by Althea R., data assets specialist, for the Resolutions for Independent Pharmacies blog series

Nowadays, it seems that most large retailers have reward programs for their customers. Have you ever seen someone who has whipped a ring of reward keycards out of their purse or pocket? OK, I’ll admit it, I am one of those people.

But what about smaller retailers and independent shops? There are ways they reward their customers as well and it doesn’t have to be as fancy as a little plastic card. Let’s look at some possibilities that may work for your store(s). Many of the options listed below are ways we rewarded our shoppers when I was a retail manager, and they would change depending on our customer demographics from year to year.

  • Email lists: Maintain a list of customers who you can send batch emails to; have one master list for all participating customers or segment the list, i.e. baby care shoppers, home health care shoppers, teachers, veterans, etc. Send out coupons or specialized sale announcements on a regular basis.
  • Punch/stamp cards: Make them credit or business card-sized on a heavier weight cardstock. Place your store name, location, phone number, and store hours in the center with dollar amounts around the border (you can make them all the same or vary with $1, $5, $10, and $20 amounts). When the card has been completely punched or stamped, offer a discount off their next purchase or enter them into a drawing for a gift card/certificate.
  • Computerized database: If you have a list of customers with addresses and keep track of their purchases, when an individual hits a certain dollar amount or has a particular number of prescriptions filled, a postcard can be mailed to them for a discount off a future purchase. You can also keep track of birthdays (best with just month and day) to send out birthday coupons as an extra little
  • Specialized coupons: Print out slips of paper with a percentage off one item, percentage off the total sale, or dollars off a next purchase. Upon checkout, tuck a coupon in the customer’s bag. You can also create a mystery coupon by temporarily adhering the front of the coupon to the back of something like a Hershey bar. The customer can select their candy bar, then reveal what their discount is for that purchase.
  • Giveaways: Customers love freebies! Things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, facial tissues, lip moisturizers, lotion, gum, mints, throat lozenges, bandages, pre-moistened wipes, hand sanitizers, and sunscreen are all things that customers use regularly. Providing trial/travel sizes are perfect for on-the-go and are quite handy. You can offer a different product type each month or have a basket of different items and let the customer make their selection.
  • Customer appreciation day: It can be held during or after regular business hours. Offer snacks and refreshments. Have product samples for personal care and/or beauty categories. Perform free blood pressure and glucose tests. Provide balloons or activities for children.
  • Referrals: Give loyal shoppers a reason to recommend your business to friends, family, and neighbors by giving them a discount or small free item in return for every new customer they introduce to your store and services.

You may already know what reward offerings would or wouldn’t work for your business, or you may have to test a couple ways to see what gets the best response. You could even offer a combination of options by catering to specific needs of your shoppers or your store’s demographics. Remember to review this periodically. Whatever it is, you want to keep your loyal customers coming back for exceptional service!