Build customer loyalty: Reward customers

Customer lifetime value is an important metric for any business. As acquisition costs for new customers are often high, increasing lifetime value ensures that your investment in acquiring the customer is profitable. So how do you encourage repeat purchases from your customers? How do you build loyalty so customers return to shop at your store?

Two major factors to consider are always quality and customer service. Your product quality and service have to justify purchasing from your store more than once.

However, most businesses that survive past a year have these bases covered, just like your store. How do you continue to build loyalty in a competitive environment? What else can you do to encourage repeat business to differentiate yourself?

One of the top methods is to reward your customers for their loyalty.

Effective customer loyalty programs

Customer loyalty programs are often recommended as a great way to build loyalty, and are frequently included with tips like these from AWeber or Salesforce. The lack of a loyalty program is also my biggest complaint about Chipotle 🙂 .

My favorite resource on effective loyalty programs comes from Help Scout, who provides tons of great resources on improving customer service. Help Scout has a comprehensive customer loyalty resource available for free, and chapter 6 of this resource gives you some tips on creating effective rewards programs.

A few of these recommendations are particularly helpful for eCommerce stores. First, Help Scout digs into some research that shows giving customers a head start in a loyalty program yields better results. The experiment referenced involved loyalty punch cards at a car wash: one group had a punch card that required eight washes to get a free car wash, while the second group was given a card that required 10 washes, but two were already punched.

Both groups required eight washes to get a free car wash, but the second group yielded far higher conversions in terms of the goal to purchase all eight washes.

Giving customers a head start takes care of the hardest part in getting involved with a loyalty program: starting. Customers already have some points, so they’re eager to earn more and to ensure they don’t waste the rewards they have.

The second recommendation Help Scout makes is to focus on your program goal. Many rewards programs flounder because the goal isn’t appropriate. While most of the time your goal will be to increase purchases, this may not be an effective goal for a subscription service. Instead, you can provide points or credit for referrals.

Another recommendation is to use status in your rewards program. Providing tiers, such as silver or gold members, that progressively give access to more points or discounts can encourage customers to “level up” to another tier, and gives them the ego boost that comes with a gain in status.

Let’s take a look at some popular eCommerce platforms and see which of these recommendations we can implement with each. Regardless of which platform we look at, the minimum requirement here is that customers are able to earn and redeem points for purchases, so here are three platforms that allow you to create customer loyalty programs.

WooCommerce customer loyalty programs

The most helpful plugin for creating a WooCommerce customer loyalty program is Points and Rewards ($129). This plugin lets you create a system to earn and redeem points for purchases in your store.

WooCommerce points and rewards setup

Recommendation 1: Give customers a head start

Points and Rewards will allow you to assign points for actions other than purchasing when you set it up. If you’d like to give customers a head start, you can give them some bonus points just for registering for an account to get them started:

WooCommerce points and rewards earning points

Recommendation 2: Set a program goal

While Points and Rewards will let you assign points for each order (including renewal orders for Subscriptions), you can’t assign points for referrals.

However, this is where another plugin I like comes in: AffiliateWP ($49+). The free Store Credit add-on works with WooCommerce to give affiliates store credit for every referral rather than assigning a commission. This means that you can set a $10 referral commission, and this will be assigned as credit for the affiliate instead of a payout. The affiliate can then use this credit to check out.

This referral credit system is not tied to Points and Rewards, so you can use AffiliateWP and Store Credit without Points and Rewards installed if you only want to give redeemable credit for referrals.

Recommendation 3: Leverage statuses for points

Unfortunately there’s no automatic way to change statuses using Points and Rewards. However, you could create a manual system to “redeem” points for a membership. If a customer hits a particular point threshold (i.e., 10,000 points), they could submit a request to be “upgraded”. You could then have a customer role for “silver” or “gold” customers that provides a discount, emails a monthly coupon, or provides another benefit.

Points can be manually adjusted, so you can redeem the points manually, then assign the customer to this new purchasing role. You could use our tips on creating wholesale systems to create a similar discount system for these customers.

Easy Digital Downloads customer loyalty programs

Easy Digital Downloads offers a similar Points and Rewards extension (it’s based off of the WooCommerce one) for $59, so you can achieve similar results. The setup for earning and redeeming points is the same.

Recommendation 1: Give customers a head start

You can also achieve this with Easy Digital Downloads. Unfortunately, you can’t allow points to be earned for reviews, as these aren’t part of EDD core. However, you can provide points to customers who register an account to give them a head start.

EDD Points and rewards for signup

Recommendation 2: Set a program goal

EDD Points and Rewards encourages purchases but not referrals. However, the free Purchase Rewards extension can help out with this. While you can’t offer a reward for a converted referral, you can offer a reward in the form of a discount for a purchase and social share.

When the customer shares the purchase at least once, the customer is then rewarded with a discount for a future purchase, encouraging a repeat visit. This does not require the Points and Rewards plugin to function, so you can implement referral rewards without creating an entire loyalty system.

Recommendation 3: Leverage statuses for points

While you can’t assign levels or statuses for points automatically, you can use a similar system to our WooCommerce recommendation: offer a customer role change for a set number of points.

The Discounts Pro extension ($49) will let you create discounts for a particular user role in your EDD store:

EDD Role discounts

When a customer contacts you to redeem the points for a role change, you can manually deduct the required points from the customer’s account, then update the customer’s role to the new role. Discounts Pro will let you create discounts specific to this “upgraded” role, and then you can send out codes or post them on your site since only these customers will be able to use the code.

WP eCommerce customer loyalty programs

WP eCommerce shops can use the Shopper Rewards Extension ($79) to add a simple points and rewards system to their sites. This plugin allows customers to earn points on purchases and redeem them on future purchases based on your rewards criteria (you set up custom redemption criteria, such as whether points are used for discounts, cash off, etc).

Recommendation 1: Give customers a head start

WP eCommerce doesn’t make creating customer accounts easy, and assigning points for this process is not possible. For example, if you allow guest checkout at all, customers won’t be prompted to register for an account at checkout. You must (1) enable open registration on your site, and (2) require store accounts for checkout in order to present a “register / login” prompt as part of the checkout process. Most stores keep guest checkout enabled, so account creation isn’t typically coupled with checkout.

Regardless, there’s no way to reward customers for creating an account, nor is there a way to manually assign points via Shopper Rewards. You can assign points for previous purchases, however, using the “Import” function, so a workaround could be to manually create purchases for customers (you’d have to use a manual purchases plugin), mark them as paid / complete already, then import the additional points.

Recommendation 2: Set a program goal

Your program goal can add points for purchases, but there’s no way to reward referrals or other goals with WP eCommerce / via add-ons.

Recommendation 3: Leverage statuses for points

Admins can manually redeem points for customers with Shopper Rewards, so you could manually create a role discount system for status rewards. However, the Role-based discounts plugin for WP eCommerce has been removed from, so there’s no way to create discounts based on role.

With some custom code, you could limit certain coupons to your upgraded role, but there’s no pre-built way to do so.


Building customer loyalty depends a lot on your product and service, but that doesn’t mean there are other strategies you can follow to augment your efforts. Rewarding customers for loyalty, repeat purchases, or referrals is an excellent way to reward customers and encourage them to continue to purchase and support your store.

Existing extensions can make creating a customer loyalty program simple, and you can provide head starts with points for signing up, ensure that program goals are a good fit for your site, or tie statuses to points to make your rewards program more effective.

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