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Customer retention programme examples that really work

In the ever-shifting landscape of business, the spotlight has firmly fallen on customer retention programmes. In a market saturated by choice, it's not just about acquiring customers but keeping them engaged for the long run. 

As it's widely recognised that selling to existing customers is more cost-effective than constantly seeking new ones, many leading brands offer customer retention programmes to encourage further purchases. However, there are various types of retention programme available, each tailored to specific business profiles and, of course, the target audience.

From data-driven approaches to exciting rewards, here we’ll explore the practical side of customer retention and what it takes to keep your customers coming back for more. We’ll inform you of the latest industry trends and equip you with actionable takeaways to implement in your own business.

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What is a customer retention programme?

A customer retention programme is a business's way of saying, "Thank you for your custom; we appreciate you and hope you stick around for the long haul." 

It's like an exclusive club where members can get their hands on a selection of interesting perks. While you may receive the occasional transaction from a new customer, the idea is to create a solid bond with your more loyal customers, so they choose to interact with your brand time and time again.

Retention programmes may include benefits such as personalised discounts, getting early access to sales, or even receiving freebies and gifts for completing a certain number of sales. 

The goal is to make customers feel valued and special, encouraging them to return to your brand over competitors. 

So, it’s wise to put in the time and energy to create a winning customer retention programme that will almost certainly become a strategic investment for your business in the long term.

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The benefits of a customer retention programme

Rolling out a retention programme can work wonders for businesses in attracting and retaining customers. Here are a 6 reasons why investing in a retention programme could become a game-changer for your business:

  1. Foster customer loyalty: A retention programme is a strategic tool to cultivate a dedicated customer base. By offering incentives and rewards, businesses can encourage repeat purchases. 

  2. Enhance long-term customer value: Viewed as a long-term investment, retention programmes contribute to increased customer lifetime value. They go beyond immediate sales, setting the stage for sustained revenue growth over an extended period.

  3. Stand out in a crowded market: In a competitive landscape, a well-designed retention programme positions your business as the preferred choice. Customers are more likely to shop with a brand offering enticing benefits over competitors.

  4. In-depth customer insights: Retention programmes act as a valuable source of customer data. This information provides businesses with insights into customer preferences, behaviours, and trends, empowering informed decision-making.

  5. Leverage advocacy: Satisfied customers enrolled in retention programmes often transform into enthusiastic advocates, who contribute to organic growth by recommending your brand to others.

  6. Operational cost efficiency: Acquiring new customers can be resource-intensive. Retention programmes, focused on retaining existing customers, minimise the need for extensive marketing efforts aimed at attracting a constant influx of new customers.

Customer retention examples for your business 

1. Perks

Exclusive discount with perks programm

A perks programme could almost be compared to a VIP pass that businesses can offer loyal customers in a deliberate effort to foster ongoing relationships.

When customers sign up for the perks programme, they gain access to exclusive benefits like purchase discounts, early access to sales, special deals, and occasional freebies. The deal is that the more customers engage with the business—whether through purchases, referrals, or other actions—the more perks they unlock.

The perks don’t have to remain static; they may evolve based on how customers interact with the business. It's a dynamic system that encourages ongoing participation and creates a sense of progression for the customer.

So, how does it work?

Here is a brief step-by-step summary to create a winning customer perks programme:

  • Step 1: Enrolment: Customers sign up by creating an account on the business's website and learning about the basic rules and regulations of the programme.

  • Step 2: Basic benefits: After signing up, customers immediately gain access to basic benefits, which may include entry-level perks such as a welcome discount on their next purchase or early notification of upcoming sales.

  • Step 3: Tracking engagement: Next, start tracking the level of customer engagement such as the purchases made and referrals etc.

  • Step 4: Milestone rewards: Reward customers with a special perk (such as a one-time discount or limited-edition product) upon hitting milestones, such as reaching a certain number of purchases, being a member for a specified period, or referring a certain number of friends.

  • Step 5: Customer feedback loop: Allow customers to share their thoughts and preferences through a feedback form. This information will help you continually refine and improve the programme, making it more tailored and appealing to its members.

2. Gamified retention programme

Think of a gamified retention programme as a game where every customer comes out on top. It could be viewed as a more fun and engaging twist on the standard "buy and get rewards" routine to create a more interactive experience.

So, instead of the usual system where customers take certain actions to earn rewards, a gamified programme introduces the elements of challenge and achievement. So, customers can earn points not just for making purchases, but for completing other tasks such as sharing branded content on social media or participating in quizzes.

Here’s how it usually works:

  • Points and rewards: Customers earn points not just for purchases, but also for various activities like writing reviews, referring friends, or participating in challenges. These points can then be redeemed for rewards.

  • Climbing levels: Just like in a video game, customers can level up based on their loyalty. As customers engage more, they climb up the tiers, unlocking exclusive perks and rewards.

  • Challenges and contests: Introducing challenges or contests keeps things interesting. It could be a monthly challenge to earn extra points or a contest with exciting prizes to encourage ongoing participation.

  • Surprises and mystery rewards: Unpredictability adds an element of excitement to the system. Surprise rewards or mystery boxes keep customers curious and eager to participate more regularly.

3. Community groups

Exclusive customer club

Community retention programmes foster an exclusive club for customers, forming a close-knit community where individuals who share a deep appreciation for your brand can come together. Membership in this community unlocks a range of compelling perks, such as early access to new releases, exclusive discounts, and access to special experiences designed to make participants feel exceptionally valued.

Within your customer community, there are designated hangout spots—be it a chat room or a social media group—where members can engage in conversations, share anecdotes and ask questions. Occasionally, your brand may wish to organise virtual or in-person gatherings, creating opportunities for members to meet one another.

Essentially, being part of the brand community transforms the customer relationship from a transactional one into a meaningful connection, where individuals are not merely consumers but active members of a brand-loving tribe.


4. Tiered

At the heart of tiered retention programmes lies the concept of recognition and reward for customer loyalty. Unlike traditional programmes that often employ a flat points system, tiered systems introduce a multi-level structure.

Customers start at a baseline level and progress through higher tiers by accumulating points or meeting specific criteria set by the business. Each tier unlocks a new set of benefits, creating a sense of achievement and exclusivity for the customer.

One of the fundamental reasons tiered retention programmes work is rooted in human psychology. The innate desire for progress and achievement is a powerful motivator. By structuring levels of engagement into tiers, businesses tap into this psychological aspect, providing customers with a sense of advancement and accomplishment. As customers move from one tier to the next, they experience a tangible progression in their loyalty journey, reinforcing their commitment to the brand.

Typically, this type of programme may work on a ‘Bronze’, ‘Silver’ and ‘Gold system, with each tier representing a distinct level of loyalty, 

  1. Bronze Tier: The Starting Point:
    This is where the loyalty adventure begins. Customers enter the programme at the Bronze level, enjoying baseline benefits. It could be introductory discounts, early access to sales, or other perks that provide a taste of the full experience.

  2. Silver Tier: The Midway Milestone
    As customers accumulate more points or meet specific criteria, they ascend to the Silver tier. Here, the rewards become more substantial. Silver-tier members might enjoy enhanced discounts, exclusive access to certain events, or personalised offerings based on their preferences.

  3. Gold Tier: The Pinnacle of Loyalty
    The Gold tier is the summit of loyalty achievement. Customers who reach this level unlock the most prestigious and exclusive benefits. These could include top-tier discounts, priority customer service, invitations to VIP events, or even personalised gifts.

Subscribe plan

5. Subscriptions

A subscription-based retention programme is a modern and innovative approach to building customer loyalty by offering exclusive benefits to subscribers. This model centres around customers paying a recurring fee for ongoing access to premium perks and services; which allows businesses to enjoy a predictable revenue stream.

Customers opt into the programme by subscribing to a regular payment plan. This could be a monthly, quarterly, or annual subscription fee, depending on the business model. Similar to tiered programmes, subscription-based loyalty often comes in different levels or tiers. Each tier corresponds to a different subscription fee and unlocks a set of progressively valuable benefits. 

For example, a basic tier might provide essential perks, while a premium tier could offer more exclusive rewards.

However, to ensure that customers feel in control of their subscriptions, it’s highly recommended to offer flexibility. Subscribers should be able to cancel or adjust their subscription level for a hassle-free experience.

6. Experiential

Some retention programmes go beyond transactions and immerse customers in unforgettable experiences. Instead of just offering products or services, these programmes focus on creating exclusive moments that linger in customers' memories

These programmes may give customers the chance to participate in the likes of product launches, social events or even behind-the-scenes tours at your business HQ.

Or, you could even give your customers the chance to have a personalised shopping assistant at hand to customise products exactly to their taste, or offer tailored recommendations based on their past interactions with the brand.

These experiences ultimately become pivotal moments for customers to forge deeper connections with your brand and establish meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals within the brand community.



7. Influencer programmes

Creating an influencer programme involves teaming up with social media stars who aren't just ordinary customers – they're die-hard fans with the addition of a massive follower base. Think of influencers as potential patrons of your brand who can turn their enjoyment of your products and services into powerful endorsements that resonate with their devoted audience.

How does it work?

Quite simply, influencers share their genuine experiences with your brand on their social media platforms. They might share unboxing adventures, personal testimonials, or sneak peeks behind the scenes of their brand interactions. And in time, this causes a ripple effect. As influencers share their positive experiences, their followers catch on – and this is all based on trust.

An influencer’s opinions truly matter to their followers. Therefore, if they’re spreading good news about your brand, followers are more likely to dive in and explore what it has to offer. As a ‘thank you’ for their interest, some businesses offer special discounts to an influencer’s follower base to invite them to browse their website and hopefully, retain them on a repeat basis.


8. Partnerships

A partnership involves a cooperative effort among businesses to enhance the customer experience. Recognising the collective benefit of collaboration, each business contributes to a unified loyalty initiative. The essence of this collaboration is typically to offer customers a comprehensive loyalty card.

Within this cooperative network, every participating business contributes to the shared loyalty card. Customer engagement across these businesses accumulates points, translating not only into diverse rewards but also fostering a sense of interconnection between the customer and the partnered businesses.

Imagine getting discounts at a variety of businesses you’re interested in, as well as early access to sales. And those special experiences? They're also spread across all the businesses working together.


Charity donation

9. Charitable donations

Have you ever considered elevating your customer retention programme to become a catalyst for positive change? Imagine introducing a charitable programme — an approach where your customers not only reap rewards for themselves but also actively contribute to causes they hold close to their hearts.

In this innovative system, every customer purchase transforms into an opportunity to make a meaningful impact. It's not just about accumulating points through shopping; it's about supporting charitable causes that resonate with your brand's values. The more customers engage with your brand, the more they contribute to these causes, forging a mutually beneficial relationship where shoppers feel a sense of fulfilment with their purchases, and your business shines as a beacon of social responsibility. 

This dual-purpose retention programme seamlessly blends commerce with conscience, creating a distinctive win-win scenario.

As customers witness their contributions accumulating alongside their rewards, a genuine sense of satisfaction and pride accompanies each purchase. This emotional connection 
fosters a deeper bond between customers and your brand.

Moreover, from a business perspective, adopting a charitable programme sets your enterprise apart in a competitive marketplace. It signals to customers that your company isn't solely driven by profits but is also dedicated to making a difference.


10. Points-based rewards

Points-based reward systems stand out as a key strategy. It's a straightforward yet impactful concept – customers earn points with each purchase, turning their custom into something tangible. The joy of seeing points add up over time taps into our natural desire for progress and achievement. 

Points-based systems give customers incredible flexibility. They can gather points from different transactions and decide when and how to use your rewards. It is all about catering to their preferences and letting them shape their experience according to what suits them best.

When customers start collecting points, they become emotionally hooked on working towards reaching rewards. It also majorly influences their decision-making process to nudge them in the direction of your brand, as they have already invested their time and effort.

With points-based systems, businesses can customise incentives according to how customers behave. By looking at how points add up, businesses can create promotions and rewards that match individual preferences. This personal touch not only makes the rewards more meaningful but also shows that the brand cares about and gets each customer's unique journey.


Customer retention magnet

11. B2B retention programmes

A B2B (business-to-business) retention programme is a tailored strategy crafted to nurture strong, long-lasting connections between businesses. Unlike B2C (business-to-consumer) programmes that focus on individual customers, B2B loyalty dives into the specific needs and complexities of business clients. The main goal? To encourage repeat business and cultivate enduring partnerships.

This is all about providing incentives that match the unique requirements of business clients. This could include volume-based discounts, personalised pricing structures, or specialised services finely tuned to meet the specific needs of each business.

Given the often larger scale of B2B transactions, these programmes may offer rewards based on the volume of transactions. As businesses engage in more substantial or more frequent purchases, they earn benefits that reflect the scale of their commitment.

Just like in B2C programmes, B2B initiatives may follow tiered structures. Businesses move through different tiers based on their level of engagement, unlocking more valuable benefits as they go. Beyond traditional rewards, B2B programmes often streamline the procurement process. This might involve dedicated account management, simplified order procedures, or improved communication channels – all designed to make business transactions easier and more efficient.

Effective communication is vital in B2B relationships. Programmes often include strategic communication plans to keep business clients in the loop about updates, new offerings, and industry trends. This helps build trust and reinforces the value of the partnership.


12. Cashback

Cashback operates on a straightforward principle: customers receive a percentage of their purchase amount back, presented to them in the form of cash or credits. This straightforward yet highly effective loyalty strategy is crafted to deliver immediate and tangible rewards, creating a win-win scenario for both businesses and customers.

Cashback provides an instant return on their investment, boosting the perceived value of their purchase. Customers, enticed by the prospect of getting something back, are not only motivated to make the initial purchase but are also lured back for more. They may choose to apply the earned cash or credits towards future purchases, effectively lowering the cost of their next transaction. Alternatively, the cashback can be withdrawn as real cash, putting money directly back into the hands of the customer.

The straightforward mechanism makes it easy to implement and manage, minimising the complexity often associated with initiatives. This simplicity is a pivotal factor in attracting a broad range of customers, from those seeking occasional rewards to those actively engaging in frequent transactions.


Cashback programm

13. Hybrid retention

Hybrid retention programmes distinguish themselves in the realm of customer loyalty by integrating a variety of features such as points, tiers, and cashback. This strategic blending is designed to provide businesses with a versatile framework, allowing them to tailor incentives that align with the diverse preferences and behaviours of their customer base.

These programmes offer a selection of benefits, including:

  • Rewards
  • Cashback
  • Tiered systems


The effectiveness of this programme lies in its adaptability. Businesses can dynamically adjust the mix of these loyalty elements based on customer preferences and market trends. For instance, if a segment of the customer base is particularly responsive to cashback rewards, the business can allocate more emphasis in that direction.


14. Trade retention programmes

Trade retention programmes are strategic moves that savvy companies employ to forge strong connections with their partners. These partners include distributors, resellers, wholesalers, and other B2B players in the supply chain, spanning builders to bathroom showrooms.

Partners earn well-deserved rewards tied to their sales, hitting targets, or achieving performance goals. These rewards, ranging from discounts and cash bonuses to freebies, serve as a small yet meaningful 'thank you' for a job well done.

In a true spirit of collaboration, companies actively support their partners by providing essential marketing materials and training. This joint effort ensures that partners have the tools they need to effectively promote the company's products, ultimately benefiting everyone involved. The highest-performing partners receive special treatment, enjoying perks such as early access to new products or exclusive offerings.

Fostering transparency and mutual growth, companies willingly share valuable market insights and customer information with their partners. This exchange of information empowers partners to make informed decisions, laying the foundation for a partnership that benefits both parties.


Customer rewards and online retention stategies

15. Online rewards

Online retention schemes primarily operate via digital platforms, such as websites, mobile apps, and e-commerce portals. These platforms serve as the hub for customer interactions, where transactions, engagements, and activities are tracked digitally. 

Customers typically need to create user accounts on the brand's online platform to participate in the programme. These accounts help in tracking individual customer activities and accumulating points or rewards.

Here’s how it works:

  • Points-based systems: A common feature of online retention schemes is the use of points. Customers earn points for specific actions, such as making a purchase, writing a review, or sharing products on social media. These points are then accumulated in the customer's account.

  • Multi-channel integration: Many of these programmes are designed to work seamlessly across multiple online channels. For instance, a customer might earn points through online purchases, but they can also redeem those points for discounts when making in-store purchases.

  • Communication channels: They typically use various digital communication channels to engage with customers. This may include email notifications, in-app messages, and push notifications to inform customers about their rewards, upcoming promotions, or special events.

Online retention schemes are employed across various industries, including retail, e-commerce, travel, and hospitality, as a way to foster long-term relationships with customers and build brand loyalty in the competitive online marketplace.


16. Punch cards 

Let's dive into the world of punch cards—a classic yet effective strategy that rewards loyalty with a touch of simplicity.

At its core, a punch card system is a straightforward way of saying, "Thanks for being a regular!" Every time you visit, you receive another stamp on your card and once you hit the target, you earn yourself a freebie! This age-old tactic has found its home in various businesses, from the local bakery to cafes, beauty salons and small gift shops.

However, beneath this straightforward system lies one common challenge - businesses want to celebrate big spenders while also acknowledging customers who pop in for a quick treat now and then. What’s more, they’re not the most flexible when it comes to accommodating different customer preferences and buying habits. It can be a bit tricky for places that want to cater to a diverse crowd—some customers may not be daily visitors or may not fill their baskets every time.

But here's why it’s such a simple yet effective principle: punch cards work wonders for businesses with a star product that everyone loves. Whether it's your go-to morning coffee, the weekend pastry treats, or the monthly excitement of a surprise box, these punch card systems just click with our habits.

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17. Spend-and-get retention programmes

Spend-and-get programmes are an initiative where customers are rewarded based on their total spending over a specified period. The fundamental principle is straightforward: the more customers spend, the more rewards or benefits they receive in return.

Customers earn rewards by reaching a predetermined spending threshold. This spending could be cumulative over time or during a specific promotion or campaign. They can take various forms, including discounts on future purchases, free products or services, exclusive access to sales, or even entry into a sweepstakes or giveaway.

Some Spend-and-get programmes are time-sensitive, running for a specific period to encourage customers to make purchases within that timeframe, which creates a sense of urgency for customers to act.

However, effective communication is crucial in order for the programme to be successful. Businesses need to clearly convey the spending thresholds, the associated rewards, and the duration of the programme through marketing channels such as emails, social media, and in-store signage to avoid any confusion.

For Example:

A clothing retailer introduces a Spend-and-Get promotion for the holiday season.


  • Spend £100: Get a 10% discount on the next purchase.
  • Spend £200: Get a 20% discount and a free accessory.
  • Spend £300: Get a 30% discount, a free accessory, and early access to the upcoming sale.

Spend-and-Get programmes can be highly effective in driving sales, especially during specific promotional periods. They tap into the psychology of consumers seeking value for their spending and contribute to both short-term revenue boosts and long-term retention.


Ready to create your own customer retention programme?

Retention programmes are a game-changer to keep those customers coming back for more. Building a solid customer base takes time, but here are the keys: make it easy to use, shout about the perks to your customers, and keep a close eye on how it's performing.

Now, here's the scoop on choosing perks.
A retention programme isn't just about offering discounts; it's about creating an experience. Consider exclusive access to new products, personalised recommendations, or surprises. 

The more tailored and exciting the perks, the more your customers will feel valued.

As you dive into this new business adventure, remember that building meaningful customer relationships is a journey. Share the story of your brand, interact on social media, and listen to your customers. It takes a bit of time and patience, but the long-lasting impact will make every step worth it. So, get creative and watch your customer retention rates soar!


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