Let’s face it, the internet is totally amazing. From random acts of kindness to WeRateDogs, there’s no shortage of ways that a global, connected internet has made our lives that little bit better.
That’s especially true when it comes to shopping. No longer limited to whatever town or cities we happen to live in, we now shop fashion in Paris and London, technology in China and South Korea and for homes around the country – all at the click of a button.
For businesses though, it’s proved to be something of a mixed bag. There are plenty more customers, but there’s also more competition and, most worrying for businesses, a new comparison culture. Put simply, loyalty is dead online. Most of us will just go to a different website if we can get the same product for less. That, obviously, either forces companies to engage in a race to the bottom when it comes to price or to find a way to keep customers coming back, time after time.
These schemes come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, offering everything from discounts on future products, free shipping for regular customers, free trial periods and even free money if you choose a certain service over another. For small business owners, the ways that big companies and even whole sectors are transforming the loyalty landscape offers huge hints on how to position their business online. For everyone else, these tactics highlight just who you should be spending your money with.
So, what are some of the incredible ways in which companies are encouraging new customers and loyalty online?
Extra Long Trials
If you’ve been paying attention to the ways companies are enticing customers to try out their products, you might be familiar with the ‘100-day trial’. It’s not a new concept, but in an era where customers increasingly rely on reviews and blind faith before they buy a product, these trials can prove exceptionally persuasive.
Casper has made the most of the idea, offering a 100-night trial of the mattress in your own home. Of course, by the time the 100 nights are over and done with, you’re very unlikely to return the mattress thanks to the combination of hassle and the simple fact that after almost a third of a year, you’re probably quite used to it.
The online casino industry is one which is in a near-constant battle to attract new customers. They do this in a number of ways, from advertising during major sporting events to rolling out a constant stream of new games to try and attract new players.
However, recent years have seen the introduction of massive sign-up bonuses when people join a new online casino. More than that though, according to Oddschecker, some casinos are now offering matched bets for regular bettors, too. It’s a way to encourage loyalty in an industry where customers might not stick around for longer than their welcome bonus.
Free Hotel Stays
Hotels have been a big victim in the new comparison age, with hotel comparison websites springing up to ensure that no matter where you’re going, you can find the cheapest room in town. For big hotel chains which have, traditionally, relied on their name cache to generate loyalty when people are in unfamiliar cities, that’s a serious problem.
Which is where hotel loyalty schemes like the new Marriott Bonvoy reward programme come into play. Combining the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Marriott Rewards into one, you can now gain loyalty points at over 6,700 hotels around the world.
It means that no matter where you’re going, you’re almost certain to find a hotel inside the loyalty programme and, therefore, build up points. Those points can then be spent on free hotel stays, upgrades and more. It has seen these establishments embrace the comparison culture whilst keeping customers within their family of properties.
Giving things away for free is a time-honoured tradition to get people to try your product, but in the internet age, it’s rarely deployed. Microsoft tried it some time back with their Zune subscription service, which granted you some free downloads to keep forever each month, but upon its failure, the tactic fell out of view.
That was, at least, until the Amazon-owned audiobook streaming service Audible. Their free stuff forms a part of another popular loyalty scheme, the free 30-day trial. This is common in the streaming world, as it lets prospective customers get a taste of the library and convenience they can expect should they become a long-term subscriber.
But Audible take things one step further, including the download of one free audiobook during your trial. That’s right, something for nothing. It’s not a tactic that smaller companies (especially those not backed by the financial might of, say, Amazon) might find themselves in a position to pursue, but it has proven hugely effective in generating new business for Audible.
It’s a tactic that’s employed by each of the major gaming players too – Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. Each offers a subscription service to access online play and, whether it’s Nintendo Switch Online, Xbox Live or PS4 Plus, you not only get the ability to play online with your pals but also free games to keep every month.
The catch? You need to stay a member in order to play them. It’s a clever hook which ensures that customers feel like they’re getting true value for money, whilst being encouraged to remain a part of their customer base in the long term.
What’s your favourite loyalty scheme? Let us know in the comments below.