The term “early access” is synonymous with exclusivity and privilege. It’s no wonder: having access to products and services that others cannot have speaks directly to our inner desire to feel special. Early access is extremely popular in the gaming industry—with millions of users according to one study— but it can be applied to other verticals that have a strong brand identity and frequent product drops.
Having a loyalty program is probably the best way to take the concept above and beyond, because reward systems provide plenty of avenues to make members “work” for the privilege of early access. So here are five tips to ensure you make the most out of your loyalty program’s early access functionality.
Tip #1: Reserve it for your top products
First and foremost, you should keep in mind that early access is a double-edged sword. Since it creates a haves and have-nots economy, a top priority is to keep things balanced. Not putting the most exciting products up for early access means some people might feel cheated, while reserving all the goods for early access members may alienate others.
The best advice I can give is to seek out a single product group that your audience longs for the most, and use it as the focus of the loyalty program’s early access. Italian luxury fashion retailer LuisaViaRoma knew that sneakers were a hot commodity among their customers, so they dedicated early access solely to the latest sneaker drops — they even named the feature after the category!
Tip #2: Use early access as a high-tier reward
There are two reasons why it’s highly recommended to combine loyalty programs with early access. For one, running this feature is almost free for you. The biggest requirement is related to your back-end—or that of your loyalty program provider—as you need a setting that will enable certain customers to access the campaign sooner than others.
The other benefit stems from the fact that loyalty programs train customers to work for their rewards. Tiers are the best example of this, as they represent a long-term progression, where customers get closer and closer to their rewards with each purchase.
To give you a tier-related example, early access is best used as a Gold-tier or VIP-tier reward. Seeing such an enticing incentive will prompt loyalty program members to double down on their efforts to rank up as fast as they can, and you achieve this without offering any expensive benefits.
Tip #3: Create multiple types of early access deals
Building upon the previous section, you can further increase your loyalty program’s appeal by dividing early access into multiple categories and assigning each one to a different tier.
For instance, you can have an early access privilege that’s related to special sale dates—meaning customers can enjoy Black Friday discounts a bit earlier to avoid the rush—as a Silver-tier reward, while Gold-rank members get the same benefit and also receive early access to monthly product drops. Doing so allows you to give something valuable to customers across multiple tiers, in a cost-effective manner.
Tip #4: Reserve early access for special interest clubs
If you don’t love the idea of having tiers, or your loyalty program lacks this structure, you can achieve similar results with special interest clubs. These function as an inner circle within the loyalty program, like an invite-only VIP tier.
Unlike tiers, where progression occurs automatically after each purchase, special interest clubs require members to pay an entry fee. This can come in the form of a paid subscription, or a fixed amount of loyalty points that needs to be paid. But in the end, only those who’ve shown their dedication are allowed to enjoy the perks of early access.
This approach offers a faster, more direct way for customers to gain access to this perk. Also, if you make membership for your special interest club renewable, you can reach out and get members’ attention year after year.
Tip #5: Use challenges to give customers a taster
As mentioned earlier, some customers might feel left out if you place early access too high on the proverbial shelf. One way to avoid this—and to give customers a little preview—is to offer a one-time trial as a reward. For example, if a customer completely fills out her customer profile after registration, she’ll be eligible for early access on the next product drop only.
As you can see, it’s a great opportunity for you to ask members to complete a valuable action in exchange for the trial. In this example, the customer not only enrolls, but also provides useful information by completing her profile. It’s also possible to foster recurring actions in a similar manner, using challenges. To put it simply, challenges track simple actions—like daily logins, or the number of purchases—and automatically reward customers for reaching a milestone.
In other words, you have the ability to encourage daily engagement from customers in exchange for a free one-time early access trial.
Early Access Can Be So Much More
Using early access as a central loyalty program incentive is an engaging and flexible way to generate hype and subsequently increase customer lifetime value. It makes for a great loyalty program launch promotion, or can help you breathe new life into an existing program, so it’s definitely worth your consideration.
If you’re interested in how Antavo’s enterprise-grade loyalty program technology can help you implement next-gen customer engagement solutions, feel free to contact us or include us in your RFP. And if you wish to learn more about exciting new ways to engage customers, you’ll be sure to enjoy our detailed ebook about gamification.
Tamas is a Senior Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional - CLMP. Tamas is known for having a keen eye for loyalty and customer retention research and trends. Tamas is also a true gamer at heart and has an impressive collection of cyberpunk books.