Customer Loyalty
June 13, 2024

How Are the Biggest Brands Rewarding Customer Loyalty?

In this blog post, I’ll show you how some of the world's most successful brands are using loyalty programmes for rewarding customer loyalty. From Starbucks' gamified app that encourages repeat purchases to Nike's members-only benefits like early access to product releases and exclusive events. These programmes are designed to create a sense of exclusivity and appreciation that extends beyond just points and discounts.


But with so many different types of loyalty programmes out there, how do you know which one is right for your business? Should you offer a points-based system, a tiered programme, or a paid membership? And how can you ensure that your rewards are compelling enough to keep customers engaged without breaking the bank? We'll dive into all of these questions and more as we explore the strategies behind some of the most successful loyalty programmes in the game. 

Want to boost customer retention? Increase customer lifetime value? Or simply show your most loyal fans that you appreciate them? You’re in the right place to learn how to reward customer loyalty like the pros.



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Key Takeaways

  • Rewarding customer loyalty is crucial for boosting retention, driving repeat purchases, enhancing brand advocacy, fostering community, and gaining valuable customer insights.

  • Effective reward strategies include discounts, free products, exclusive access, personalised rewards, experiential rewards, charitable donations, and gamification.

  • Successful loyalty programmes, like those of Starbucks, O2, Boots, American Express, Nike, Uber, Amazon, and JD Gyms, offer valuable lessons for businesses looking to boost customer retention and advocacy.

  • Challenges in rewarding customers include ensuring perceived value, balancing costs and impact, avoiding fatigue or entitlement, maintaining fairness, and addressing issues or complaints.

  • By crafting a tailored loyalty programme that resonates with customers, businesses can cultivate a devoted following and create a win-win situation for both the brand and its customers.



The Importance of Rewarding Customers

Simply offering a great product or service isn't enough. To truly stand out and build a loyal customer base, you need to go above and beyond in showing appreciation for your most dedicated fans. Here's why rewarding customer loyalty should be a top priority:

  • Boosts Customer Retention: By making your customers feel valued, you'll keep them coming back for more. Loyalty programmes can help reduce churn and increase customer lifetime value.

  • Drives Repeat Purchases: Customers who feel appreciated are more likely to choose your brand over competitors. Rewarding loyalty encourages customers to make repeat purchases and spend more over time.

  • Enhances Brand Advocacy: Happy customers are your most powerful marketing asset. They'll spread the word about your brand to friends and family, driving new customer acquisition at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.

  • Fosters Community: A well-designed loyalty programme can create a sense of exclusivity and belonging among your best customers. By offering personalised rewards and experiences, you'll build a community of passionate brand advocates.

  • Provides Valuable Insights: Loyalty programmes generate valuable data on customer preferences and behaviour. These insights can help you optimise your offerings and target your marketing efforts more effectively.

At Propello Cloud, we've helped some of the biggest brands in the game create hyper-relevant loyalty programmes that drive real results. From point-based systems to tiered rewards and personalised experiences, our platform makes it easy to reward customers in a way that resonates with them and aligns with your business goals.

So, if you're a senior marketer or business owner looking to boost customer retention, drive repeat purchases, and foster a sense of community around your brand, it's time to start thinking seriously about how you can reward your most loyal customers. With the right strategy and tools in place, the payoff can be game-changing.


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Types of Customer Rewards 

Let's dive into some of the most effective rewards strategies and how they can help take your customer retention to the next level.

Discounts and coupons 

Everyone loves a good deal, and offering discounts and coupons is a tried-and-true way to reward your loyal customers. Whether it's a percentage off their next purchase or a special code for free shipping, these types of rewards can be a powerful motivator for customers to keep coming back to your brand.

Free products, services, or upgrades 

Another great way to show your appreciation for your best customers is by offering them free products, services, or upgrades. This could be anything from a complimentary sample of a new product to a free month of your subscription service. The key is to make sure the reward is relevant and valuable to your customers.

Exclusive access to sales, events, or products 

Making your loyal customers feel like VIPs is a surefire way to build brand advocacy. By giving them early access to sales, inviting them to exclusive events, or letting them be the first to try new products, you're showing them that they're a valued part of your community.

Personalised rewards based on customer preferences 

One size doesn't fit all when it comes to customer rewards. By using data from your loyalty programme to understand your customers' preferences and behaviour, there’s an opportunity to personalise rewards that truly resonate with them. This could be anything from a curated selection of products based on their past purchases to a special offer on their birthday.

Conditional Reward Triggers


Experiential rewards 

Sometimes the most memorable rewards aren't things, but experiences. Whether it's VIP treatment at your store, a special event with a celebrity influencer, or a once-in-a-lifetime trip, experiential rewards deepen emotional connections between your customers and your brand.

Charitable donations on behalf of customers 

For customers who are passionate about giving back, offering to make a donation to a charity of their choice can be a powerful motivator. Not only does it show that your brand shares their values, but it also helps them feel like they're making a difference in the world every time they do business with you.

Gamification and surprise and delight rewards

Finally, don't be afraid to have a little fun with your rewards programme. Gamification elements like points, badges, and leaderboards make the experience of earning rewards more engaging and interactive. And surprising your customers with unexpected rewards creates a sense of delight that keeps them coming back for more.

Gamification in Loyalty Programmes


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Case Studies of Businesses Effectively Rewarding Customers 

As the CEO & Founder of Propello Cloud, I've had the privilege of helping some of the most forward-thinking brands across various industries create hyper-relevant rewards programmes that drive real results.

While the brands mentioned in these case studies may not all be our clients, they serve as excellent examples of how innovative companies are successfully rewarding their most loyal customers. As we explore their strategies, we'll uncover valuable lessons that can be applied to any business looking to boost customer retention and advocacy.


Starbucks Rewards - Tiered Loyalty Programme 

Starbucks set a new standard for how to reward customer loyalty with their widely recognised Starbucks Rewards programme, which uses a points-based system in a tiered framework.

Key features

  • Two tiers: Green and Gold, with newly signed-up customers automatically accessing the Green level.

  • Members earn a Free Drink Reward for every 150 stars they accrue.

  • Green Members receive early or extended access to special menu items, discounts, and Bonus Star promotions.

  • Gold Members (450 stars within 12 months) receive additional perks like free syrups, extra shots of espresso, and free whipped cream, as well as a free drink on their birthday.

Starbucks rewards (1)

Starbucks set a new standard for how to reward customer loyalty. Their widely recognised Starbucks Rewards programme uses a points-based system in a tiered framework. 


Why it works

  • Two tiers keep the structure of the programme easy to follow. Syrups, espresso shots and whipped cream enhance the products that Starbucks provides for its customers. Offering these extras for free to Gold Members is a powerful incentive to upgrade accounts. Consider this if your products or services have additional features.

  • Starbucks also developed an innovative and engaging app, allowing their customers to check how many stars they’ve got. In addition to how many they need to access specific benefits or upgrade their account.

  • In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s not enough to just offer a rewards programme. Businesses need to make their programmes stand out. Unique UX is an essential part of that. Starbucks’ mobile app generates around 6 million sales per month, making up around 22% of all sales in the US!

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O2 Rewards & Priority - Always On Rewards Programme

O2 pioneered "Always On" rewards in 2008, giving customers access to exclusive discounts or benefits simply by being a customer.

Key features

  • With O2 Rewards, customers earn up to 10% of their top-ups back every three months. Customers can spend it on extra credit, phones and accessories, shopping vouchers or Ticketmaster tickets.

  • O2 Priority offers exclusive weekly treats and discounts on food, drinks, and shopping. In addition to 48 hour early access to buy tickets for the biggest acts at O2 venues.  

02 Priority (1)

‘Always on Rewards’ or ‘Perks’ give customers access to exclusive discounts or benefits, simply by being a customer. Always On rewards are redeemable at any time and not linked to spend. O2, perhaps the best example, pioneered Always On rewards in 2008.


Why it works 

  • Always On rewards appeal to customers’ natural fear of missing out (FOMO). A powerful influencer, FOMO clearly sets out what customers stand to lose, if they choose to take their business elsewhere. If you’re in a saturated market, Always On could help you stand out from competitors.

  • O2 achieved great success with their rewards initiative. With it being one of the fastest growing loyalty programmes in the UK.

  • O2 Priority rewards gets 75 views a second and customers redeem 5 points every minute each day. That comes as no surprise as rewards are always available. Customers can redeem deals and discounts at any time, saving them money in the process when they need it most. 

Want to build a positive brand perception? Higher rates of engagement? Keep your business front of mind? Prioritise Always On.


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Boots - Earn & Burn Loyalty Programme


Boots launched their Advantage Card in 1997. Today, Boots customers earn 3 points for every pound spent on products in-store, online or via the Boots app. Every point equates to a penny that customers can save up and spend on products. 


Key features 

  • Customers earn points buying products in-store, online or via the Boots app. 

  • Opportunities to earn extra points during special ‘points events’.

  • Advantage Card holders can check their balance in-store, on their online account or the Boots app. 

  • Customers can save up points for special occasions or holidays. For example, they can use points instead of money to purchase Christmas or anniversary presents. 

Boots (1)


Why it works

  • The initial investment of the Advantage Card cost Boots a total of £30 million. No doubt that’s a huge investment but the scheme is one of the most successful programmes in the UK. Boots claims the Advantage Card has increased retention, spending and overall profits.

  • There's no requirement for spending the same huge amounts of money that Boots invested in their rewards initiative. Implementing a points-based programme can be relatively low cost. Which is why so many businesses use them and they’re popular with customers!

Bear in mind that loyalty programmes also offer valuable insights about customers. Boots tracked the behaviours of customers with the Advantage Card. In doing so, they identified their main demographic as women between the ages of 25-45. This led to them creating bespoke offers, increasing the likelihood of customers redeeming offers.


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American Express - Loyalty Partnerships

American Express offers unique, co-created rewards through partnerships with various brands, ranging from hotels and membership organisations to online and sports retailers.


Key features 

  • Membership Rewards cardholders earn points on every purchase, redeemable for travel discounts, merchandise, and gifts from partnered brands.

  • Two premium card options (Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card and The Platinum Card) offer additional travel privileges, faster rewards, and worldwide airport lounge access.

  • Cardholders can redeem points with partner loyalty programmes like Delta SkyMiles or Marriott Bonvoy, often with favourable exchange rates.

American-express (1)

American Express offers unique, co-created rewards with their loyalty programme. Partnering brands range from hotels, membership organisations, online and sports retailers. The loyalty programme relies on a points-based system like Starbucks. 

Why it works

  • The programme has many partners who work together to offer a complete service for frequent travellers. Consider a partner programme if you’ve got access to a partner or affiliate network. Remember, offers from partners must enhance your products or services. That way you ensure the co-created, unique offers you devise, resonate with your audience base.

  • American Express cardholders can also redeem their points with partner loyalty programmes. For example Delta SkyMiles or Marriott Bonvoy, often with favourable exchange rates too. This compatibility strategy between loyalty programmes is a fantastic point of difference. A diverse array of rewards caters to a broader audience and enhances engagement. 

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Amazon Prime - Premium Loyalty Programmes

Amazon offers a premium loyalty programme which provides members with various benefits. Amazon Prime gives members free shipping, access to streaming services, and other exclusive deals. Unlike most loyalty programmes, Amazon Prime doesn’t rely on a points-based system. Members pay monthly or annually instead.


Key features 

  • Free two-day shipping for members.

  • Access to Prime Video, with a vast catalogue of movies and TV shows.

  • Ad-free music streaming and access to thousands of playlists and stations.

  • Exclusive discounts, early access to Lightning Deals, and unlimited storage on Amazon Photos.

  • Members can share benefits with their household.


Amazon Prime is a paid loyalty programme that offers members a wide range of benefits, including free shipping, streaming services, and exclusive deals.

Why it works

Amazon Prime provides a comprehensive, premium experience that extends beyond product-related rewards, driving engagement and loyalty. Despite being a paid programme, Prime achieves high retention and acquisition rates due to its extensive benefits and perceived value.

This may come as a surprise but paid loyalty programmes actually achieve higher retention and acquisition.

According to McKinsey, 59% of consumers are more likely to choose brands with paid loyalty programmes. Around 43% of which make weekly purchases.

That’s because businesses with paid loyalty programmes offer a truly premium service and experience, which compels consumers to pick them.


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JD Gyms - Always On

JD Gyms Plus is another example of an Always On loyalty programme. Members access rewards from relevant partner brands such as My Protein and Apple.


Key features 

  • Existing JD Gyms members can upgrade their account for multi-site gym access and loyalty programme perks.

  • For an additional £5.00 per month, JD Gyms Plus members gain access to discounts from hundreds of leading brands.

    Other benefits include a Free Gym Buddy pass, a free PT session, two weeks advance booking for classes, and discounted merchandise.


Why it works

  • JD Gyms Always On loyalty programme operates in the same manner as O2 Rewards. Driving engagement, building a positive brand perception, and allowing members tohero-mob 2 redeem rewards when it suits them.

  • The rewards available on JD Gyms Plus also complement the main service they provide. Like any other customer, gym goers redeem discount codes for that resonate with them. In addition, personalised rewards that align with customers’ objectives and goals drive long term engagement.

  • JD Gyms also drive a truly exceptional value proposition with the additional benefits they offer. A Gym Buddy pass demonstrates they’ve researched pain points that gym goers experience. 

The free PT session boosts exposure for freelancers (possible referral source?). The two weeks in advance booking will also make the customer feel appreciated. As it demonstrates JD Gyms value their time and prioritise them.


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Uber - Referral Loyalty Programme

A referral programme leads to the ultimate optimised method of acquisition. Uber continues to grow rapidly and much of that is thanks to their referral programme. 

Key features 

  • Existing users receive a unique referral code, which they can share with others.

  • Uber encourages brand advocacy on social media, email, and direct messaging.

  • Referring users receive credit or discounts on future rides when a referred person signs up and takes their first ride.

  • New users typically receive a discount on their first Uber ride.


Uber's referral programme has been a significant contributor to the company's
rapid growth, incentivising both existing users and new customers.


Why it works

  • Typically, there’s two types of referral programme structures. Single-sided referral programmes just reward the brand advocate. A double or dual-sided referral programme offers rewards to both brand advocates and the new customer they’ve referred.  

  • Uber has taken this model and improvised it in a way that suits their business model perfectly. Their twist encourages both customers and employees to refer new users.

  • What’s more, Uber uses a dual-sided referral programme which is the type we always recommend. Rewarding new users with a gift gives a positive first impression. This puts Uber in a better position to create a positive cycle, encouraging new users to become regulars.


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NikePlus - Gamified Loyalty Programmes

NikePlus is a gamified loyalty programme that offers members exclusive access to products, apps, and experiences.


Key features 

  • Members can add their interests for personalised online shopping experiences.

  • Early access to limited-edition products, creating a sense of exclusivity and anticipation.

  • Special birthday gifts for members, adding a personal touch.

  • Exclusive content and experiences, including workouts, workshops, events, and training tips.

Nike (1)


The NikePlus loyalty programme is a gamified experience that members won’t soon forget. Benefits include first and exclusive access to products and apps like Nike Training Club and Nike Run Club. 


 Why it works

  • Nike’s approach to rewarding customer loyalty also goes way beyond rewards. Delivering personalised benefits such as early access is what makes NikePlus work so effectively.

  • In addition, gamified elements secure high rates of engagement. Competitions and acknowledgement of positive behaviours like attending workouts is a fantastic strategy. Firstly, it appeals to our natural inclination to compete. Secondly, it encourages a lifestyle that Nike products or designed for.

Add leaderboards, competitions and encourage behaviours that drive a demand and need for your products. Nike demonstrates the experiences a customer has with your brand is just as important as the rewards you offer. That can make all the difference for a successful loyalty programme.

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Rewarding Customers: Challenges and Considerations 

Rewarding customers isn't always easy. While it's incredibly important to show appreciation and make customers feel valued, there are also challenges and considerations that come into play. I’ll show you some of the most common ones and how to navigate them.

Ensuring rewards are perceived as valuable by customers 

One of the biggest challenges in creating a successful rewards programme is making sure that the rewards you offer are actually seen as valuable by your customers. It's not enough to just give them points or discounts – you need to make sure that the rewards are relevant, meaningful, and aligned with what your customers really want.

Balancing the cost of rewards with their impact on loyalty 

Another key consideration is finding the right balance between the cost of your rewards and the impact they have on customer loyalty. While it's important to be generous with your rewards, you also need to make sure that the programme is sustainable for your business in the long run. This means carefully tracking the ROI of your rewards programme and making adjustments as needed.

Avoiding reward fatigue or entitlement among customers 

When you've been running a rewards programme for a while, there's a risk that customers can start to feel fatigued or entitled. They may come to expect rewards as a given, rather than seeing them as a special perk. To avoid this, it's important to keep your programme fresh and exciting, and to communicate clearly about the value and exclusivity of your rewards.


Maintaining fairness and consistency in reward distribution 

Another challenge is making sure that your rewards programme is fair and consistent. You need to have clear rules and guidelines in place for how rewards are earned and redeemed, and make sure that these are applied consistently across all customers. This helps to build trust and credibility with your customer base.

Addressing potential issues and customer complaints related to rewards 

Finally, it's important to have a plan in place for addressing any issues or complaints that may arise related to your rewards programme. Here's a table outlining some common scenarios and how to handle them:




Customer doesn’t receive expected rewards

  • Investigate the issue and resolve it promptly

  • Communicate clearly with the customer throughout the process

Customer is unhappy with the value of rewards

  • Listen to the customer’s feedback 

  • Consider adjusting the rewards or better communicating their value 

Customer has difficulty redeeming rewards

  • Make sure redemption process is clear and easy

  • Provide customer support to assist with any issues 

Customer feels that rewards programme is unfair 

  • Review programmes rules and make sure they are being applied consistently 

  • Communicate transparently about how rewards are earned and redeemed


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Reward Customer Loyalty Like a Pro 

When rewarding customer loyalty rewards must resonate with your customers for building a win-win situation. Customers should feel valued and appreciated, deepening their emotional connection to your brand. In return, they reward you with increased spending, unshakable brand loyalty, and a steady stream of word-of-mouth referrals.

With inspiration from the world's most successful brands and can start rewarding your customers like the VIPs they are. Whether you're a global corporation or a local business, crafting a loyalty programme that's tailor-made for your audience will help you cultivate a devoted following that will champion your brand for years to come. But don't take my word for it. You only need to look at the case studies I've shared as proof that rewarding loyalty always goes down well with customers.


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What are the benefits of rewarding customer loyalty? 

Rewarding customer loyalty boosts retention, drives repeat purchases, enhances brand advocacy, fosters community, and provides valuable customer insights. Businesses can deepen emotional connections and create a win-win situation that benefits both the brand and its customers by making customers feel appreciated.


What types of rewards are most effective for customer loyalty programmes? 

Effective reward strategies include discounts, free products, exclusive access to sales or events, personalised rewards based on customer preferences, experiential rewards, charitable donations on behalf of customers, and gamification elements. 


How can businesses ensure that rewards are perceived as valuable by customers? 

To ensure rewards are perceived as valuable, businesses should offer relevant, meaningful rewards aligned with customer preferences. Use data from loyalty programmes to understand customer behaviour and tailor rewards accordingly. Clearly communicate the value and exclusivity of rewards. 


How can businesses balance the cost of rewards with their impact on loyalty? 

Balancing the cost of rewards with their impact on loyalty requires careful tracking of the ROI of the rewards programme. While generous rewards are important, the programme must be sustainable for the business in the long run. Make adjustments as needed based on data analysis to optimise the cost-benefit ratio. 


How can businesses avoid reward fatigue or entitlement among customers? 

To avoid reward fatigue or entitlement, keep the loyalty programme fresh and exciting by regularly introducing new rewards, experiences, or partnerships. Clearly communicate the value and exclusivity of rewards, emphasising that they are special perks rather than guaranteed benefits. 


How can businesses maintain fairness and consistency in reward distribution? 

To maintain fairness and consistency, establish clear rules and guidelines for how rewards are earned and redeemed. Apply these rules consistently across all customers to build trust and credibility. Regularly review and update the programme to ensure it remains equitable and transparent for all participants. 


How should businesses address potential issues or customer complaints related to rewards? 

When addressing issues or complaints, promptly investigate and resolve the problem. Communicate clearly with customers throughout the process. Listen to feedback and consider adjusting rewards or better communicating their value. Ensure the redemption process is clear and easy, and provide support to assist customers.


What can businesses learn from successful loyalty programmes like those of Starbucks or Amazon? 

Successful loyalty programmes offer valuable lessons, such as the importance of tiered structures, personalised rewards, exclusive experiences, and partnerships. They also highlight the effectiveness of gamification, referral incentives, and premium benefits in driving customer engagement and loyalty. 


What role does technology play in creating and managing customer loyalty programmes? 

Technology is crucial for loyalty programmes, enabling businesses to track customer behaviour, personalise rewards, and automate programme management. Digital platforms, mobile apps, and data analytics tools help businesses create seamless, engaging experiences for customers.



Author Bio, Written By: 

Mark Camp | CEO & Founder at | LinkedIn

Mark is the Founder and CEO of Propello Cloud, an innovative SaaS platform for loyalty and customer engagement. With over 20 years of marketing experience, he is passionate about helping brands boost retention and acquisition with scalable loyalty solutions.

Mark is an expert in loyalty and engagement strategy, having worked with major enterprise clients across industries to drive growth through rewards programmes. He leads Propello Cloud's mission to deliver versatile platforms that help organisations attract, engage and retain customers.

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