Secret shopper: How five of the UK’s most innovative loyalty schemes are winning customer spend

What makes a loyalty programme genuinely pioneering and rewarding for customers? Reporter Nick Hughes went undercover for Retail Week to reveal their secrets.

Retailers who offer digitised, frictionless programmes and rewards that genuinely make customers’ lives easier are leading the charge in the loyalty scheme battle.  In the second article of Retail Week Connect’s loyalty transformation series, in partnership with fintech company Bink, we profile five pioneering reward programmes that are integral to the retailers’ strategies and future success. We break down why they’re truly excelling in loyalty, from what makes them the most popular with shoppers and their ease of sign-up to the rewards on offer.

Nike

Nike describes its membership scheme as “a global community dedicated to bringing out the best in one another”. The scheme is free to join with members getting access to a range of benefits that go well beyond the voucher/money-off model of traditional loyalty programmes. These include first and exclusive access to new products in a dedicated member shop, customised footwear and football jerseys, special member offers and promotions, free shipping and a 60-day wear-and-return policy with no receipt required.

Despite its wide-ranging benefits, the scheme was not prominently displayed on the Nike GB homepage. It took about 30 seconds for me to locate the ‘Join Us’ tab in the top right-hand corner of the page. This took me through to the membership section of the website, which details all the scheme’s benefits. A further click took me through to the sign-up page and from there the process was easy; I was asked to enter an email address, password and date of birth, and I was done. Another point of difference is the range of member-only benefits you can access by downloading various different apps, which include features such as audio-guided runs or workouts designed by Nike’s trainers and coaches.


Bink’s verdict: We love the seamless and connected experience of Nike’s programme. Whether customers are shopping in-store, on the website or through mobile apps, its loyalty programme membership stays connected at all times. No matter where customers choose to shop, their loyalty will be recognised and this makes for a smooth and enjoyable shopping experience. We look forward to seeing how Nike evolves this experience to make shopping in-store even more frictionless. 

Pets at Home 

The Pets at Home club is another highly regarded, innovative loyalty scheme that aims to look after all your pet’s needs. The benefits are wide-ranging, including tailored offers on your favourite brands, upgrades and rewards on pet treatments, access to tips on subjects such as grooming and membership of the Find My VIP community where members help one another locate lost pets. As with Nike, the scheme was not immediately visible from the website homepage and I had to scroll down towards the bottom to find a link to the VIP (Very Important Pets) club. The sign-up process is more detailed and time-consuming than for other schemes, reflecting its more tailored nature.

Having entered my personal details, I then had to create a VIP profile for my (imaginary) pet Labrador, Ramsey, including his age and temperament (sociable). One novel feature of the Pets at Home scheme is that swiping your VIP card at the till or online means you raise money for local animal charities. The final stage of the registration process gave me the opportunity to choose a local or national charity to support from a list of options. Once the registration process was complete, I received a 10% voucher off my first online order with the promise of a welcome pack, including a further 10% voucher for use in-store, to follow within 28 days.


Bink’s verdict: Through its loyalty programme, Pets at Home makes a real effort to get to know its customers, making it easier for them to care for their pets. The animal charity angle appeals to animal lovers further and gives customers another reason to engage with the programme. We think it would be really rewarding to be able to visualise online or in-store how much members have raised for charities.

Ole & Steen

By integrating its reward scheme with its app, the Danish bakery chain offers users a range of features designed to make the shopping journey seamless. Once I’d downloaded the app, I was asked to first enter my phone number and then a code sent to my phone to complete my registration. From there, I had to complete my profile on the app, including adding my name, email, birthday (when members get rewarded) and a payment card, at which stage I was awarded my first 400 points.

Members receive 10 points for every £1 spent, with rewards starting from 250 points for a bun or hot drink and going all the way up to 6,000 points for a luxury celebration cake. I found the app user-friendly, with current points clearly displayed on the homepage along with the amount needed to receive my next reward. It has lots of functions, all designed to reward loyalty and make redeeming those rewards quick and easy. Pre-ordering through the app means you not only beat the queue in-store but also get rewarded with five extra points. And when you enter the store, if you check-in by scanning a QR code staff will tell you what rewards you can redeem that day. 


Bink’s verdict: We really like this programme because it shares the same philosophy as us: make your customers’ shopping experience as seamless and intuitive as possible. We love that when you check in on arrival you are automatically notified of any rewards you have to redeem. We would choose to get our next coffee and cinnamon bun there because the experience is so frictionless.

SpaceNK

The first thing that stands out about SpaceNK’s Ndulge programme is that it’s described as a “beauty community” rather than a loyalty scheme. A link to Ndulge is located at the top right-hand corner of the website homepage, but if you happen to miss this a prominent banner appears once you scroll further down the page. The scheme was straightforward to join; after entering my email address and some basic personal details I was ready to go.

Ndulge members earn one point for every £1 spent, as well as a £5 reward for every 100 points earned. The scheme also offers surprise birthday gifts, early access privileges and invitations to exclusive brand events and double-points days. SpaceNK has also linked rewards to customer feedback by offering 10 Ndulge points for every website review left. A distinctive feature of the scheme is its tiered nature; members that spend £1,000 or more within a 12-month period are automatically upgraded to Ndulge’s deluxe membership with rewards including double points and £10 for every 100 points earned. 


Bink’s verdict: This rewards programme for beauty lovers does a really good job of giving customers a reason to shop with SpaceNK. You earn a generous amount of money back when you spend, which makes you feel rewarded often. We would love to see the friction of presenting loyalty cards removed so it is easier to earn and redeem rewards every time.

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H&M 

H&M has differentiated its loyalty proposition by linking rewards to sustainability. As a member, you can collect Conscious points for making sustainable choices such as recycling your clothes or bringing your own shopping bag to store. These points translate into bonus vouchers, redeemable with your next purchase. The loyalty scheme is not hugely prominent on the H&M homepage; I had to scroll down to the bottom right-hand corner to find a link to join. Once I’d done so, however, the process was quick and seamless.

I had to enter my email address, password and date of birth to sign up and was then asked whether I wanted to use H&M’s pay-later-in-store service, which allows members to make a payment after a purchase is made in-store via the H&M app. And that was it – I then downloaded the H&M app, which contains my member ID, and was ready to shop. As well as sustainability-linked rewards, the H&M scheme offers one point for every £1 spent, with bonus vouchers worth £3 awarded for every 100 points collected. Members also receive an introductory offer of 10% off when they join and spend £20, as well as exclusive discounts and early access to selected collections.


Bink’s verdict: Of the many elements that make this programme smart, what we like best is that it’s a cardless programme. You store your digital loyalty card in the H&M app. That’s good news for the environment and great for customers, who always have it when they need it.