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Paid Loyalty Programs & Memberships: A Comprehensive Guide for Ecommerce Brands


An image with icons representing ecommerce Paid Loyalty Programs with blue and purple accepts

In the competitive ecommerce landscape, establishing and nurturing customer loyalty is essential for continuous success. The concept of customer lifetime value (LTV), which is essentially a numerical/financial representation for loyalty, plays a crucial role in shaping strategies that are aimed at fostering long-term customer relationships.

Paid loyalty programs are an incredibly useful tool in this context, offering a win-win scenario for both customers and brands. Customers get exclusive benefits and personalised experiences, while saving money and brands get to enjoy the perks of increased retention, higher spending and ultimately higher lifetime value (LTV).

Here's a comprehensive guide on how to approach loyalty programs and how to build one out for your ecommerce brand.

Defining Paid Loyalty Programs & Impact on LTV

A paid loyalty program is a strategic tool for ecommerce brands designed to deepen customer engagement and loyalty by offering exclusive benefits in exchange for a membership fee. Unlike traditional, free loyalty programs that rely on customers earning rewards through purchases or engagement, paid programs require an upfront or recurring payment, granting immediate access to premium perks.

The Benefit for Ecommerce Brands

Immediate Revenue Boost: The membership fees contribute directly to revenue, providing a predictable income stream alongside regular sales.

Enhanced Customer Lifetime Value (LTV): By offering substantial value through exclusive benefits, brands encourage repeat purchases, higher order values, and prolonged engagement, all of which significantly increase a customer's LTV.

Customer Segmentation and Retention: Paid programs naturally segment your customer base, identifying those with a higher willingness to engage with your brand. This segmentation helps tailor marketing efforts more effectively, increasing retention rates.

Differentiation in a Competitive Market: In crowded markets, offering a paid loyalty program can differentiate your brand, providing a value proposition that goes beyond product offerings or price competition.

Maximizing LTV Through Paid Loyalty Programs

In order to truly maximize LTV, ecommerce brands need to ensure that the benefits offered in the paid loyalty program are compelling enough to justify the membership cost. This means providing exclusive access to sales, special discounts, premium content or unique experiences that are not available to non-members. The aim is to enhance the perceived value of the membership, making it an indispensable part of the customer's shopping habits.

Implementing a paid loyalty program is a strategic decision that necessitates a deep understanding of your customer base and a commitment to delivering exceptional value. When executed correctly, it can be a powerful driver of customer loyalty, significantly boosting LTV and setting your ecommerce brand apart from the competition.

Types of Paid Loyalty Programs

Let's start off by understanding the various types of loyalty programs or structures that can be used. 

Point-Based Loyalty Programs

his model rewards customers with points for actions like making purchases or engaging with the brand on social media. As points accumulate, customers can redeem them for rewards, encouraging ongoing and continuous engagement. The XPLR Pass by North Face, rewarding points per dollar spent, serves as a good example, linking spending to rewards and promoting an increase in LTV.

The North Face XPLR Pass Loyalty Program Image

Tiered Loyalty Programs

Tiered programs segment customers into levels based on their engagement or spending. Higher tiers offer more benefits, motivating customers to increase their interactions with the brand. Sephora’s Beauty Insider program demonstrates this model effectively, with customers earning points that advance them through tiers, unlocking greater rewards.

Sephora Beauty Insider Loyalty Program Image

Paid/Subscription Loyalty Programs

Customers pay a fee for membership in these programs, gaining access to exclusive benefits like free shipping or special discounts. Amazon Prime executes this model well, where the membership fee grants a broad range of perks, encouraging and succeeding in creating more frequent purchases and increasing LTV.

Amazon Prime Loyalty Program Image

Partner or Community-Based Loyalty Programs

These programs extend rewards through partnerships with other brands or by building a community around the brand. They offer unique benefits and foster a sense of belonging, which can significantly drive loyalty and LTV.

In order to choose the right loyalty program, your team should have a deep understanding of your customer base and strategic goals. Each type offers distinct benefits and can significantly impact both customer experience and LTV. Ecommerce brands need to carefully assess these options to implement a program that resonates with their audience and supports long-term profitability and other goals.

Is a Paid Loyalty Program Right for Your Brand?

Determining whether or not a paid loyalty program is the right fit for your ecommerce brand starts with an evaluation of your current customer engagement, purchasing patterns and overall business objectives. Here are key considerations to guide this assessment:

Understand Your Customer Base

Success with a paid loyalty program often depends on having a solid base of loyal customers who shop frequently.

Brands should start off by analyzing customer data to identify segments that show regular purchase behavior and a high potential for increased LTV. This understanding will indicate whether there's a foundation upon which a paid program can be built.

Segmentation Analysis

Use customer segmentation (should already exist in your email list) to pinpoint which groups are most likely to appreciate and join a paid loyalty program.

Evaluate factors like purchase frequency, average order value and existing LTV. The aim is to identify customers who see the value in paying a membership fee for exclusive benefits.

Evaluate Product Offering and Market Position

Paid loyalty programs tend to be more effective for brands with regular purchase cycles or those in competitive markets where differentiation is challenging.

If your products or services are commodities, a paid program could provide the "lock-in" effect, making customers less likely to switch to competitors.

Consider Your Brand’s Market Presence

Smaller brands or those new to the market might find it challenging to compete with larger players that can offer more substantial benefits. In this particular case, a free or hybrid loyalty program might serve as a better tool for gradually building customer loyalty and market share.

Hybrid Loyalty Program Potential

Explore the possibility of offering both free and paid tiers within your loyalty program. This approach can cater to a broader customer base, providing an entry point for less frequent shoppers while offering enhanced benefits to those willing to pay for premium membership.

Financial & Operational Resources

Implementing and managing a paid loyalty program requires significant resources, both in terms of initial setup and ongoing management.

Ensure that your brand has the capability to deliver on the promises made to loyalty program members, including exclusive benefits and personalised experiences.

By considering these factors, ecommerce brands can make an informed decision about the feasibility and potential benefits of a paid loyalty program. The goal is to enhance customer engagement and loyalty, driving an increase in lifetime value that justifies the investment in the program.

How to Launch a Paid Loyalty Program

As we've introduced and discussed, adding a paid loyalty program within your ecommerce brand is a strategic move that can significantly enhance customer lifetime value (LTV). To ensure the program's success and alignment with your brand's goals, a structured approach is essential. Here’s a streamlined process to start a paid loyalty program, considering the importance of initial customer segmentation and the potential integration of platforms like for efficient management

1. Analyze Your Customer Base

Start by looking through your existing customer data to identify segments with the highest potential for loyalty program engagement.

Look for patterns in purchase frequency, average order value, and expressed interest in loyalty benefits.

2. Define Program Benefits

Determine the exclusive perks that will form the core of your loyalty program.

These should offer tangible value beyond what's available through regular transactions, such as special discounts, early access to products, or unique experiences.

3. Set Membership Criteria & Pricing

Decide on the structure of your loyalty program membership fee.

Will it be a one-time payment or a recurring subscription? Ensure the pricing reflects the value of the benefits offered, making it an attractive proposition for your target segments that feels unreasonable to turn down.

4. Develop the Program Infrastructure

Invest in the necessary technology and platforms to support your loyalty program.

This could involve custom development or the easier path which we recommend is by leveraging existing loyalty program solutions like, which provides a "done for you" loyalty program and drives sign-ups, engagements and loyalty through hyper-personalised email/sms marketing.

5. Market Your Loyalty Program

Create a comprehensive marketing plan to introduce your loyalty program to your customer base.

Start by advertising on your website, social media and legacy media channels to communicate the benefits and encourage sign-ups. Highlight success stories or testimonials from early adopters to build trust and interest.

Pay specific attention to driving traffic from your owned channels (email & sms) as these are customers that have already bought and should be segmented based on loyalty / engagement. Target the each customer on an individual level while pointing out how much they'd save and selling the benefits of the program. Hyper-personalised email / sms marketing (mentioning location, prior feedback, purchases etc.) work very well here in converting and platforms like do it for you.

6. Launch a Pilot Phase

Consider starting by rolling out your loyalty program to a select segment of your most loyal customer base initially and then slowly expanding in sub-groups. This pilot phase allows you to gather feedback, make necessary adjustments (ie, how many times you mention it on email before customer's get frustrated) and fine-tune the program before a full-scale launch.

7. Measure & Optimize

Continuously monitor the performance of your loyalty program through key metrics such as membership growth, churn rates, loyalty / engagement rates of members vs non-members and impact on LTV.

Use this data to optimize the program, adjusting benefits, membership criteria, or marketing strategies as needed.

8. Get Feedback

Engage with your loyalty program members to get their feedback on the program’s offerings and execution. This feedback is extremely valuable for making iterative improvements and ensuring the program remains aligned with customer expectations and needs.

Examples of Ecommerce Paid Loyalty Programs

Exploring successfully implemented paid loyalty programs across ecommerce brands shows the versatility and impact these initiatives can have on customer engagement and lifetime value (LTV). Here’s five examples of loyalty programs programs operate, each catering to their unique market and customer base.

1. Swarovski Crystal Society (SCS)

Swarovski Crystal Society Paid Loyalty Program Platform Image

Swarovski offers an annual membership with options for a one-year fee of $55 or a three-year subscription for $125.

Benefits include a 15% birthday discount, exclusive pre-sales access, free standard shipping, and complimentary jewelry repair services.

This luxury approach appeals to Swarovski’s high-end consumer base, enhancing the brand experience and encouraging repeat purchases.

2. Venus Unlocked

Venus Unlocked Paid Loyalty Program Platform Image

Venus Unlocked charges members $17 monthly for a suite of benefits focused on savings and exclusivity.

Members automatically receive 10% back on all Venus purchases, 5% back on purchases from over 1,500 marketplace and travel retailers, unlimited shipping rebates from Venus, and shipping rebates from marketplace retailers, up to specified limits.

This program is designed to reward loyal shoppers and increase the frequency of purchases.

3. LTD Commodities Perks

LTD Commodities Paid Loyalty Program Platform Image

For a $17 monthly fee, members of LTD Commodities Perks enjoy 10% back on purchases with premier brands and 5% back with marketplace retailers, along with shipping and return shipping rebates.

This program underscores the value of continuous engagement with the brand, offering financial incentives that encourage members to consistently choose LTD Commodities for their shopping needs.

4. Barnes & Noble Premium Membership

Barnes & Noble Paid Loyalty Program Platform Image

With an annual fee of $39.99, Barnes & Noble’s Premium Membership offers substantial value through a 10% everyday discount, free standard shipping, free drink-size upgrades at B&N Cafés, a special birthday offer, an annual free tote bag, and early access to special events.

This program builds on the free B&N Rewards, adding layers of benefits that cater to the brand’s most devoted customers—book lovers seeking both savings and exclusive experiences.

5. Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime Loyalty Program Image

This is the most well-known and successful example of a paid loyalty program. Amazon Prime's fee varies by country, providing a broad range of perks including free priority (same-day or next-day) shipping, early access to discounts, exclusive member-only discounts, and access to Amazon’s streaming service. Additional country-specific benefits, like free music and kindle books, further enhance the value.

Prime’s comprehensive approach not only locks in customer loyalty but also significantly increases the frequency and diversity of purchases across Amazon’s vast ecosystem.


Paid loyalty programs have proven to be a valuable strategy for ecommerce brands aiming to increase customer lifetime value (LTV).

By requiring a membership fee, these programs incentivize customers to make more frequent purchases to get their money's worth, often leading to increased overall spending. The key to success lies in offering exclusive benefits that enhance the shopping experience and deepen customer loyalty.

As shown by successful examples across various sectors, a well-crafted paid loyalty program can significantly boost engagement and spending, contributing to the brand's long-term profitability and growth. Investing in such a program offers a strategic avenue for ecommerce brands to differentiate themselves and cultivate a loyal customer base.

For a reliable loyalty program platform, take a look at We run paid loyalty programs for leading ecommerce brands and in A/B tests against other paid loyalty platforms we increase customer LTV by 1.9x and run for 60% of the cost.