Bringing Customers Back: Loyalty Schemes

1 February 2022

Customer-facing businesses are facing a lot of different challenges as the world slowly emerges into what is already being called the ‘post-COVID’ era.

One of those challenges is how to get reluctant customers back on premises and spending their money. Sure, we’ve all seen the huge boost digital commerce has enjoyed while stores and restaurants have been shuttered and people have had to factor social distancing into their plans.

But ‘going digital’ only offers a partial solution if you are a store owner, if you run a dine-in restaurant or operate a leisure or entertainment venue. Yes, you can supplement some of your income online. But when you have premises to pay for, the core of your business has to be based around solid footfall.

Perhaps the most insightful conclusion we can draw about post-pandemic spending habits is consumers will return to stores, restaurants and leisure venues, but their expectations and habits are likely to have been permanently altered by the COVID experience. In brief, people are looking for more from brands – they want to be given good reasons to head out and buy in-person again.

Rethinking loyalty

Hopefully most business owners reading this will be thinking – we’ve got to do everything we can to lock in loyalty going forward, we have to give customers every incentive possible to return and keep coming back to us. Retaining customers will be more valuable than trying to find new ones in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The bad news for brands? It’s likely that COVID has even changed loyalty – or at least exposed some long-running holes in the standard view of loyalty schemes that can no longer be mended. What’s going on here? Is loyalty dead? How can hard-pressed store and restaurant owners ever hope to encourage back the footfall they so desperately need to recover from the ravages of the pandemic? The answer is probably that loyalty isn’t dead, it’s just changed. Like so many things, accelerated by the events of the past couple of years, the world has moved on from simple points-per-purchase loyalty schemes. Again, consumers are looking for more.

So what might that look like? One study by McKinsey in 2020 found that paid-for loyalty / premium membership schemes delivered twice as much value as standard free-to-join schemes. According to the research, when people paid to join a scheme they were 60% more likely to spend with the brand in question, compared to 30% more likely if the loyalty scheme was free.

This fits with the idea that consumers are looking for more from their shopping and dining experiences. Paid-for loyalty schemes are usually associated with a higher ‘VIP’ standard of service, not just free gifts and discounts. Any business can offer a free coffee every six or seven purchases – does that really amount to good value in the customer’s eyes? But how about a free coffee on everyvisit, along with dedicated personal service, maybe priority parking, free same day delivery and so on? Now that’s something people are prepared to pay for.

This ties in with Gartner’s assertion that customers are more likely to remain loyal to a brand if they feel valued. In that view, service rather than rewards becomes central to customer retention. From here you can add in other factors like personalisation and proactively tackling customer pain points before they get to the stage of pushing a customer to look elsewhere. Both of these rely on effective CRM and use of data.

Another factor to consider is the growing evidence that consumers remain loyal to a brand if they feel it aligns with their values and shares a common sense of purpose.

What we’re looking at overall, then, is loyalty considered in a much deeper, fuller sense. Points cards and rewards only really scratch the surface of what really drives customer loyalty. If store owners and restaurateurs want to encourage customers back and keep them coming, they need to be rethinking loyalty schemes in terms of the service and experiences they can offer.

Loyalty schemes can be managed through your EPOS system. Taking peoples details at the point of sales, signing them up to a points program, free or paid for has never been easier. AURES offer a wide selection of EPOS systems which can be used alongside one of our many software partners to offer you the full loyalty program packages you require for your business. Click to view all our all-in-one EPOS here, our mobile POS here and our self-service kiosks here. Alternatively, you can contact the sales team to discuss your options by emailing: or calling: 01928 599 966