The Most Innovative Loyalty Programs of 2017

December 20, 2017 Catherine Malone

2017 saw significant advances in loyalty marketing. A strong focus on meeting consumer expectations with exceptional customer experiences drove many key trends this year, from personalization to partnerships. 

Loyalty strategy and technology must continually evolve to keep customers coming back.

Here are some of the most innovative loyalty programs from this year.

1. DSW Adds Value with Personalized Communications

Earlier this year, DSW launched a rewards program email campaign. Members of their program were sent an email that contained how many points each member needed to receive a $10 certificate. They were also informed of other deals they’re eligible for.

They also use member data to provide a detailed snapshot of their customers’ interactions with the brand over the past two years, including how much they’ve saved, how many points they’ve earned and how long they’ve been a loyalty member.

The campaign was a success, and saw a 64% lift in email opens, a 13% lift in click-through rates and 58.82% of customers who opened the email read it for 15+ seconds.

Why it’s Innovative
This an excellent example of data in action. Frequent communications like this help keep members engaged, communicate the value of being a loyalty member and incentivize customers to spend more with a brand.

2. Sleep Number’s InnerCircle Program Extends Customer Touchpoints

Sleep Number launched their online omnichannel loyalty program, InnerCircle earlier this year.

The brand drives value for customers across all channels and at every brand touchpoint. In-store, video monitors play videos to promote the loyalty program. When customers purchase a mattress, they receive a welcome kit in the mail with information on how to get a better night’s sleep. When their mattress is delivered, the driver is trained to communicate the benefits of the program to the customer in-person. Sales associates follow up with calls to ensure the customer is satisfied with the purchase.

The program also extends the touchpoints at which the brand can engage and reward customers. Members are rewarded for making referrals, reading blog posts, and submitting customer testimonials.

Why it’s Innovative
The program is helping drive brand advocacy. Before launching the new “InnerCircle” online loyalty program, SleepNumber was incentivizing customers with refer-a-friend initiatives and building leads from those referrals. The new online loyalty program, powered by CrowdTwist, affords Sleep Number opportunities to further engage and reward customers through digital and social activities.

3. tarte Rewards Members for Spend and Engagement

tarte launched the “tarte <3 rewards” multichannel loyalty program this year which rewards members for not only spending money with the brand but for sharing content on social media, referring friends and reading emails.

These activities keep members engaged and informed about the brand, and help promote the brand benefits to a wider audience, turning members into brand advocates. The spend and engagement data captured can also be leveraged for future marketing efforts.

Why it’s Innovative
Beauty consumers are turning to user-generated content before they make buying decisions, so brands must encourage and leverage content like video tutorials, selfies, and online reviews for a competitive advantage.

4. Macys Demonstrates Social Responsibility 

Macys launched a Thanks for Sharing initiative this year to raise money for charity while rewarding customers for their purchases. When loyalty program members sign up, they pay a $25 joining fee which is charged to their Macy’s credit card. $10 out of each $25 enrollment fee is donated to select charities, up to $15 million. The benefits of incorporating cause marketing into a loyalty initiative are huge. Cause marketing can help drive more loyalty program sign-ups, while meeting customer expectations, and help you stand out from competition, win back customers, and elevate your brand’s image.

Why it’s Innovative
Almost 66% of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that come from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. Incorporating corporate social responsibility initiatives as part of a loyalty offering allows brands to better meet customer expectations and maintain customer loyalty.

5. The Walking Dead Rewards Fans with Unforgettable Experiences

The Walking Dead is one of the most watched television shows on air. Its fans are super loyal and passionate. To maintain their interest and help build deeper emotional connections, The Walking Dead rewards their fans for their dedication to the show with “money can’t buy” experiences and rewards. Leveraging a loyalty program, brands can incentivize fans to attain these unique rewards through further engagement. Members who accumulate the highest level of points as part of The Walking Dead Fan Rewards Club, launched earlier this year, can enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences, including VIP tickets to the Talking Dead after show, a set tour, and meet and greets with the cast.

Why it’s Innovative

The Walking Dead Fan Rewards Club rewards members with personal, “money can’t buy” experiences. This helps supercharge fan loyalty and build deeper, emotional connections to the show.

6. Marriot’s Offers Customized Travel Options

This year the Marriott added additional value to their loyalty program by investing in PlacePass, a site that lets you search for and compare prices for global travel experiences. Through PlacePass, Marriott customers can book unique experiences with their hotel stays. PlacePass offers more than 100,000 local experiences in 800 destinations, like camel riding in the desert outside of Dubai, when they book their hotel. Committed to creating exceptional customer experiences, Marriot now offers more personalized experiences, tailored to the users’ past stays, purchase behavior and upcoming trips, when they visit the website or app.

Why it’s Innovative

This level of service and customization helps customers form a strong emotional connection to the brand, especially when they are accompanied with one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences they’ll never forget.

7. 7-Eleven Uses a Chatbot to Drive Loyalty Sign-Ups

7-Eleven launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger to enhance the customer experience. The chatbot not only converses with customers using artificial intelligence that powers automation, it also lets users sign-up for the 7Rewards customer loyalty program, find a nearby store and available discounts and promotions.

Upon program sign up, members will immediately receive a digital card in messenger and can scan to start earning points, check status as well as collect coupons.

Why it’s Innovative

Though not a replacement for human interaction, chatbots are most effective in situations where a customer is trying to resolve common issues, such as placing an order. Chatbots relieve the need for customers to visit a company website, call or visit a store in person.


2017 has been a standout year for loyalty programs. The strong focus on meeting customer expectations with exceptional customer experiences is what has driven the majority of trends this year, from personalization to adding value. Loyalty programs, their strategy and their technology must continually evolve to keep customers at center focus and loyal. Download this e-book to learn more about the standout trends in this year’s loyalty programs.  

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