Personalize award experiences with an end-to-end loyalty provider

By: Sarah VanDerHart

What you need to know

  • Customer loyalty hinges on fostering an emotional connection with the brand.
  • Brands should focus on personalized appreciation in their award programs. 
  • Building a comprehensive award strategy with an end-to-end partner sparks engagement by tying customer behaviors to diverse award opportunities.



collage of personalized award options

Customer loyalty program design is all about continuously fine-tuning the program to deliver deeper customer engagement. Awards help brands build those lasting customer connections. Who doesn’t like getting rewarded for loyalty, right?

More and more customer loyalty programs are moving beyond merely rewarding for transactions to focus on fostering authentic relationships with their customers. Central to this strategy is understanding that emotion is the key driver of loyalty. 

But according to a Deloitte study I recently read, fewer than 25% of loyalty programs are using emotional connection to personalize member experiences based on previous interactions, purchase history, and stated or inferred preferences.

An end-to-end (E2E) loyalty partner’s awards approach should align with customer expectations. The best programs use data to deliver personalized awards that customers crave and that reinforce the brand promise. Flexible award programs ensure everyone in your target audience feels seen and valued.

Emotional connection increases customer lifetime value 

Creating emotional connections gets customers excited about the brand. They advocate for the brand and anticipate the next new and buzzworthy opportunity.

Awards must motivate customers and encourage longer relationships and greater customer lifetime value. Sound simple? Well, getting loyalty awards right requires following some key tenets. 

1. Leverage customer data

Every customer is important, but they aren’t all at the same phase in their journey with your brand. Segmenting customers allows for more targeted award options. For a building supply distributor, analysis showed which customers retailers should target, individual goals, awards and projected ROI. Leveraging customer data led to 187% greater purchases by targeted vs. non-targeted customers. Read more of the story.

2. Make the award personal

Brands must move away from generic, off-the-shelf loyalty awards and embrace personalized offerings. Empower customers with the freedom to choose awards from a curated catalog. 

One of our financial services clients had mortgage customers eligible for a special offer, but cash wasn’t resonating. The brand needed something more memorable. We offered awards in home goods, fitness, cooking and wellness categories, ones important to this audience. Targeted, timely communications kept the offer top of mind and reinforced its value. This segmenting strategy saw a double-digit increase in loan closing rates for customers who knew about the offer. Read more of the story.

3. Extend the opportunity to choose

Customers should pick awards that resonate most with them. For one client, we let high-earning customers choose between points or an annual experiential trip. The power to choose—and the once-in-a-lifetime trip that followed—formed unforgettable emotional connections with the brand. Read more of the story

View Our Breakthrough Customer Touchpoints Portfolio

Experiential awards designed uniquely for and of your brand offer customers a priceless opportunity to make meaningful memories with people they care about. Try to hit on components of exceptional gifting: thoughtfulness, recognizability, quality and presentation. 

Imagine diverse award options across these categories.  

  • Branded merchandise: Most branded merch is best suited for a marketing purpose. But some customers might want to wear their loyalty on the sleeve (literally) with an exclusive edition jacket, or high-end accessory that’s unavailable in stores. 
  • Catalog and pick-a-gift: Award catalogs should include a variety of options that appeal to top customers. Data analysis tied to audience preferences helps discern meaningful gifts. 
  • Discounts/vouchers/special offers: Target specific customers with tailored discounts and offers. For instance, let your most loyal customers be the first to receive new product releases. I’m all about getting the best price, but discounts alone don’t make me feel more connected to a brand. Pair with more tangible options, and that connection grows stronger.
  • Experiences and access: Help your most loyal customers feel like the VIPs they are. Offer exclusive invitations to branded events, special seating at sought-after performances, backstage or behind-the-scenes “meet and greet” opportunities and other “suite” surprises. Experiences build powerful emotional connections between customers and your brand—and last a lifetime.
  • Monetary awards and rebates: Cash and gift cards are effective for certain promotion types, especially when creative elements connect the award to a moment. Rewarding customers’ funds for a nice dinner out, for instance, can create a meaningful memory. Plus, it’s something they can share with friends or family. A rebate with purchase may help a customer choose your brand at the point of sale. 
  • Recognition and trophies: Both physical and digital trophies and badges makes consumers feel accomplished. Achievement-oriented customers are often motivated to share their status within the brand community and their own circles. Empower them to do so with a recognition that’s tied to your brand.

Leading programs use aspects of every award, which requires a comprehensive approach.

A comprehensive award strategy enhances customer engagement

Well-aligned awards can forge a permanent bond between customers and the brand. Full-service E2E customer loyalty partners deliver the right awards to the right customers at the right time. They ensure a positive and memorable experience for customers and a streamlined process for behind-the-scenes teams. From consulting on awards to seamless ordering processes and timely delivery, they prioritize effective solutions.  

The best awards connect to the customer relationship. Brands that invest in their customers and deliver tailored awards see increased retention and customer lifetime value. Forrester’s 2022 Customer Experience Benchmark Survey shows that, among consumers who feel appreciated, 88% will stay with a brand, 83% will spend more with a brand and 87% will advocate for a brand.

This evolved approach is less transactional. Because it’s focused on strategies that celebrate and empower a brand’s most loyal customers, awards also add a word-of-mouth promotion benefit. An E2E awards strategy inspires customers to be brand ambassadors and enhances their engagement.   

How can you keep customers engaged throughout their journey? Surprise and delight them with customer loyalty promotions

Note: This article is part two of a six-part series on the key components of a successful customer loyalty program and how an end-to-end (E2E) partner can deliver all six for a cohesive customer experience.

Download Our Breakthrough Customer Touchpoints Portfolio
Sarah VanDerHart
Sarah VanDerHart

With over 12 years of experiential marketing and strategy experience, Sarah serves as the Customer Solutions Insights and Strategy Leader. As a leader of award-winning marketing teams, she thrives on delivering results-driven strategies that align with market trends to build emotional connections between customers and brands. Outside of work, you'll find her hosting a fun gathering with friends, running around with her husband and their two young daughters, or cheering on the Iowa State Cyclones!