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Beyond Discounts: Creative and Unexpected Ways to Reward Customer Loyalty


Symbols representing customer loyalty in ecommerce in light purple and blue

In the ever-evolving landscape of ecommerce, discounts are a tempting tool. They dangle the promise of quick sales, overflowing carts and an influx of new customers. But the truth is, discounts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to building lasting customer loyalty and maximizing lifetime value (LTV).

Relying solely on price cuts can quickly turn into a race to the bottom. Your profit margins shrink, you attract bargain hunters who disappear when the next sale rolls around and you risk devaluing your brand in the eyes of discerning customers.

That's where strategies that don't involve slashing pricing come into play. Those that not only keep customers coming back, but also make them feel valued, excited and deeply connected to your brand.

The following article covers topics including experiential rewards, gamification, exclusive content and community that offer a more sustainable path to LTV growth and fostering genuine relationships with your customers that go beyond transactional exchanges.

Experiential Rewards: Creating Memories, Not Just Transactions

Experiential rewards are the VIP passes of the loyalty world. They offer customers something money can't buy - unique experiences and opportunities that create lasting memories and foster deep connections with your brand.

Let's explore why these rewards can be impactful for ecommerce businesses:

  • Emotional Connection: A discount might feel nice, but it doesn't build a lasting bond. Experiences tap into emotions like excitement, anticipation, and joy, creating a positive association with your brand that goes far beyond price.
  • Sense of Belonging: Exclusive events or access to special experiences make customers feel like valued insiders, fostering a sense of community and loyalty that goes beyond the transaction.
  • Memory Creation: Experiences are inherently more memorable than discounts. Customers are more likely to recall a fun event or personalized consultation than a 15% off sale, leading to increased brand awareness and repeat purchases. using hyper-personalization to re-engage a lapsed customer

Think about it like this - if you spoke to a brand that gave you a personalized product recommendation that would go incredibly well with your current wardrobe and generally gave you white glove service, would you be more likely to remember that experience or another brand that gave you a 15% discount?

Examples of Experiential Rewards

The possibilities are as vast as your imagination, but here are some ideas:

  • Early Access Shopping Events: Let your most loyal customers get the first call on new collections or limited-edition products.
  • 1-1 Hyper-Personalized Communication: Reach out to each customer through a "brand ambassador" that speaks to each customer as an individual gives them product recommendations based off customer location and any previous feedback, asks for feedback and offers help where needed. helps achieve this at scale. 
  • VIP Access: Offer behind-the-scenes tours, meet-and-greets with designers or influencers or early access to sample sales.
  • Personalized Consultations: Partner with experts (stylists, personal trainers etc.) to offer one-on-one sessions tailored to individual needs and preferences.
  • Brand Collaborations: Team up with other brands to create unique experiences (e.g., a wellness retreat co-hosted with a yoga studio, or a culinary event featuring a local chef).
  • Sweepstakes and Contests: Offer the chance to win dream vacations, tickets to exclusive events, or once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Quick Tip: Consider your brand identity and target audience when choosing experiential rewards. The goal is to create experiences that resonate with your customers and align with your brand's values.

Gamification: Making Loyalty Fun and Engaging

Gamification injects an element of fun and competition into your loyalty strategy, making it more enjoyable and addictive for customers. By tapping into our natural desire for achievement and recognition, you can drive higher engagement, increased purchases and lasting customer loyalty.

How Gamification Works in Loyalty Programs

The core principle of gamification is simple - take elements traditionally associated with games (points, levels, challenges, rewards) and apply them to your loyalty program.

Here are a few common tactics:

  • Points Systems: Award points for purchases, reviews, social shares or other desired actions.
  • Badges and Levels: Create a sense of progression as customers earn points and unlock new levels with associated benefits.
  • Challenges and Contests: Launch time-limited challenges (e.g., "spend $200 in a month to earn double points") or contests with exclusive prizes to spark excitement.
  • Leaderboards: Tap into competitive spirit by showcasing top-performing customers or loyalty tiers.

The Benefits of Gamification

  • Increased Engagement: Gamification turns shopping into a fun activity, encouraging customers to interact with your brand more often.
  • Higher Purchase Frequency: The desire to earn points or unlock rewards can motivate customers to make repeat purchases.
  • Deeper Brand Connection: By gamifying your loyalty program, you create a sense of fun and excitement around your brand.

Examples of Gamification in Action

  • Points for More Than Purchases: Don't just reward spending. Offer points for social media shares, leaving reviews, referring friends or completing quizzes related to your brand.
  • "Unlockable" Rewards: Make customers feel like they're progressing towards something special by offering rewards or content that's only available at specific levels within your program.
  • Partner with Other Brands: Co-create gamified experiences with complementary brands to reach new audiences and offer unique rewards.

Quick Tip: Keep gamification fresh and exciting. Regularly update challenges, offer limited-edition badges and introduce new ways for customers to earn rewards. 

Exclusive Content: Giving VIPs a Behind-the-Scenes Pass

Everyone loves feeling like an insider. Exclusive content takes this concept and applies it to your customer retention strategy.

By offering special access, information, or products to your most loyal customers, you tap into the power of exclusivity – making them feel valued and appreciated, ultimately deepening their commitment to your brand.

The Appeal of Exclusivity

Exclusivity isn't just about limited-edition products. It's about creating a sense of belonging and rewarding loyalty.

This can manifest in a variety of ways:

  • Early Access: Let your VIP customers shop new collections before anyone else.
  • Insider Information: Share behind-the-scenes glimpses into your company's process, upcoming projects or even industry trends.
  • Educational Resources: Offer exclusive webinars, workshops or tutorials that equip customers with knowledge and skills.
  • Personalized Content: Create style guides, lookbooks or curated product selections tailored to individual preferences. helps achieve 1-1 personalized content at scale with each individual customer. 

Exclusive content makes customers feel valued and part of a privileged group. It deepens their engagement with your brand and reinforces the benefits of staying loyal.

This emotional connection transcends discounts and can lead to higher LTV and stronger advocacy.

Community Building: Fostering a Sense of Belonging

Beyond personalized experiences and exclusive perks, fostering a sense of community can be a powerful driver of customer loyalty.

When customers feel like they belong to something bigger than just a brand, they're more likely to become long-term advocates, boosting your retention rates and LTV.

Why Community Matters for Ecommerce Brands

  • Deeper Engagement: A community provides a space for customers to connect with each other and your brand, creating opportunities for ongoing engagement beyond just transactions.
  • Increased Loyalty: Customers who feel a sense of belonging are more likely to stick with your brand, even in the face of competition.
  • Social Proof: A vibrant community creates social proof, attracting new customers and reinforcing loyalty among existing ones.
  • Valuable Insights: Engaged community members are a goldmine of feedback and ideas, helping you better understand their needs and preferences.

Strategies for Building a Thriving Community

  • Online Communities:

    • Private Facebook Groups: Offer exclusive content, behind-the-scenes access, and opportunities for members to connect with each other.
    • Online Forums: Create a space for discussions on reddit with Q&As and sharing user-generated content (UGC).
  • In-Person Events:

    • Meetups or Pop-up Shops: Host gatherings where customers can interact in person, strengthening their connection to your brand.
    • Workshops or Classes: Offer educational experiences that align with your brand's values and products.
  • User-Generated Content (UGC):

    • Encourage sharing: Run contests or challenges that incentivize customers to share photos or videos of themselves using your products.
    • Feature UGC: Highlight customer-created content on your website, social media or even in email campaigns.

Gymshark does an amazing job at incentivizing UGC by being so deeply ingrained in gym culture on social media and in person, that customers often share their Gymshark clothing without being prompted.

  • Ambassador Programs:
    • Identify passionate customers and empower them to become brand ambassadors.
    • Offer them exclusive perks and rewards in exchange for their advocacy and promotion of your brand.
  • Influencer Collaborations: Partner with influencers who align with your brand values to reach new audiences and build credibility.

Community building takes time and effort, but the long-term benefits are immense. By creating a sense of belonging and fostering genuine connections, you're laying the foundation for a loyal customer base that will stick with you for years to come.

Hyper-Personalization: The Key to Unlocking Deeper Loyalty

While experiential rewards, gamification, exclusive content and community building are powerful strategies, they often require significant resources and planning. But there's another approach that's accessible to businesses of all sizes: hyper-personalization.

Hyper-personalization goes beyond simply addressing customers by name. It's about tailoring every interaction to their unique preferences, behavior and needs. By leveraging customer data and AI-powered tools, you can create experiences that feel truly one-on-one, fostering a deeper sense of connection and loyalty.

An hyper-personalized email example

How Hyper-Personalization Works

At its core, hyper-personalization involves using data to understand each customer on an individual level. This includes:

  • Purchase History: Analyzing past purchases to recommend products that align with their tastes.
  • Browsing Behavior: Tracking which products or categories they engage with to identify interests.
  • Demographics: Considering age, location, gender and other factors to tailor messaging and offers.
  • Feedback: Paying attention to customer reviews, surveys and direct communication to understand pain points and preferences.

The Benefits of Hyper-Personalization

When done right, hyper-personalization can:

  • Increase Customer Satisfaction: By providing relevant recommendations and offers, you make the shopping experience more enjoyable and efficient.
  • Drive Engagement: Personalized messages are more likely to be opened, read and acted upon.
  • Boost Loyalty: Customers who feel understood and valued are more likely to stick with your brand over the long term.
  • Improve LTV: Personalized experiences often lead to increased spending and repeat purchases, driving up LTV.

Examples of Hyper-Personalization in Action

  • Personalized Product Recommendations: Suggest items that complement their past purchases or align with their browsing behavior.
  • Tailored Email and SMS Campaigns: Send messages that address their specific needs or interests, using language and tone that resonates with them.
  • "Surprise and Delight" Moments: Offer unexpected perks like birthday discounts or exclusive access to new products based on their individual preferences.

Implementing Hyper-Personalization: 

While hyper-personalization might sound daunting, it doesn't have to be. leverages AI to automate the process, making it accessible and scalable for businesses of all sizes. By analyzing your customer data, can generate tailored recommendations, offers and messages for each individual customer, across email and SMS, while also holding entire conversations with a customer.

This frees up your team to focus on other aspects of your business while still delivering a high-touch, personalized experience that drives retention and boosts LTV.