Loyalty & Reward Programmes
November 9, 2023

Earn and Burn Loyalty Programmes: A Comprehensive Guide

Earn and burn loyalty programmes

Today, we discuss "Earn and Burn" loyalty programmes, a powerful strategy for businesses looking to boost customer retention and brand loyalty. We explore what earn and burn loyalty programmes are, how they work, and the diverse range of businesses that can benefit from them. 

With technology making resources available at our fingertips, customers now have a wealth of options available to them in any market. This creates a value proposition challenge for most businesses.

The challenge lies in answering the following questions:

  • How do you set your business apart from the competition?
  • How can you give your customers extra value and secure their loyalty?

Businesses turn to loyalty programmes to answer these questions and survive in competitive markets. Loyalty programmes provide a platform for businesses to supercharge their value proposition and keep customers around longer.

Earn and burn loyalty programmes are the go-to marketing strategy for businesses that want to drive customer retention and loyalty. These basic programmes continue to transform how customers engage, interact, and transact with their favourite brands.

In this blog, you will:

  • Learn how an earn and burn loyalty programme works
  • Understand the benefits for businesses
  • Explore the common challenges and potential solutions
  • Discover the secrets behind a successful earn and burn loyalty programme



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What are Earn and Burn Loyalty Programmes?

Despite its simplicity, an earn and burn programme is a proven strategy for driving customer loyalty. It involves rewarding customers with loyalty points for each purchase they make. They can then redeem or “burn” these points for exclusive rewards, discounts, and other perks.

This approach, also known as point-based transactional programmes, is an effective way to encourage repeat business. Here is a breakdown of its key components:

  • Earn: Customers earn points for making purchases or completing desirable actions like making referrals or leaving reviews. The more they engage with the brand, the more points they get.

  • Burn: After earning the required number of points, customers can burn them on redemption options like discounts, a gift card, free merchandise, exclusive event access, or cashback offers.

The term “earn and burn” accurately represents the “give and take" mutually beneficial nature of loyalty programmes. They are perfect for businesses that experience a high purchase frequency, such as retail businesses. 

Other businesses that use this loyalty model include:

  • Supermarkets

  • Hotels and hospitality

  • General retail

  • Airlines and travel

  • Ecommerce and online shopping

  • Coffee shops and cafes

  • Gas stations and convenience stores

  • Pharmacies and health stores

  • Gyms and fitness centres

Benefits for Customers

  • Exclusive rewards: Loyalty programmes add an air of exclusivity to the customer experience. Programme members typically get access to exclusive perks that non-members do not.

  • Savings and discounts: Members get discounts, which help them save on their everyday purchases.

  • Personalised experiences: Most loyalty programmes allow brands to collect valuable customer data. By analysing this information, brands can tailor their products and services to better meet their customers’ needs and preferences.

  • Flexibility: Earn and burn programmes often give customers cash back or credit towards future purchases. This flexibility enhances the overall customer journey.

  • Recognition and status: Some programmes use a tiered reward structure to encourage customers to participate. Higher tiers typically offer additional perks and benefits to the most loyal customers, giving them the status and recognition they deserve.

Benefits for Businesses

  • Increased customer retention: Loyalty programmes give customers an extra reason to return to your brand. It enhances brand perception and reduces customer churn.

  • Data collection and insights: Access to data on customer behaviour, preferences, and buying habits can help brands make informed decisions on marketing efforts and product improvements.

  • Improved customer engagement: Special promotions and rewards mean customers get more face time with your brand. This builds customer engagement and strengthens the brand-customer relationship. 

  • Brand advocacy: Rewarding loyal customers is an effective way to encourage them to tell others about your brand. These satisfied customers support brand growth by engaging in word-of-mouth marketing.

  • Competitive advantage: In competitive markets, a loyalty programme gives you an edge over the competition. Customers are more likely to choose brands that reward loyalty over those that don’t.


Tips for Designing Your Earn and Burn Loyalty Programme

While it’s important to analyse what other programmes are doing right (more on this later), you must choose the right loyalty programme for your members. The worst thing you can do is assume that what works for others will work for your brand. 

Without a clear strategy that addresses the pain points of your target audience, customer engagement in the programme will suffer. You must design your earn and burn loyalty programme around their unique needs to get the best results. 

Here are some tips to help you achieve this.

Define Your Objectives

The first thing to do is establish the objectives for your earn and burn loyalty programme. 

Do you want to:

  • Increase customer retention?

  • Expand your customer base?

  • Encourage customers to spend more?

  • Collect more customer data?

Your programme design should match the objectives you set out to achieve. Additionally, if you set multiple objectives, prioritise them based on their importance. To achieve the right outcome, the programme design should reflect the most important objectives.

Finally, define clear metrics and KPIs to measure progress towards your objectives. Common metrics to consider include:

  • Customer churn rate

  • Average order value

  • Customer lifetime value

  • Number of new customers


Consider dividing your customers into segments or groups. This allows you to match the rewards and benefits you offer to their needs. Use the following criteria to group your customers:

  • Demographics — age, gender, or location

  • Purchase history

  • Spending habits

  • Psychographics — lifestyle and values

  • Engagement level — visit frequency and interaction with brand content.

After defining customer segments, tailor rewards to the needs of each group. For example, if customers frequently buy a certain product, they might get more value from rewards related to that product.

Another important aspect of segmentation is its effect on customer interaction and personalisation. Leverage the insights gathered from segmentation to send personalised messages, offers, and recommendations to your customers. You can do this through email, mobile app notifications, or other relevant channels.


Keep it Simple and Transparent

Avoid ambiguity in your programme. Ensure that customers know how to earn points and the rewards they can expect. Make the process of earning points and redeeming rewards straightforward. Avoid complex rules or restrictions.

Here are some key points to help you simplify your programme:

  • Clearly communicate how customers can earn rewards — via purchases, referrals, or other desirable actions

  • Make the redemption process easy

  • Provide a user-friendly platform that allows customers to track the points they earn in the programme

  • Maintain consistent and transparent communication with programme participants

  • Customers expect clear opt-in and opt-out options. Make it easy for customers to join and opt out of the programme

Reward Options

Engagement in your programme depends on the type of rewards you offer. Providing a wide range of rewards that cater to your customers’ needs will keep the programme engaging. 

Examples of rewards include:

  • Discounts

  • Free products and services

  • Cashback offers

  • Exclusive event access 

  • Charitable donations

  • Limited-time offers

Take this flexibility one step further by allowing customers to choose their rewards. This means their needs will be accurately represented in the benefits and perks they receive. 

To expand your reward selection and value, partner with businesses that offer complimentary products. Rewarding your customers with discounts on partner products and services provides a unique and memorable experience and enhances programme value.

Tiered Levels

Create tiered loyalty levels in your programme to add an element of progression and achievement. Offer better rewards and privileges at the higher tiers. The promise of better benefits as they increase their status will encourage customers to engage with your brand.

It also helps customers feel a stronger emotional connection to your brand, making them less likely to leave once they start moving up the tiers. That’s because leaving often means giving up the benefits they’ve spent so much effort to earn. 

This has a significant effect on your customer retention rates and average transaction value as customers strive to reach elite status.


This strategy involves applying game-like elements to encourage customer engagement. Gamification adds excitement to the point-earning process, making it more memorable for your customers. It also improves public perception of your brand, which can help you attract more customers.

Teleflora, a floral delivery service, increased its Facebook referrals by 105% and saw a whopping 92% increase in conversions after gamifying its store.

Here are some ideas for gamifying your earn and burn loyalty programme:

  • Award digital badges to customers who complete a specific task or reach a milestone. Allow customers to add these badges to their profiles or share them on social media.

  • Provide progress bars to show customers how close they are to reaching a higher tier or unlocking a reward.

  • Create fun challenges, quests, or social media contests that customers can compete in to earn bonus points or exclusive rewards.

  • Introduce surprise prize draws to add spontaneous excitement to the programme.

  • Use loyalty leaderboards to motivate customers to spend more and outperform their peers.



Promoting Your Programme

Effective promotion is a crucial part of successful loyalty programmes. You must inform your customers about the programme and its benefits to get them to sign up. To get their attention, always remember to use their preferred communication channels.

You can also use the following tips to optimise your promotion efforts:

  • Use multi-channel promotion: Promote your loyalty programme across various channels, including your website, social media, email marketing, in-store signage, and mobile apps. Consistent messaging across platforms helps reinforce the programme's presence.

  • Reward enrollment: Offer an initial incentive for customers to join, such as a sign-up bonus or an exclusive first-time discount. This encourages more customers to participate from the start.

  • Provide educational content: Provide clear and concise information about the programme's benefits, how it works, and how customers can earn and redeem rewards. Create educational content through blog posts, videos, and FAQs to help customers understand the programme better.

  • Host a programme launch: Consider hosting a launch event to introduce the programme and generate excitement. Highlight the exclusive rewards and experiences that customers can expect to receive.

  • Offer referral incentives: Encourage programme members to refer friends and family. Offer rewards for successful referrals, benefiting both the referrer and the new member. Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful tool.

  • Provide regular communication: Keep programme members engaged with regular communication. Send personalised offers, updates on points balances, and exclusive promotions via email, SMS, or push notifications through your app.

  • Leverage feedback mechanisms: Create mechanisms for customers to provide feedback on the programme. This can help you improve the programme and address any issues or concerns quickly.

  • Display social proof: Showcase customer success stories and testimonials related to your loyalty programme. This can inspire others to join and actively participate.


Loyalty Programme Pitfalls to Avoid

Inadequate Alignment with Business Goals

If the loyalty programme doesn’t align with your broader business goals and strategies, it may not generate the desired outcomes.

Recommendation: Ensure that your loyalty programme is well-integrated with your overall business strategy. Review the programme's objectives and features to confirm that they align with your long-term goals, whether they are increasing customer retention, boosting sales, or gathering data. Make adjustments as necessary to ensure alignment.

Excessive Expiration Policies

Implementing overly restrictive expiration policies for earned rewards can frustrate participants and discourage programme engagement.

Recommendation: Use reasonable expiration policies that allow participants sufficient time to redeem their rewards. Consider offering reminders or notifications to keep them informed about approaching expiration dates.

Inadequate Data Utilisation

Not effectively utilising the data collected through the programme can result in missed opportunities for personalisation and targeted marketing.

Recommendation: Maximise the use of customer data to create targeted marketing campaigns and tailor programme offerings. Implement analytics tools to track customer behaviour and preferences and make data-driven decisions.

Insufficient Monitoring and Analysis

Neglecting to monitor the program's performance and analyse participant engagement can lead to missed insights and opportunities for improvement.

Recommendation: Regularly track programme metrics, including customer engagement, redemption rates, and customer satisfaction. Use data to make informed decisions and continuously optimise the programme.

Inadequate Integration Across Channels

Challenge: Failing to integrate the loyalty programme seamlessly across all customer touchpoints can lead to inconsistencies and confusion.

Recommendation: Ensure that the programme's messaging, rules, and rewards are consistent across all channels, including your website, mobile app, email communications, and in-store materials. A seamless experience builds trust and encourages engagement.



Case Studies of Successful Earn and Burn Loyalty Programmes

Starbucks Rewards

Unique Features:

  • Starbucks Rewards is a mobile app-based loyalty programme that allows customers to earn "stars" for each purchase.

  • Members receive personalised offers and discounts based on their purchase history.

  • Tiered structure with Green and Gold levels, each offering different benefits.


  • Starbucks Rewards has over 25 million active members.

  • The programme drives customer loyalty and increases spending by encouraging customers to visit more often and try new menu items to earn stars.

  • Personalisation and the mobile app enhance the customer experience.


Delta SkyMiles

Unique Features:

  • Delta SkyMiles is an airline loyalty programme with tiered levels like Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion.

  • Members earn miles for each flight, which can be redeemed for future travel.

  • Delta often offers "flash sales" with reduced mile redemption rates.


  • The programme encourages customer loyalty to Delta and its partners.

  • Members enjoy elite perks like complimentary upgrades and priority boarding.

  • Delta SkyMiles has been successful in retaining frequent travellers and building customer loyalty in a competitive industry.


Sephora Beauty Insider

Unique Features:

  • Sephora's Beauty Insider programme offers points for every dollar spent, which can be redeemed for beauty products.

  • The programme includes exclusive access to products, events, and personalised beauty recommendations.

  • Three tiers: Beauty Insider, VIB (Very Important Beauty Insider), and Rouge, each with increasing benefits.


  • Sephora's loyalty programme has over 25 million members.

  • It creates brand loyalty by offering unique experiences and early access to new products.

  • The tiered structure motivates customers to spend more to unlock higher-level rewards.


Hilton Honors

Unique Features:

  • Hilton Honors is the loyalty programme of Hilton, one of the world's leading hotel brands.

  • Members earn points for every stay at Hilton properties, as well as for dining, shopping, and more.

  • Points can be redeemed for free hotel stays, room upgrades, and other benefits.

  • Hilton Honors offers a dynamic pricing system, allowing members to use points for any available room at any time, with no blackout dates.


  • Hilton Honors has millions of members and is highly regarded in the hotel industry.

  • The earn and burn model encourages customers to stay at Hilton properties and engage in various activities, which, in turn, leads to increased customer retention and more frequent stays.

  • The programme's flexibility, including no blackout dates, adds to its appeal and convenience for travellers.

Start Building Customer Loyalty Today

The modern consumer is spoilt for choice in highly competitive markets. Successful brands will be those that adopt a proactive stance towards cultivating loyalty among their customers. 

Building a robust loyalty programme is an excellent place to start!

Download our Customer Loyalty & Reward Programme Guide now to discover how you can unlock the benefits of a loyal customer base. Explore how these brand champions can supercharge your ROI and drive sustained growth for your business.


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