The Element of Surprise and Delight in Loyalty Programs

Add a little special something to your loyalty program. Surprise and delight your members to create a powerful bond with them.

The cover image for Antavo’s article on surprise and delight.
The cover image for Antavo’s article on surprise and delight.

Making customers feel truly exceptional and appreciated is no longer a simple task. So, adding that little extra special something, like a surprise and delight element, to your loyalty program can renew interest, boost purchases and make customers more loyal. Unexpected perks can result in an emotional high that customers wish to experience time and time again. That’s why this strategy is so powerful—it’s addictive. 

The Benefits of Surprise and Delight

Imagine walking near your favorite store and suddenly receiving a push notification telling you that, because it’s your birthday month, a mystery reward is waiting for you. It would be a thrilling experience, wouldn’t it? Surely your customers would feel the same way upon encountering such a surprise.

By adding surprise and delight mechanisms to your retention strategy you can create a powerful bond with your customers and experience a boom in purchase frequency and customer engagement. With this strategy, shoppers will not only be more inclined to start repeating positive actions in hopes of receiving more benefits, but your business will stay on top of their minds as well. 

To maximize the impact of surprise and delight, it’s vital to offer the right kinds of incentive for every individual. According to McKinsey’s research, 83 percent of customers expect personalized experiences from their favorite brand. So, to make the most of your loyalty program, determine which reward combinations work best with customers. Another benefit of surprise and delight elements is that members are likely to share their experiences with friends and family or on social media. That’s how this kind of word-of-mouth helps build anticipation among other members.

6 Ways to Make Customers’ Jaws Drop With Your Loyalty Program

Surprise and delight elements help you nurture your relationship with members by making them feel well-treated and appreciated. This approach is a great way to increase commitment and retention. Surprise and delight can be used to play on customers’ desire for excitement, recognition and individuality. Receiving an unexpected gift or perk from a business not only has the potential to make a customer’s day, it also has the potential to turn them into a lifelong, loyal, brand advocate.

1. A Card up Your Sleeve – Birthday or Anniversary Gifts

Knowing your customers’ birthdays with the help of data collected through your loyalty program lets you surprise them creatively on their special day.  Or, if you don’t yet have birthdates in your database, surprise customers on the anniversary of your company. Create a personal experience by gifting them something custom-tailored to their taste. For instance, give members extra discounts based on how old they’re turning or offer loyalty points multiplied by their age. Or add an element of unpredictability and celebrate their half birthdays. Keep customers guessing and avoid telling them know what their gift will be until the last moment. Thoughtful gestures like this will make customers feel appreciated and increase their lifetime value.

Antavo's case study banner about Italian luxury fashion giant LuisaViaRoma
LVR knows loyalty emails are powerful touchpoints so when member birthdays arrive, the company sends them a surprise email, including bonus points corresponding to the tier they’re in.

2. Take Customers by Surprise – Random Rewards

Offer loyalty program members random rewards that can be anything from free cupcakes to concert tickets. This can also be a great way to produce user-generated content for your brand, as members will want to share the fun surprise with others. Consider sneaking a product sample into customers’ orders. Samples have the added benefit of giving customers a chance to try something they haven’t yet, and if they love it they might even purchase the full-size product later on. Be sure to try and match the surprise to your customer’s profile as much as possible. 


From time to time Shell’s loyalty program members receive an email including a reward link. The link entitles them to surprise rewards, like a significant point bonus or free coffee.

3. Gamified Surprise and Delight – Prize Wheel

Gamification is an excellent customer engagement strategy. Enhance your loyalty program with a Prize Wheel that members can spin to win rewards. Prize wheels randomize the reward experience and give the experience a thrilling quality. It‘s a great way to incentivize enrollment or reactivate lapsing customers as well. Adding a slice on the wheel where customers can win a mystery surprise increases anticipation even more.

A Prize Wheel slice featuring a mystery surprise increases customer anticipation even more.
Antavo helps companies bring surprise & delight to their loyalty program with a new, configurable Prize Wheel, which experience-driven customers are sure to love.

4. Small Gesture, Big Impact – Occasional Free Shipping Days

Who doesn’t like not paying for delivery on their orders? Offer top-tier members free shipping for a limited time. Notify them via email and watch engagement and purchases skyrocket during the offer. By limiting the offer to specific tiers, you can ensure these tiers continue to feel exclusive for your top customers. 

Silver Tier Members enjoy free shipping for a limited time.
Customers love free shipping, so it makes for a great reward for loyal customers.

5. Spotted! – Beacon technology

Use beacon technology to surprise and delight loyalty program members when they come within close proximity of one of your stores. Invite them for a free coffee or a free mini-makeover. Once they are in your store, they might as well purchase an item or two. You can even call their attention to further special daily offers and loyalty program updates through notifications. This strategy not only helps boost customer retention rates but can potentially boost word-of mouth, helping you acquire new customers as well.

Sending loyalty program members a push notification, inviting them for free coffee.
Your loyalty program members won’t pass up the chance of popping in for a free treat and you can be sure they’ll truly appreciate the gesture.

6. Surprise Shower – Rewarding Every Member

If you don’t want to limit the surprise-and-delight element to specific tiers and would prefer to reward every member in your loyalty program, ask members to complete a survey in return for a surprise. This strategy will not cost you extra, as you would have given the rewards away anyway, but this gives you the opportunity to collect valuable customer data, which can be used later on for segmentation and personalization.

Upon completing Funfit’s survey members receive a surprise gift from the company.
FUNFIT is a dynamic lifestyle brand born in Singapore. They’re also supporting their members’ fitness journey by giving them a surprise gift upon completing their survey.

A Different Approach to Surprise and Delight: Add Mystery and Secrecy

Customers are inherently curious and gravitate towards experiences that are about mystery and discovery. Providing secret gifts or adding mystery tiers to your perks loyalty program can be a great addition. When members reach higher levels, they can ‘unwrap’ their secret present. You can even swap the prizes available from time to time, it will create a more “mysterious” experience for them.

Surprise, Surprise! – Mystery Gifts

The concept of mystery gifts is simple: give customers a bit of excitement and awaken their curiosity by offering a secret surprise. Customers won’t know what they‘ll receive until it arrives at their door. This approach makes it more likely that members will create a buzz about it on social media, helping you engage a larger audience.

In The Silver Collective’s tiered loyalty program, The Silver Circle, members can advance by collecting points for every dollar spent, following the company on Instagram and submitting their birthday. Gold and Silver members of the rewards program are eligible to receive a mystery gift. Members of the highest tier, Silver, also receive invitations to VIP events, exclusive previews and access to secret sales.

Members of the highest tier of The Silver Circle also receive exclusive previews and access to secret sales.
Members must be within the tier during the timeframe in which the gift is redeemable.

Keep It on the Q.T.: Add a Secret Tier to Your Loyalty Program

Offer a secret tier to your most valuable customers, above the publicly visible tiers displayed in your loyalty program communications. The aim is to be able to treat your very best customers better than the rest of your best customers. You can also create a completely hidden tier system, invisible for customers but where the rules and reward customizations still apply. From a loyalty program management viewpoint it is easier to segment members based on spend and reward them accordingly.

United Airlines created a tier, Chairman’s Circle, above their top tier, Global Services. There are supposed to be only mere hundreds of people in this program and they’re nominated either by United’s CEO or Senior Vice President of Sales. The program is for heads of companies who spend at least $5 million per year with the airline. Benefits of the Chairman’s Circle include airport meet and greet, and a dedicated reservations team.

United Airlines extended the status of its top-tier Global Services through January 2023 with no strings attached.
United Airlines extended the status of its top-tier Global Services through January 2023 with no strings attached. As it is a secret tier, the company doesn’t give out specific information on Chairman’s Circle.

The Chosen Ones: Mystery Tiers for Influencers

Create a separate secret tier specifically for influencers and brand ambassadors. This makes it easier to manage the loyalty program and provide ambassadors special rewards and benefits. One brand using this strategy is Diamanti Per Tutti, a contemporary jewellery company. They wanted to generate buzz and word-of-mouth around its brand by giving advocates, influencers and top spenders special treatment. In their program, they invite a select few to a hidden VIP tier, entitled ‘Ambassador’. The Ambassador tier isn’t displayed publicly, and Diamanti Per Tutti actively seeks out influencers and advocates to be a part of the program.

Diamanti Per Tutti actively seeks out influencers and advocates and invites them to their loyalty program.
Influencers are also encouraged to host giveaways to raise brand awareness, for which they receive a selected piece of jewelry for free.

And the Lucky Winner Is…: Secret Raffle

The promise of a great experience, for instance an invitation to an exclusive brand event, is a great way to reward your top social media influencers. Since experiential rewards like these don’t come cheap, companies can run a secret raffle where they select the participants to be invited to such events. For instance, Simply Be, the plus-size fashion retailer regularly hosts community events that can only be attended by a handful of their top-spending customers and social influencers. This super-secret surprise-and-delight element creates an exclusive VIP feeling and dramatically increases brand loyalty among this special customer group.

Simply Be, the plus-size fashion retailer regularly hosts community events for selected influencers.
Before the launch of their loyalty program, Simply Be interviewed their top influencers and fine-tuned the program logic according to their responses.

Take Customers’ Breath Away

Adding surprise and delight to your loyalty program will attract and nurture customer relations. It also plays a key role in keeping your program relevant. Exceeding members’ expectations tends to increase loyalty and positive perception of your brand. Customers will feel more appreciated and give your company more business. Rewarding members this way leads to repeat purchases, larger basket sizes and increased brand engagement. 

In order to spice up the surprise and delight element in your loyalty program, add mystery elements like a secret gift or hidden tier. This will help your brand stand out from the crowd of regular-old-rewards. When utilized properly, this marketing strategy can work wonders for your loyalty strategy.

If you want to know more about how our technology can make your loyalty program concept come to life, book a demo or include us in your RFP.

Also don’t forget to download Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report 2022, an in-depth report that showcases dozens of statistics as well as future industry trends to help you navigate the world of next-gen loyalty programs.

A banner recommending to download Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report 2022.

Headshot of Barbara Kekes-Szabo Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo

Barbara Kekes-Szabo

Barbara is a Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo. She is also a writing expert with several years of experience in marketing and also in the information technology industry. In her free time she likes traveling the world, reading crime stories, and doing crossword puzzles.

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