Does Your Loyalty Program Need a Mobile-First Redesign?


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How Often Are You Updating Your Mobile Rewards?

Americans check their mobile devices an average of 262 times a day – that’s once every 5.5 minutes. And 70% of those consumers manage their rewards programs via mobile apps. So, if the loyalty experience they encounter with your brand isn’t mobile-first enough, they may skip it 5.5 minutes from now. And the next 5.5 minutes from now.

It’s time reward program operators focus first on what their members see and feel when checking in via their smartphones, not their computers. More Americans own smartphones than laptops or desktops today – 85% compared with 75% – according to 2021 findings by the Pew Research Center, and 15% of America adults are smartphone-only internet users, skewing especially hard to young and low socio-economic groups.

Fifteen percent might not sound like enough to change strategy, but that figure skews much higher among young consumers – 28% of those ages 18 to 29 are smartphone-only Internet users.

This means that nearly one-third of next-generation consumers interact with rewards programs on their phones – and only on their phones.

Be Honest: How Do Your Members See Your Program?

Of the three hours and nineteen minutes consumers spend on their phones a day, one hour and 14 minutes is spent on games and other apps, including reward programs.

Here are four mobile-experience watch-outs and suggestions for how to remedy them in a way that can integrate the entire reward relationship, digitally and in person.

Does the program ring up for members? In 2020, smartphone users had, on average, installed 40 apps on their phones, yet 89% of consumers used less than half of them – 18. The lesson here: Shortcuts matter. The adoption of contactless payments by merchants has helped condition consumers to go straight to their mobile wallets when paying. If a reward program’s app isn’t linked to a payment source, then members must undergo one more step to access it, and that’s enough of a barrier to prevent them from checking their loyalty program at all. The phone is loaded enough; take every effort to streamline the program into other functions that are used daily. Apps doing it well: Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks (of course).

Does the program know how to talk to its audience at different times? Smartphones are equipped to provide loads of tracking information, including the paths members cover both physically and digitally (assuming the user has opted-in to be tracked). Every time a member checks in, via app or wallet, the rewards operator has an opportunity to personalize messaging – about an event near the location the member may be, a one-time reward or promotion or simply to thank the member for checking in. Factors such as the time of day should play into the communications – 80% of Americans say they check their phones within the first 10 minutes of waking, so morning promotions may prove to be engaging. (We also found that 70% use their phones on the toilet, so tread carefully; it shouldn’t feel intrusive.)

Are the program visuals making their eyes hurt? Sounds pedestrian, but while a lot of mobile platforms are designed for small-screen reading, they don’t all take into account the environments where small-screen interactions occur. The member may be in the bright sun or rain, walking a city block, riding the subway or scrolling under harsh artificial light. Ask: Is the contrast between background and copy stark enough to stand up to these environments? Are the color choices purpose-driven and intuitive (for example, green for yes)? How many clicks are required to get to the most frequently used functions? Are repeated elements (such as “redeem” buttons) consistent throughout the app in design and placement (ideally near the thumb), to support an association? Do you let your users select from a light versus dark mode? LinkedIn is introducing this option.

Does it offer one-click purchasing? How many clicks does it take for a member to enter a purchase on your mobile rewards app? The fewer the better, because 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase on their devices, and way back in 2017 – the year the patent on Amazon’s 1-Click ordering button expired – 37% of consumers were using mobile one-click at least once a month. Make no mistake: Once a member learns she can order a dozen ant traps with 1-Click from Amazon Prime and have them delivered in less than 24 hours (or even less if you’re in a big city like San Francisco) – all in two minutes – she will not want to go back.

Time Matters, More Now Than 5 Minutes Ago

While it may not be feasible to update a reward program’s communications every five or six minutes, it is possible to ensure the message remains relevant over that time. There are many third-party experts and resources out there that can help – more than just a few years ago – and thanks to that, many are affordable.

By combining a reward app’s communications with data insights that narrow down location, daytimes and dayparts, preferences and environment, your mobile reward experience has a much better shot at coming in first.


This article originally appeared in The Customer.

Jenn McMillen
Incendio Founder Jenn McMillen has been building and sharing expertise in the retail industry for 20+ years. Her expertise includes customer relationship management, shopper experience, retail marketing, loyalty programs and data analytics. She's a retail contributor for Forbes.


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