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Did you get rid of your automation gatekeepers?

Most years I'm excited to see what kind of perks appear in my inbox from businesses that I've signed up for loyalty rewards. This year has had mixed results.
A dog at a table with a birthday cake

How do your loyalty members feel about your birthday perks during a pandemic?

My favorite loyalty rewards are from restaurants. As someone that doesn't like to cook, I spend quite a bit of time in restaurants. It's always a nice surprise when I've reached the point of redeeming the reward. A nice dinner out for free. It makes me feel good which associates that feeling to the restaurant. Some of the reward programs that I belong to send out a birthday perk. I don't expect them but I'm grateful to receive them. In a normal year, I'd be excited and grateful to receive and redeem them. This year I'm having mixed thoughts and feelings about what has shown up in my inbox and what has been absent. Given that we are in a pandemic I would've expected more tuned in messaging.

Below are my reactions, thoughts, and ideas on how it would've earned my loyalty in return.

Parkside Rotisserie & Bar

This is a lovely restaurant in downtown Providence across from a park and next to one of the courthouses. Their Duck Salad is one of my favorites. This is what I received:

Email from Parkside Rotisserie & Bar

Reaction: Oh, I think this is the same as last year.

Thought: Did they let their email marketer go?

Ideas: 1. Test your automated emails, 2. Fix whatever this is supposed to be.

Does it make me more loyal or less? No change however it puts the thought in my head that they are not good at details which makes me more critical of their service.

Newport Restaurant Group

They are employee-owned and have a collection of some of the best restaurants in RI.

Email from Newport Restaurant Group

Reaction: I'd love a cocktail. That's awesome! And I have almost a year to redeem!

Thought: Hmm, book your reservation now? For when? It's a strange message considering we don't know when restaurants will be open/allow people to eat in.

Idea: That is certainly a generous reward. Instead of 'book your reservation now' you could give the option to redeem now for a dessert, a cocktail kit, or put towards a meal kit. There are probably many people out there that are tired of cooking or tired of their own cooking that would be happy to redeem the reward and spend additional for delivery or curbside pickup of cocktail kit, starter, salad, entree, and dessert.

Does it make me more loyal or less? More. The generous amount and it's available for up to a year.

Starbucks

I don't frequent them as much as I used to but I do like their consistency.

Email from Starbucks

Reaction: Huh, I'm glad you're so confident that you know when this is going to be over.

Thought: Beyond this extraordinary year, why would you make a reward only available on the day of your birthday? Stingy.

Idea: Make it available for at least 6 months.

Does it make me more loyal or less? If I were a more frequent Starbucks customer I would be put off by this, so less.

H & M

I joined their rewards to get a percentage off of a hat, a belt, and some socks. Nice designs, the hat, and belt are good, the socks though, low-quality materials.

Email from H & M

Reaction: Oh that's nice, huh, 14 days.

Thought: I'm not buying non-essentials right now.

Idea: Make it valid for 6 months.

Does it make me more loyal or less? I would be turned off by the 14 days considering many of their shoppers are laid off.

Non-Reward Birthday Wishes

Bing

I can't remember the last time I used Bing.

Email from Bing

Reaction: Cool.

Thought: I really don't want a homepage made just for me but maybe the wish part is them donating to first responders or food banks or something helpful.

Idea: I initially closed the email and ignored it but since I was writing this I went to it. It's the same graphic, you click on the wish button and a star streaks across the screen. Not really made just for me. Not really knowing what they know about me other than my Microsoft account info, I don't have anything specific other than changing the wording.

Does it make me more loyal or less? I think it is great they sent this but I probably won't switch to them for day to day searching.

Hulu

I spend most of my show watching on YouTube. Given cost-cutting measures, I'd give it up except it is part of my Spotify subscription and haven't come to give that one up yet. (I just checked to see if Spotify sent me anything. They didn't. Not even a birthday playlist.)

Email from Hulu

Reaction: Cute

Thought: Appropriate graphic. Wait, is this about me or you providing great TV?

Idea: Make it about the person you are sending it to. Not them and you.

Does it make me more loyal or less? It's not going to get me to watch more for 'awesome year of laughs and great TV'.

Final Thoughts

What's interesting about birthday emails is the number of brands that know my birhday but didn't send anything. I already mentioned Spotify. My gym would've been a good one to hear from - "Put down the cake, get off the couch and give me XX number of crunches!" XX being my age - no that isn't roman numerals. Birthday campaigns are a great way to create greater brand awareness/loyalty with your customers. They are relatively easy to set up and automate. That being said you have to adjust the messaging depending on current events. As with any automation, it is not a set it and forget it process. Here is a post from Campaign Monitor on how the emails convert.

Do you have an email campaign program in place? Are you seeing higher conversion numbers for birthday emails? Let me know, please.

Photo by Joshua Chun on Unsplash

About the Author

Michael Collins
Michael Collins

I’ve been working in the creative and digital space for 25+ years in varying positions from graphic designer, web designer (UI)/developer, Development Manager, Director of Product Strategy (UX), Creative Director, and agency owner. Before that, I worked in business administration. Out of all those my passion is with UX strategy. I approach projects with both the user and business goals in mind. For fun, I like to photograph things. Most of the time, I come upon the subjects, and sometimes they come upon me.
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