Safe Landings for Program Pilots


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We were surprised by the recent announcement that Walgreens will end their Walgreens Rewards pilot in January. Well, not surprised to see the end of the pilot of course, as all good pilots sadly must come to an end. But some pilots close with a smooth landing, while others skid in with a few bumps.

Props to Walgreens for notifying members – the email arrived December 1 outlining the details. Points collecting will end January 1, and members must redeem by January 31 (only those with 2000 or more points can redeem). Walgreens announces they will launch a permanent program, but no details or timeline.

By doing this, Walgreens completed the first item on the “exit strategy” checklist, but there are a few more procedures to bear in mind for avoiding bumpy pilot landings:

1. Do no harm to customers – It’s a hard knock to yank a program from customers without warning. They’re stuck holding points they can’t use, and have bad feelings about playing in a test program that left them hanging. You won’t win those customers back, and that’s a major system failure since those who join your pilot are self-selecting for high engagement potential.

2. Plan your exit strategy from the beginning – Pilots should begin at the end. That is, the program managers shouldn’t roll out the pilot without a plan in place for how it will end, and how those customers in the pilot can be transitioned over to the full program (in fact, consider explaining it to them when they sign up). When the pilot ends, the exit strategy should smoothly slip into place.

3. Be generous – This isn’t the time to scrimp on redemption or expiry dates. These customers love your brand enough to play in a test program, and you’re the one calling it quits. Especially during the holiday season, now is when you should shower your best customers with presents and thank yous – perhaps rounding up point balances, awarding coupons or discounts.

Testing is a great way to gather information before rolling out a full-on, company-wide rewards program. But it only works if you pay attention to the landing before you take off. All pilots know that what passengers really want is a smooth ride, with a safe touchdown. Otherwise, they may not board again.

Phaedra Hise
As Senior Editor, COLLOQUY, Phaedra leads the creation of new editorial pieces for multiple distinct content platforms in the COLLOQUY media enterprise: COLLOQUY magazine, the Enterprise Loyalty in Practice journal, COLLOQUY web site, COLLOQUY social media blog, COLLOQUY Network Partner content commitments as well as other LoyaltyOne vehicles.


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