How do we reward our loyal customers?


A few days ago I got a very welcome email from Ezibuy telling me that one of their very best customers they would reward me with some extra bonuses like priority delivery for the price of standard delivery and a $20 voucher for my birthday. I do spend a lot with Ezibuy so it’s great to be rewarded for my loyalty 🙂

One of the things we touched on very briefly in our recent Marketing for Libraries workshops was the question of loyalty. I refered (again) to the excellent article by Julie Badger, Turning cold sellers into must haves: marketing unsought library products.

Badger’s focus is on article databases and is highly relevant for the tertiary sector and special libraries. But read the article and think about applying the idea of brand loyalty to libraries as whole. Many of us put considerable effort into persuading people to become new members. Think about who our competitors are in this situation – bookshops, ebooks, Google etc. Some people are very loyal to these “brands” and persuading them to change will be extremely difficult. Our drivers for increasing membership are numerous – and especially for public libraries can include the expectations of our governing bodies. But I think we should at least be aware that our efforts to increase membership may require a great deal of effort for not always a great return. Would that (or some of that) effort be better rewarded by increasing usage amongst our existing members? Or should we focus membership drives on targeted groups that we know are more likely to become regular library users (that’s if we know who these groups are to start with!). Food for thought.

Another thing to think about – this really applies to public libraries – is the practice of deleting customers off your system if they have been inactive after a set period. I am pretty sure that in the public library I used to work at (some years ago now) we deleted customers who were inactive after 2 years. How does this square with our idea of libraries being part of a person’s lifelong learning? In that context two years may not seem like a long time. Sure people pass away, move away etc. But not all of them. Some of them may be customers you put in the hard yards to win. What do you do to get them back as return customers and keep them loyal?

And how do you reward the loyalty of your regular customers? When it comes to academic libraries I am not sure that we do and right now I am not aware of how we could, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t! Dunedin Public Libraries reward their loyal users of their hot picks and holds services by offering prepaid cards that give discounts.

And why would we even bother? Well as Badger says:

We also need to nurture and reward our loyal customers so that they stay with us and hopefully generate positive word of mouth publicity.

For libraries the possibility to capitalise on word-of-mouth-marketing is a seriously big opportunity. As Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace say in Building a buzz: libraries & word-of-mouth marketing:

With all the newfangled technology out there, the commercial world is turning to word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) as the most powerful form of advertising. This is great news for libraries because WOMM is truly powerful and because we can afford it. For the first time, the playing field is level. We can compete. We can win public awareness and support (p. 7)

So how do you reward your loyal customers?

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7 thoughts on “How do we reward our loyal customers?

  1. Well, I have to say we spend a lot of time enticing new people, and not a lot keeping the loyal ones (aside from great customer service of course!) I’m wondering if the answer could be a simple ‘thank you’ morning tea for our top 10 borrowers at each library or a wee handwritten “you’re important to us” card. Maybe it’s about acknowledgement rather than reward as such? Hmmm…

    • Ali says:

      Hi Cath – I’m sure great customer service does a lot to keep your members loyal too! But I like your ideas – the morning tea or the thank you card ideas are great. These sorts of acknowledgments can certainly be our way of rewarding customers.

  2. Your article has caused me to think about ways in which we can both reward our existing customers, and engage new ones. WOMM is certainly a fantastic means of doing so for public libraries. Digital WOMM is a great opportunity to get the message about our services and facilities out there, and to highlight the loyalty of existing users. However, in the UK, public libraries are working under the containts of our governing bodies, and as such are precluded from participating in what could otherwise be fantasic level of local engagement on an individal or personalised level.

  3. actodd says:

    How do you define ‘most loyal’ or ‘best’? If my library contacted me and told me that I was a Top Tier Library Patron because I had checked out 100 books in the past 12 months, I’d be a bit put off. How do they know that? Do they know what books they were? I expect that sort of information trolling from retail sites like Amazon, but from my library, I still expect a level of anonymity.

    If we identify our ‘best customers’ simply by those we recognize, we’re leaving out those who use our services remotely, or are the type that ‘blend in’ (i.e. come in and quietly reads the newspaper, uses the computer, checks her stocks on Value Line and leaves, without interacting with staff).

  4. The best reward would be to recognize the loyal patrons by name and to use their name when they come to the library for anything

    Agree with actodd, patrons may be offenrded if we make reference to anything they
    use or do in the library. That is their business and theirs alone.As for remote customers I’d think that is why they use the computer service to stay incognito.

  5. We ABSOLUTELY need to be marketing to our current customers. Two-thirds of people have library cards. Now of course I’d like that number to go up, but where do we have a better chance – turning non-users into users, or turning occasional users into regular users? I know plenty of people (including my fiance) who have cards, but they don’t go in very often, because it doesn’t occur to them to go. There’s a lot of potential in raising awareness in these users.

    I think most frequent users has to be determined by methods other than checkouts – Foursquare, for example, is a phone app where people actually compete to become the “Mayor” of a location by visiting the most often. Many retail businesses reward people for participating in social media, like Facebook. Amazon rewards not its most frequent customers, but its top reviewers. We can reward this kind of non-confidential participation without making people worried about their library record.

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