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Loyalty platforms – Love at brand sight

Brand loyalty is one of the most important benchmarks for any business out there. Growing and nurturing communities of brand ambassadors is one healthy way to scale your business and grow the number of returning users. In the digital world, loyalty building efforts are vast and diverse: from social media campaigns to promotions and referrals.

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Loyalty platforms can offer seamless experiences for your users and a space for them to get closer to your brand. These platforms are the digital version of Word of Mouth, the most powerful tool for brand advertising and creating engagement.

Truth be told, loyalty platforms are on the expensive side but in our experience they bring the most in terms of returning customers. Here’s how we created a loyalty platform for one of our top clients.

Why a loyalty platform

One of our favorite parts in any project is discovering our clients’ needs and objectives. With our client, the stepping stone was very well set from the beginning: let’s build a revolutionary long term loyalty platform that will act as a status enhancer.

This platform would be a personalized space where our users could directly interact with the brand, get in touch with other like-minded users and gain rewards. We would offer custom experience based on the user’s level of engagement: gain access to special events, designer products and exclusive offers. 

In return, they would have to test new features, share their experience with our product, and refer new users. The more they interact with the platform, the more often they interact with our content, the more benefits they gain. 

From a transactional point of view, the platform can attract and maintain users through witty gamification techniques. On the other hand, users become loyal customers and brand ambassadors through status driven symbols: personalized content based on the products they purchase, the customer journey to higher levels, unlocking access to more and more benefits.

 

User flows

User onboarding goes as follows: pending the first interaction with the brand, which we defined as the first purchase, the user is automatically signed up onto the loyalty platform. It is up to them to keep using this service or indeed how often they use it. 

A user can gain points from referral, subscriptions, direct purchases, and entering product codes. Each of these activities correspond to a certain level of user engagement and directly match one of the company’s objectives.

For example: referring new users into the platform is the key feature in the flow and therefore comes with the biggest reward. The reward for on-boarding new customers grows as a user brings more and more friends into the platform.

Subscriptions and purchases are also well rewarded since they imply returning customers. There is also a low-key feature designed to appeal to lesser engaged users, a recurring activity that can be done with minimal effort: logging in the codes from products (each product comes with a unique 9-digit code). Developing such a feature might seem like an unrequited effort, but it is an efficient way to convert less engaged users.

Another key point in our gamification plan is the token acquiring system which implies users participating into community related activities. This strategy corresponds to the community growth objective and creating trust.

The secondary dimension of our loyalty program is translating user engagement efforts (acquiring points) into rewards (spending points). A user can transform their points into custom discounts, to redeem free products or to order exclusive luxury products and partner vouchers.

Top-tier users also gain access to free trials with new products, premium experiences, invitations to events and major discounts for new product launches.

Into the deep - developing a modular loyalty platform

The loyalty project started in June 2016, just a few months after the launch of the product on the Romanian market. Launching the loyalty program as soon as possible was a high priority for the brand, for the purpose of creating a community and tracking referrals.

“Hey guys, our client’s got a mind-blowing idea for a big project” our lead strategist yelled one morning in the office, knowing we’d start defining the user journeys that same day. We drew from our previous experience with modular design and development to define the MVP, scaling strategy and future functionality for the program.

We had several concerns including data security, acquiring users and managing the emerging database. We wanted to offer a truly personalized experience for each user, therefore we had to individualize each scenario a user could encounter. 

The first features of the platform included a simple 2-point gamification system: gather points – spend points. The system grew and gained more functions in time, but it was important for the first launch to be as intuitive as possible.

Aside from the user referral and collecting codes, the first iteration of the platform included an educational component, for the purpose of awareness on the innovative specs of the product. We also focused on creating engaging content: impressive graphics, video and animation.

Front-end wise, we started development with Vue.js components inside Blade, the template engine provided by Laravel, for its capability to efficiently render the dynamic data from the back-end. For the back-end, we were happy using Laravel, since it’s a very stable platform and highly effective when it comes to development tools.

We soon shifted to React, for clarity, better organizing and template creation. It was a sound decision considering we added further functionality and scaled the project.

Content modifications are handled through a custom-made CMS, developed in-house. Allowing us to manage the web shop, moderate user generated content, assign and control points, the content for the organized contests and activities, and cover security aspects. We keep up with third party integrations for storing user login data, managing the web shop product logistics and collecting/spending points.

“One of the challenges in this project was to make sense of all the third party integrations and to build a smooth system”, our colleagues say. “It is of paramount importance, if you wish to offer a truly personalized experience for the users”.

Delivering on user experience - building a progressive web app

As the loyalty platform grew organically, our next step was improving the user experience. We gathered user feedback through on-screen surveys, as well as email forms and defined two areas where improvement was imminent: reducing the number of interactions (number of clicks) for collecting points and the option for accessing the platform while offline. 

Surveys indicated the majority of users accessed the platform via mobile devices. They would have preferred an app-like experience to skip the login process and swiftly access the content. However, one of the main issues was the high frequency of uploading new content and features, which was once every two weeks. 

We soon decided upon developing a progressive web application, a web application that combines the look and feel of a native app, with the speed and performance of a website. We started re-writing the front-end application while the project was still up and running as a regular website. The challenge here was as much on setting up the APIs but design and UX as well. The program needed the look and feel of a native mobile app while keeping the consistency with the desktop platform.

Team work and team management - where agile is at its best

Since the beginning of the project we have created a dedicated team including front-end developers, back-end developers, digital strategists, UX/UI designers, content managers, QA testers, and of course a project manager and account manager. That says we offered the full spectrum of our services.

After the initial launch efforts, in 2017, the project has gone through ongoing improvements and developing new features. We work in two-week sprints, daily stand-ups and weekly status meetings. Here is the end result.  

Key Takeaways

Before you log out, here are a few takeaways we’re happy to share! Building, testing and improving on this project, we have found that…

  • Loyalty platforms are an integrated space for building loyalty experiences
  • Grapefruit created a loyalty platform that grows organically
  • Maintenance costs are high, but the return on investment grows exponentially over time
  • Easy and sustainable scaling 
  • We created a progressive web app for a seamless mobile experience
  • Enhance brand status
  • Boost engagement and referrals
  • Grow communities, connect users with similar interests
  • Get close with your customers, create trust
  • Reward top users

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