How to Reward Customers and Get Them Back

Your regular customers are your bread and butter, so show your appreciation to keep them coming back.

How to Reward Customers and Get Them Back

Rewards cards for free or discounted items, along with other incentives, can get customers back into your store or range and further establish a positive relationship. (Photo: Michael Faw)

The trend of tracking purchases and focusing on frequent buyers is well underway in America. Are you focused on your best customers?

Customer cards and frequent buyer memberships offer a wide range of benefits to customers — and retailers and ranges. Those cards and memberships can make customers feel more connected to your business. Starbucks, Costco, Lowes, Best Buy and other well-known businesses increasingly use these types of cards and programs to help customers feel that they belong. Frequent buyer cards typically come with perks, such as offering rewards — including discounts or freebies — after a specific number of purchases or when set spending levels are reached. If your frequent and regular customers aren’t next-level card carriers, they should be.

For example, the business card issued by Sunset Firearms in Wilsonville, Oregon, provides the standard store name and the full contact information on the front side of the card. Turn over that standard-size business card and the back has a series of outlined punch holes. For the customers who make 10 firearm transfers, No. 11 is free.

“The rewards card I offer is the result of a customer suggestion,” says Gordon Ross, Sunset Firearms owner. “I worked with a local graphic designer for the layout of the card so punching the rewards side does not remove the contact information on the other side. And I have quickly learned, everybody wants something for free. This program brings customers back.”

Like many other independent retail businesses in the shooting sports industry, a good portion of sales at Sunset are transfers from online firearms purchases. Other innovative businesses have frequent buyer or membership programs where five or 10 trips to the range can result in a free hour of range time or a free box of ammunition.

Shady Oaks Gun Range in Cedar Park, Texas, is another industry example offering incentives to frequent customers. After 10 visits and lane rentals at the range, the 11th visit is free for members. This is mentioned in customer reviews on the range’s social media channels. Word of mouth and online testimonials are much better and more believable than most traditional advertising channels.

Cards that offer rewards for customers to spend on the products of their choice are another great tool to reward loyalty. Some shops and ranges provide these after set amounts (such as $500 or $1,000) are spent in the shop. Thus, if the buyer bought a new pistol or MSR, he or she could use that frequent buyer card and the awarded value dollars to purchase a holster, ammunition or other accessories.

Imagination and innovation are the beginning when implementing a frequent buyer program. Keep it simple but make sure it’s interesting — and rewarding. These programs are very effective at converting standard customers into returning customers. Basic marketing numbers always reveal that it’s easier to keep a customer than to find a new one, and this practice advances that theory.

The possibilities for rewarding frequent buyers and getting them to return and open their wallets are endless. There are also companies that, for a fee or percentage, can help you establish a program and delivery method. These can be found online, or sometimes through your bank or firearms and ammunition suppliers. Those channels may also offer insight into what other locations and businesses similar to yours have done to reward frequent customers.

By the Numbers

Need to know more about frequent buyers? One data source about frequent buyers and loyalty programs reports the average U.S. household holds membership in 14 buyer programs, but only utilizes six of them regularly. Are you among those top six with your customers?

Marketing research data indicates regular customers with loyalty cards also provide another benefit to you and your retail center — they tell others. By some estimates, frequent buyers with loyalty cards or membership in a program are 70 percent likely to tell others about your business. Word-of-mouth advertising and promotion is recognized as one of the top drivers of business at the sales counter — and for pulling customers through the front door.

Data collection is another strong benefit of a frequent buyer program. Unlike a one-time customer who buys and disappears, frequent buyers can be tracked via that specially assigned number or other frequent buyer identifier. You can determine when and what they buy, how those purchases related to special promotions or advertised specials you may have held, and other data that can aid in planning future sales and promotions along with what to stock on shelves, and when to stock those items. 

Getting Started

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel while developing a frequent customer program or rewards card. Start with simple discounts or rewards that offer real value. As far as the cosmetics of the program, there are numerous online sources to help with the design of the cards you give your frequent buyers.

For a good example, see Vistaprint. As a rule, the membership card should be standard size, simple and have space for the holder’s information.

Some businesses offer both frequent buyer programs (the more you spend the more you earn) and loyalty programs where points are earned and can only be spent on specific things. Some shoppers find these confusing and frustrating to track and use. Some places also have points and perks that are set to expire after one year. This avenue can encourage some customers to shop but others will be very frustrated when they come in to use the card and find out their benefits have lapsed. Programs that require filling out forms, sending receipts and cutting and pasting things like bar codes can also be frustrating. The best frequent buyer programs are easy to use and easy to understand. Keep it simple.

Don’t just hand out a frequent buyer card and consider your job done. Work to engage those customers; learn their names, what they want, what they shoot, other places they shop or shoot and as many other details as possible. If you have trouble remembering, write down those details. Review those notes regularly so when the customer arrives at the counter, you can have a meaningful and memorable conversation. Customers like to be recognized and remembered.

You’ve likely heard of the 80/20 rule; 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of the customers. Those are typically your frequent buyers. Focus on them.


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