance of doing what your company promised it would do for its users.

4. Revisit and evolve

A great brand evolves with the company. While that foundational core promise will likely always be there in some iteration, great brands can grow as their markets shift. Revisiting how you are promising something to a market and tweaking as needed is a vital part of building a brand.

Nothing is static when it comes to a great brand. For the brand to last decades, it must resonate with new audiences, yet always come back to that “moment of passion” that resonates with the brand’s promise. It’s a fine balance, but when executed well, it’s nearly impossible to disrupt when it comes to building brand loyalty.

Four steps to follow when you get started with building your brand.

Four steps to follow when you get started with building your brand.

These four combined make a brand when done well. While the tangible executions of this brand may change as the market does or the years pass, your “real brand” is rooted in the promise you make and continue to deliver on over time.

Think of your brand as an intangible selling point that exists in people’s hearts. A great gut check to do to test this is asking yourself, “Does my brand hold water if I don’t show the logo, say the byline, or visit the website/store?” If I said to someone, “What is BigDoor to you?” whatever they come back with tells me if we’ve done our job right. That’s when you know you have a brand that can stand on it’s own.

In conclusion

To stand out in the vast sea of competition, our brands need to truly impress. We can’t just be flashy or have a memorable logo; we need to stand for something that drives people to support us. To put it simply: the more successful your brand, the easier it will be to build loyalty around that brand. A successful brand takes a great deal of intention when building, and hopefully this post pointed out some places for you to start when kicking off brand conversations.

I’d love to hear what else you think makes an amazing brand. We have some great posts coming out soon on how to measure the growth of a brand, and a fun post on what our favorites brands are worth (you are going to be floored!) But in the meantime, let’s hear your tips — what have your favorite brands done amazing well when they built their brand? What is a brand to you?

The Benefits of a Customer Advisory Board

Gathering feedback is crucial to moving a business forward at any stage. But with so many voices sharing their thoughts on your products and services, how do you know where to find the most valuable feedback? That’s where a customer advisory board comes in.

A customer advisory board (CAB) is a group of your most trusted customers who can provide feedback on products, features, and design before those new ideas get pushed into the wild for the rest of your customers to see. I like to refer to this group of people as the Robin to a company’s Batman, but for now, we’ll just call them the “secret weapon” behind brands who bridge the gap between their customers and their business well.

There are countless benefits of having a customer advisory board on your side, but we’ve highlighted the top four to show you just how effective leaning on a CAB can be. Enjoy!

1. Superior beta testing

Customer advisory board members make up a group of beta testers that can be advantageous in a number of ways. First, this group is hand-picked by your business, which gives you the ability to control your sample size. Beta testing typically falls on the shoulders of a group that is uncontrolled, where companies don’t have any input on who their testers actually are. Surveys are sent out with the hope of getting a percentage of response back, rather than focusing on who the responders are. With a CAB, you can create a beta testing group with the demographics, ages, and audience types you know will yield the best results.

Testing through a CAB allows you to make sure your sample is representative of your most-telling audience, but more importantly, it gives businesses the ability to iterate on their tests over time to focus in on finding they answers they need to improve. When a test group is controlled, changes can be made to the content and testers to proactively iterate on results over time. This allows for new theories and samples to be pushed through the pipeline at a faster pace, which allows for more progress on the product side of the house. Do more faster, FTW!

2. Impartial feedback

Gathering feedback on a new product or design is great, but the person providing the feedback makes all the difference. If feedback is given by people who might be operating with their own agendas, the point of unbiased testing is lost.

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CAB members are instrumental in providing feedback that (usually) isn’t driven by their personal motivations. For example, a CAB member will not have the same motivations as your someone who is monetarily invested in your company. CAB members will be invested in your industry but will not be driven solely by growing your revenue when they provide feedback, so what they share has a tendency to be quite unbiased. Investor feedback is crucial to driving a business forward, but there are plenty of times where feedback from a source that is separated from your revenue stream is what makes all the difference.

3. Qualitative feedback

Although working with CAB members will not be as plentiful as selecting a random group of beta testers, their feedback is much deeper than a random sample can provide. If you value quality over quantity when it comes to product feedback (which you should!), lean on your CAB to provide in-depth, unique insights to propel your growth forward.

A great way to collect quality feedback from your CAB (that you can’t get elsewhere!) is to bring them into your office to test your upcoming releases. Watching how they interact with new features and how they generally experience your website provides an invaluable window into how customers really use your product. Note the pain points that they run into, and have them walk you through what both delights and confuses them. There is so much value to be gained from this type of customer testing; use it to your company’s advantage when you brainstorm and build your next feature.

4. Loyal influencers

Here at BigDoor, we believe that growing loyal advocates is one of the best ways to build a community and increase revenue. When you invest in brand advocates, you invest in a group of loyal followers who will not only weigh in with feedback for you and your products, but who will advocate on your behalf.

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Creating a customer advisory board is the perfect way to grow your loyal influencers. Your CAB members are already customers and community members who know and love your product, and building up their trust through implementing their feedback will help grow your loyalest bucket of customers. When the wall between customers and brands is flattened, you’ll begin to see a flood of feedback from your community at large. Let your CAB help start the process for you.

So, where’s your CAB?

A customer advisory board is a great way to collect unique feedback, gather impartial opinions, build loyal advocates, and beta test new products before they’re released. I hope you’re inspired to begin the process of putting your first CAB together. Your products, customers, and revenue will thank you!

Before you go: are you into loyalty? BigDoor is working on putting together a CAB of our own. If you’re interested in joining up with this stellar team, drop us a line at to hear more!


5 Tips to Improve Customer Communications

Customer.customer.customer. It’s front of mind and at the heart of what marketers focus on day in and day out. Building a brand and a company would mean very little if you weren’t benefiting someone (hopefully many people) along the way. The last few years have brought customer-centric marketing strategy to the forefront, and the BigDoor team couldn’t be happier.

Every day, we think, “How can we help companies connect and appreciate their customers?” We believe so strongly in reciprocal loyalty that we spend our days building a technology centered around brands giving back to their customers (it’s isn’t all work, btw…the other day we had fun with dots!).

Something that sticks out time and time again is the challenge brands face when trying to communicate with their customers. Customer conversations aren’t easy ones, and they require specific strategies to be successful. People have different needs, they are in different cities, and are facing different challenges – but all of them are turning to you, hoping you can communicate effectively and help them.

Talk about a challenge. #hardstuff

So what can companies be doing? What can we focus on to make sure we are communicating effectively with our customers? Well…lots of things, actually. Let’s run through a few!

1. Make it relevant. We communicate when we have something we need to say. Seems straight-forward enough. The problem is that what we say doesn’t always translate into relevance for our customers. What do they need to know? What problems are they facing? What value can you be adding them? To keep the conversation two-way, marketers can’t just be communicating only what we want to say, but instead flip that upside down to focus on what our customers need to hear.  Customer relevancy is critical in seeding brand loyalty. As people interact with your brand, they need to feel like you are speaking directly at them to build affinity toward you.

2. Listen actively. This is a tough one. Confession: I’ve not always been a great listener. THERE I SAID IT! [facepalm] In fact, it took years of beating my head against a wall before I realized I wasn’t listening well enough to be effective. Talking at people is easy; talking with people is hard.

Practicing the art of active listening is key to hitting the latter. What does that look like? Surveying customers is a great start. Jumping offline and talking with your customers in person so you can really hear (and see!) what they are saying is even better. You need to be using all of the customer analytics available to you to really understand the challenges facing your customers. Only then can you both (a) solve for them, but perhaps even more importantly, (b) communicate that you’ve solved for them.


Dropbox sends a beautiful and valuable mailer asking for my feedback so they can proactively improve my experience.

3. Get comfortable with your emotions. Ewwwwww emotions. Cooties central. I hear ya. But jump on board, friends. As marketers, we need to acknowledge that the issues our customers face when interacting with our products and company cause them to feel a certain way. We assume their reactions are what we should be communicating toward, but how they react and how they feel are often two very different things.

Redbull uses Twitter to communicate with customers on an emotional level rather than a product-driven one.

Redbull uses Twitter to communicate with customers on an emotional level rather than a product-driven one.

The best customer communications get at the heart of a feeling. Maybe a customer isn’t logging into your product, but what are they feeling? Are they overwhelmed by the complexities? Are they afraid of setting something up wrong? Are they too busy to jump in and get started? Spend time figuring out how can you communicate and help your customers based on how they are feeling…not just on how they are acting.

4. Anticipate the next issue.  It’s easy to get caught up in the now. Marketing communications can feel incredibly reactive a great deal of the time. The trick to improving your relationship with customers is to anticipate the next issue they might have, and to speak to them in advance. For example, if your site was down don’t send an email to say you’re sorry for the outage, anticipate that this may have caused them purchasing issues, or product problems, and provide them opportunities to report those for updates.

BigDoor has adopted a similar philosophy when it comes to communicating with our partners. Anytime we perform maintenance or upgrade our product, we proactively communicate with our partners to let them know in case they see any changes on their side. Our Director of Product Management, Jason McCue, is diligent about putting the customer first with his communication strategy. It helps us anticipate issues and better serve our clients.

By communicating to customers that you are thinking about how things might affect them, it shows that you are keeping their concerns front and center.

5. Quick and simple. Let’s keep it quick and simple, friends. I’m a talker. Like for real. Chit chatting all the time…except for when I work on customer communications. There is a time and place for the very transparent, thorough letter to customers, but that is not the norm. Customer communications, for the most part, should be focused on a singular message; they should be quick to read and simple to consume.

The craft of writing effective, quick, and simple communications is a topic worthy of it’s own post, but in the meantime, try to keep it in mind. Saving your customers time is just another way of saying, “I am keeping your needs in mind.” So when you put together your next email, post, or communication campaign, for the goodness of it…keep it quick and simple.

Julep mailer keeps their mailers quick and simple. Easy to digest & act upon.

So there you have it; some practical ways to start improving your communications today! Down the road, we will cover the tools of the trade (wait, I can do more than just send emails?! Yes, it’s true!) Until then, we hope you have some success with these tips.

If you have other tricks you’ve picked up over the years on how to really get through and help customers, we’d love to hear them below in the comments!

Product Spotlight: Introducing Our Holiday Loyalty Campaign!

The holidays are fast approaching, and the mad dash for perfect presents has officially begun. Are you ready for the customer surge? BigDoor is! Our product team has been hard at work creating a holiday loyalty campaign widget that can help retailers this season capitalize on the increased traffic to their sites.

We’ve built an easy-to-embed widget that provides your customers with the chance to be rewarded for referring their friends to your online store. Sound too good to be true? Well, happy holidays! Read on for the details.

banner_how does it work

The BigDoor holiday campaign is an in-page widget that helps you capitalize on your increased traffic during the busiest sales season of the year through social referrals from existing customers.

Your holiday campaign is customized for an on-brand experience, packed with white-label capabilities to showcase your brand. It’s easy to set up, with no development resources required on your end. BigDoor created the holiday campaign so you can reward your customers when they need it most, spreading cheer to all and increasing your revenue along the way.

In just three easy steps, your customers can be rewarded for sharing their purchases with their online communities, which drives  traffic and increases purchases for your brand. See how!

Step 1: Opportunity for reward

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Provide your users with an opportunity to be rewarded for referring friends to your online store. Rewards can be sweepstakes, free shipping, discounts – whatever you’re into!

Step 2: Social sharing

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Once their purchase is complete, your customer shares the purchase with their community, offering rewards to family and friends who sign up.

Step 3: Redeem rewards

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Users are notified through email when their referrals make a purchase, and easily unlock and redeem their rewards.

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The holidays are the perfect time to leverage love from your existing customers. With BigDoor’s referral-based campaign, customers who are already supporting your brand can become advocates through introducing your company and products to their inner circles.

Through referrals, you can:

  • Drive purchases 
  • Increase traffic 
  • Broaden brand visibility 
  • Deepen site engagement 
  • Grow your community 

And more!

Online shoppers have already started to fill their carts with the perfect presents for their friends and family. What are you waiting for? Embrace the fall chill by heating up your holiday sales – and revenue – with this limited time offer from BigDoor!

To learn more, shoot an email to, and one of our loyalty specialists will reach out to you before you can finish your list, or even check it twice.

Happy holidays!

Love, BigDoor

Why Marketers Should Care About UX

The role of a marketer has grown dramatically over the last few years. As the KPIs we’re responsible for expand, there’s been a shift in the skills today’s marketers not only need to familiarize themselves with, but master. Marketing through user experience is one of these disciplines. 

Traditionally, user experience has been confined to website design. However, we at BigDoor see it as any touch point allowing a customer to interact with your brand – even before they’ve made their first purchase and are still in the consideration phase. User experience includes the on-page experience of your website, the functionality of the emails you send out, the ads you display around the web, the way you present yourself through social channels, and even those t-shirts you sent out to your power users last week.

“User experience” can be defined as: any interaction a customer or potential customer has with your brand. As a marketer, it’s your job to make sure these experiences work together.

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In this post, we’ll focus on why marketers should care about online user experience (i.e. how your customers and fans interact with your brand around the web). Maybe someday in the future we’ll write about tangible user experience, which tends to look more like this:

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This cat is having a bad tangible user experience. 

Ready? Here we go!

Great UX: Drives customer loyalty

As a marketer, driving loyalty through each section of your customer funnel is a hugely important task. Providing customers with a good user experience can help you reach this goal by driving loyalty organically wherever your brand appears on the web. A few points to focus on when evaluating current UX include:

Consistent messaging. What does your brand’s messaging look like? When users are targeted with multiple messages across web from your brand, it often leads to confusion, not loyalty. Be consistent with the singular message you want users to connect with your brand, rather than using multiple channels for a variety of messages.

Lean on your company’s goals to create a bite-size message that can be laced in with any online experience, including through social channels, paid advertising, content creation, and on your site. If you provide your users with a direct message to stand behind no matter where they are interacting with your brand on the web, users are more likely to feel “at home,” which helps drive loyalty through the roof.

MailChimp is a great example of consistent messaging. No matter where they are on the web, you’ll get a sense of who they are, what their product does, and the type of community they foster.

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Responsive design. By now, we’ve all heard how important offering a responsive design across multiple interfaces is. But I’m going to reiterate, just one last time: responsive design is key to offering a successful, consistent user experience. Users are engaging with your brand across their many devices, and the more familiarity your brand offers through mobile, desktop, and tablet engagements, the easier and more delightful your user experience will become. If you shut channel(s) out by focusing only on one or two platforms, a large segment of your users won’t feel the love your brand is putting into their experience.

Loyalty is driven through responsive design by allowing users to complete familiar actions on any device they choose. The easier you can make interacting with your brand from desktop to mobile to tablet, the more loyal you users’ interactions will be.

Great UX: Creates strong advocates

Advocates are the best type of customers to have; are you cultivating them through your online experience? UX can drive advocacy in many forms, but here are a few big ones:

Social engagement. When a user has a positive interaction with your brand, are they able to share it with the world? If not, your user experience is causing you to lose advocates. Provide a way for users to share the interactions they’ve had on your site, like sharing content, making purchases, and engaging with your brand.

Another piece of the social engagement puzzle is user experience on your social channels. Although you can’t alter the design and functionality of your Twitter or Facebook page, you can definitely control the feel of it through the content you publish, language you use, and your frequency of interaction. A few examples of poor user experience through social channels include:

  • Publishing content that doesn’t line up with your brand message. You know that blog post you read and loved about the latest workout trend? Unless your company focuses on fitness, forgo sharing it on your company’s social networks. Keep the content you share consistent with your brand messaging so followers and fans have a sense of what to expect from that channel’s user experience.
  • Using language that doesn’t fit your brand. Your brand is a story, and the way you deliver that story is through content. Be sure that the language you use stays consistent with the formality (or informality, if you’re into that sort of thing) with your brand. Keep your voice throughout any social interaction you have to ensure users experience UX consistency.
  • Sporadic or infrequent engagement. Every brand has the one (or two, maybe three) social channel that has turned into a deserted wasteland. Once in awhile, it might be tempting to publish a few pieces of content to that channel, and then it goes dark again for another few weeks. This offers a terrible user experience for any customers trying to interact with your brand on that channel as social media is merely a medium for connecting brands and users 1:1. If you decide to create a social channel for your brand, stick to your decision and be sure you have the resources to upkeep the page.

Referrals. When a customer refers a friend to a brand, there is a certain “seal of approval” that goes along with the endorsement; referrers have taken a significant stand on how they feel about your brand and the experience that goes along with it.

Offering a good user experience directly ties to whether or not people are going to share your brand with their inner circles. People want to refer others to beautiful, engaging brands. If you offer a user experience that looks like this:

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…you can expect your referral bucket to look something like this:

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It’s simple psychology. People typically don’t want to share things that might diminish their credibility, and supporting a confusing user experience does just that. Give your customers something to advocate by providing them with a streamlined, sharable user experience.

Great UX: Drives purchases

Many of our marketing goals tie back to the overarching reason our businesses exist in the first place: to make money. A strong user experience helps pave the way to increasing your number of purchases. Here’s how:

Less friction. Smoothing out steps in your checkout process is imperative to increasing online sales. With as many as 59.8% of potential customers abandoning their shopping carts, alleviating the friction points in a checkout process through better user experience is an action marketers just can’t afford to miss.

Take a look at your current checkout process and analyze data on where customers are abandoning their potential purchases. Once you locate the pain points, they can be redesigned and tested to see which actions increase completed transactions. Supporting a fluid UX during checkout is easy money that you might already be missing out on.

Amazon’s one-click ordering is a fantastic example of shortening up the checkout process through user experience. It allows customer’s to purchase items with only one click of a button to complete their order, without making them enter any extra information each time they purchase. What’s easier than that?

Accelerated customer engagement. People – online and offline – tend to flock to experiences that are intuitive and rewarding. The easier and more intuitive your customer experience is, the more customers you can expect to engage with your brand online, and to ultimately buy your products/services.

The king of simple, purchase-driving user experience is Apple. They’ve kept their design, product messaging, and even color flow consistent throughout every part of their brand, which spurred a revolution. Think through your friends and pinpoint the one (or multiple) that own every Apple product on the market. Do these people just tend to gravitate towards Apple products? Not likely. The Apple user experience is so fluid that it drives purchases beyond what a normal customer would spend on similar products. Apple may not be perfect, but when it comes to user experience, they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

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Great UX: Increases discovery

The Internet is a tough place to be if your user experience isn’t keeping up with the competition. The push to be found through search is getting harder, directing users around your site once they find it is tricky, and lowering your bounce rate is more important than ever. Luckily, user experience is here to help you increase your chance of discovery in a few areas:

Across the web. It’s easy to get lost in the SERPs, especially if your user experience is operating at a sub-par level. Not only does a solid user experience benefit users, but it also benefits search engines that crawl your content. Clearly presenting your brand through on-site content, blog posts, site maps, and other pieces of crawlable data can help the search engines figure out who your company is and what you should be ranking for. We won’t go into any SEO tips, but this article offers an awesome high-level overview at just how intertwined UX and SEO are.

In your on-site content. A good user experience directs visitors around your page by easily navigating them through desired actions. The more intuitive a page is, the better the chance of the user has at following the expected actions on the page. Although you can’t always count on users following your planned actions 100% of the time, you can nudge them towards what you want them to discover on your site through an intuitive, simple user experience.

Strong on-page UX can also help increase inbound leads for your sales team. The easier you make your content forms to find and fill out, the more inbound buzz you’ll find coming your way. Win-win!

In conclusion

User experience is so much more than design, and it’s time for marketers to familiarize themselves with the expanded world of UX when applying it to their campaigns. The more user experience and marketing mesh together, the more beautiful and seamless your customers’ overall experience with your brand will be.

Do you have any other tips for leveraging the power of UX in your marketing strategies? Let me know in the comments!

Is Your Loyalty Program Working?

We’ve been talking a lot about building loyalty lately. But what really makes a loyalty program work? How can you tell if the tools you’ve set in place for customers to intimately connect with your brand are performing well?

Here at BigDoor, we’re working to solve this problem for businesses and marketers. Although every program is different, there are a few key components you can look at today to see if your program is working well. In today’s post, we highlight those points and offer quick fixes you can implement immediately. Let’s go!

1. Growth of loyalty program users vs. overall audience

You’re customer base is growing, sales numbers are high, and you’re feeling good about your upcoming quarter. But does that success really translate over to your loyalty program?

Loyalty program success should be calculated separately from your growth. To really understand success, you need to know the total number of customers you have, along with the number of those customers who are enrolled in your loyalty program. Once you know both, it’s time to look back at your growth over the past few months. If the percentage of your total customers is growing, but the percentage of growth in your loyalty program isn’t keeping stride, there’s a good chance something in the program isn’t working.

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A quick way to ignite growth is making sure that the value of your program is clearly communicated to your potential subscribers. Some ways to do this is to build a standalone landing page that describes the value of your program to users, enticing them to sign up. You can even run a few A/B tests to see what language, images, and layouts best sell the value of your loyalty program. Unbounce and Optimizely are great tools to run simple tests. Check them out to get you started.

2. Retention of current program members

When it comes to retention, showcasing the value of your loyalty program is front and center. For example, providing a place on your website within the program that offers help links, FAQs, and useful, consistently updated content is a value add that gives program members instantaneous benefits. The more you can invest in your program through updated content, new rewards, and ever-changing experiences, the more intrigued you will keep your existing users. Remember that your customers are people, and people tend to get bored with information that no longer feels relevant to them.

Next, make sure you’re monitoring your loyalty funnel to locate problem areas. The closer you can pinpoint exactly where you’re losing people based on your model, the easier it will be for your marketing team to rethink the on-page experience, and to help drive customers back into the program with new incentives that fit their needs. Communicating with your existing members is a great way to test what works best for them. Whether you’re A/B testing rewards through email campaigns, providing in-program communications, or setting up drip campaigns to help tailor user experience, putting in effort to get to know what your loyal customers really want pays off.

If you do find that people are leaving your program, make sure you have a feedback loop in place to help you figure out why. Cancellation surveys are a great way to better understand what those who’ve left would have liked to see in your program. If you’re seeing a response from customers who have cancelled, it’s time to brainstorm ways to help spread the love once again.

3. Loyalty member activity vs. non-loyalty program customer activity

It’s great when customers stay in your program, but what does their activity look like? Loyalty programs are meant to incentivize and encourage increased engagement, so it’s time look at whether or not your loyalty members are more active, as active, or less active than customers that exist outside of the program.

This might seem hard, but something as simple as tagging your valuable on-site actions in GA, and then tracking how many times your loyalty program members complete them versus those outside of the program is enough to tell you if your loyalty program is driving the right actions.

BigDoor’s loyalty program has the ability to keep a control cohort of users for you to even more clearly compare the two user groups. No matter how you do it, you should be comparing the two user groups regularly to identify if your loyalty program is driving more engagement as hoped.

To reach loyalty program members that are less active, you may want to reach out to those who have “gone dark” and ask them how you can improve your program, and  hopefully re-engage them. Ask them what they would have liked to see more of, and use that feedback to drive improvements across your program and relight the fire within your members.

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4. Percentage of rewards redeemed

Rewards are critical to the success of a loyalty program (we are planning on doing a much more in depth post on best practices soon!) Rewards are enticing, but if a low percentage of qualified members are redeeming your offering(s), something is probably wrong. Keep an eye on how many users are completing your desired actions to gauge their interest in your loyalty program, and compare that with the number of rewards you’ve given away. This will tell you if you have the right rewards in place, or if you need to rethink them.

Keep in mind that the types and costs of your rewards differ, and be sure to weight them accordingly. Are your users redeeming rewards that are perceived as having high value but are low-cost to your brand, or are they redeeming rewards that are high-cost items on both sides? Does the reward give customers something that they really wanted, or does it simply deepen engagement with your brand?

Answering these questions will help shed light on the motivations behind your users’ redemptions. For example, a discount coupon or a shout out on Twitter both help deepen engagement with your brand; a non-branded mug or hat does not. A combination of dollar backed and non-dollar backed rewards offers something for everyone in your program; does your loyalty program have the ability to provide both options?

If the number(s) of customers redeeming rewards is low, you may want to go back to the drawing board when structuring your rewards and redemption process. That neon orange bumper sticker you’re giving away might not be a big enough incentive for everyone to redeem it.

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5. Referrals into your program

One of the best ways to grow your loyalty program is to leverage your current loyalty program members and have them refer in from their social circles. The key is to reward your members for taking that action, and reward those that have been referred in for completing the task.

Before you dive into your referral numbers, take a look at the tools you have in place for current members to share your program. If current members don’t have an easy opportunity to spread the word to their networks, the likelihood of them taking the action is low. Tools like a refer-a-friend program (part of the BigDoor product) and recruitment widgets make sharing simple, fun, and seamless for your existing members.

Once new members are sent your way through a referral, you want to make sure you greet them right! Make the onboarding process for the new member easy, streamlined, and polished. Providing your advocates with a simple experience that is generously appreciated on both sides causes the best kind of snowball effect.

6. Shares from the program

A strong indicator of how loyal your customers and fans are is through monitoring social engagement. Are people using social media to brag about their interactions with your brand and the rewards they are redeeming, or are they only using it as a communication channel between themselves and your brand? Are they discovering and sharing your incentivized content? What is the tone when program members talk about your brand, and what does your reciprocal interaction look like?

Sharing content on social networks could require it’s own blog post, but for now, I’ll leave you with this: people (both loyalty members and prospective customers) are talking about you online, whether you are present or not. As a marketer, it is your job to keep tabs on the community pulse, and to help move the conversation forward whenever possible, encouraging loyalty and driving fans to engage with your brand further through your loyalty program.

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 Image credit to Lee Traupel

Each social network has its own set of relevant insights, so whether you’re Tweeting, Facebooking, Pinteresting, or LinkedIning (is that a thing?), you’ll need to get your hands on some hard data. SimplyMeasured’s free reports do this really well. Give them a try!

Hopefully these tips will encourage you to take a look at your existing loyalty program, and begin to think about whether it’s working as well as it could be.

This list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to loyalty. What other pieces of the loyalty puzzle do you focus on when gauging success? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Tactics for Building Loyal Brand Advocates

Last week, I was lucky enough to go to SearchLove down in San Diego and present on how marketers can build brand loyalty and brand advocates. It was a great show, with a ton of great speakers and insights. Below is a quick summary of my presentation, and the full deck for those who want to check it out.

We will be exploring how to build brand loyalty and evangelists in more detail over the coming weeks, but this is a great top-level checklist to help you get started. Enjoy!

Tip #1: Get good at cohort marketing. Today’s marketer needs to understand how to slice and dice their audience and customer segments. I talked through different dimensions to consider, and how sequencing those dimensions to build cohorts can help you more effectively meet the users’ needs.

Specific tactics include ideas like directing users to register for a community and fill out profiles (which BigDoor’s loyalty program can help with), building retargeting audiences, etc. 

Tip #2: Appeal to internal and external motivations. Too often we, as marketers, build branding campaigns, but don’t give enough attention to how we want the customer or user to feel when they digest the campaign. In the slide deck, I stress the importance of appealing to both internal motivations (who does the person aspire to be? how can the campaign help them identify and grow into that aspirational character?) and external motivations (how does the person want to be perceived outwardly? what persona are they playing into when it comes to their social circles?). By identifying the “feeling” you are hoping the campaign delivers, you can better align the campaign with your brand values for maximum impact.

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Specific tactics include surveying customers and employees to hear what words come to mind for your current brand, [doing a brand explore], and making sure those adjectives and values are listed in your campaign specs so no campaign strays too far from your goal message.

Tip #3: Design for the masses. Design is increasingly becoming a huge factor in what resonates with an audience and what doesn’t. When I’m asked, “Who is the first person you’d hire for your marketing team?” I always say, “An amazing designer.” Designers bring the brand to life. Your campaigns need to rise above the noise, and a beautiful, simple, effective design can do that.

Specific tactics include testing new design themes out first, passing around design pieces internally for team feedback, delighting your viewers with unexpected innovations, and making the design easily digestible and shareable to the masses.

Tip #4: Advocacy requires passionate stories. There is a misconception in brand marketing that if a user or customer has a great experience with your brand, they are  likely to advocate on your behalf. News flash: it takes more than that. While customer experience is key, delivering an exceptional one is now the new standard. There needs to be a brilliant story attached to that experience to encourage advocacy. Marketers need to be shaping those stories and wrapping them in their campaigns so happy users and customers can advocate something more than just a good experience review.

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Specific tactics include shaping stories internally with customer advisory boards or you community leaders, wrapping those stories in beautiful design, and amplifying them on social media platforms with advertising dollars. Another great tip is to take the responses to your campaigns and use them to seed your next campaign. It creates a flywheel effect that can be very powerful.

Tip #5: Hit a whole new level of vulnerability. It’s no secret that transparency goes a long way in our hyper-connected, conversational ecosystem. Today’s companies need to be willing to pull back the current and be vulnerable – both about their strengths and their weaknesses. Building a brand takes multiple moments of shared trust along a user’s lifecycle, and trust is built on the back of authenticity and vulnerability.

Specific tactics include showing off your product roadmap publicly and owning up to missed deadlines, showing off your customer service rating on the site somewhere, and blogging about the wins and losses of your everyday operation.

Tip #6: Appreciate early and often. Rewarding users for their activity and time investment is at the heart of building loyalty, and taking the time to say thank you seeds a reciprocal relationship. Companies that do this early in the lifecycle tend to seed loyalty sooner, which helps at every phase of the funnel. 

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Specific tactics include launching loyalty programs and/or campaigns (feel free to contact us to learn more about our product options), building customer appreciation strategies, creating influencer relationship programs, and more. If you have someone supporting your brand, you should be asking yourself how you can give back and say thank you.

Tip #7: Track that sh*t.  Let’s not beat around the bush about it – measuring brand loyalty is hard. Measuring brand advocacy is just as challenging. Are things shifting for the better, or are you losing ground? In my deck, I talk through some basic advice (like tracking for the goal metric, not trying to capture overall “engagement”), and I talk through some commonly accepted models for tracking loyalty.

Specific tactics include nailing down what the specific campaign aims to increase, setting up tracking, running retrospectives after the campaign ends, and adjusting the measurement model as needed.

Tip #8: Multi-channel it up. Mobile. It’s a thing. What is your brand doing to make sure your users and consumers are experiencing multiple touchpoints across their many devices during the phases of of the customer journey? I talk through some companies building brand loyalty well and how they’ve used mobile to target users differently, adding to their overall success.

Specific tactics include putting a team and resources into your mobile and local strategy, rethinking what “value” means on these devices, and starting with your best brand assets when considering your value add cross-device.

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Tip #9: Evangelize internally. This one is so important, and sadly, so many marketers forget about it. If you want to succeed in building brand loyalty and brand advocacy, it will need to be a company-wide initiative. That means the marketing team needs to be working cross-department to keep the user’s experience front of mind. We need to be reporting out where we are and where we want to be with our brands, and openly discussing the necessary steps to build an even better brand.

Specific tactics include building a cross-department team (retention, customer success, growth, or otherwise) that is focused on understand your customers and building loyalty, reporting out company wide metrics, and getting the buy-in from the leadership team to help push brand loyalty initiatives through.

Tip #10: Enable them to market on your behalf. This is so critical. You’ve put in so much time to build a loyal audience; now how can you leverage them to share your brand on your behalf? How can you empower them to introduce your brand (with their endorsement) to their social circles? I talk through a few different ways to leverage your advocates to grow your business.

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Specific tactics include launching a referral program (BigDoor has a great social loyalty campaign product to do this easily; ping us if you want to hear more), making your content easily shareable, rewarding advocacy, and more.

Those are my big tips on how to build loyal brand advocates. The deck also shows off some great brand examples of companies doing all of this well, and lists out specific tactics for you to try.

Again, I’d like to thank the Distilled team for letting me head down to San Diego and talk loyalty. It was a theme that came up in a number of the presentations given over the two-day conference. There is no doubt that brand marketing will become more and more a part of our every day job. No matter what marketing channel you play in, we all need to be asking ourselves: how can we help build brand loyalty and create a community of advocates? Those companies that invest early will be at a huge advantage moving forward.

Do you have tips on how to nurture advocacy and build loyalty? Let’s here them in the comments below!