Best Shopping Loyalty and Rewards Programs of 2024

Updated on: 01/08/24

In the dynamic landscape of modern commerce, businesses have embraced a diverse array of rewards programs to engage customers and foster brand loyalty. These programs, ranging from loyalty points and cashback incentives to tiered memberships and exclusive offers, provide multifaceted avenues for businesses to establish deeper connections with their clientele.

By strategically implementing rewards initiatives, companies can not only drive repeat purchases and increased customer retention but also gain valuable insights into consumer behavior through data analysis. Such programs stimulate a sense of appreciation and gratification among customers, cultivating a positive brand perception and driving word-of-mouth referrals.

To remain competitive in a crowded industry, the addition of a loyalty or rewards program is one of the wisest business decisions you can make. Here, we’ll give a comprehensive rundown of all the types of loyalty programs, successful use cases, and tips on adding a rewards program to your business.

Points Based: Rewards for Purchases

A points-based system is a type of customer loyalty program commonly used by businesses to incentivize repeat purchases and engagement. In this system, customers earn points for various interactions with the company, such as making purchases, referring friends, or engaging with promotional activities. These accumulated points can then be redeemed for rewards, discounts, or other benefits.

As an example, let's take Shein, an online fashion retailer. Shein's points-based rewards system allows customers to earn points through purchases, product reviews, and social media engagement. For every dollar spent, customers earn 1 point. By writing reviews or sharing their Shein outfits on social media with specific hashtags, customers can also earn additional points. Once enough points are accumulated, customers can redeem them for discounts on their next purchase, which encourages them to continue shopping on the platform.

In essence, points-based systems like Shein's create a win-win scenario, as customers feel appreciated and motivated to engage with the brand, while the company benefits from increased customer loyalty, more brand awareness, and repeated business.

Tiered: Reward Your Most Loyal Customers

A tiered-based system is a type of customer loyalty program that categorizes customers into different tiers or levels based on their engagement, spending, or loyalty. These tiers typically offer escalating rewards and benefits as customers move up the hierarchy. The higher the tier, the more valuable the rewards and perks become.

Tiering systems work by establishing different qualification criteria for each tier. As customers engage more with the company, they earn points, spend money, or complete specific actions, they progress through the tiers. Each tier might come with its own set of benefits, such as exclusive discounts, early access to sales, personalized offers, free shipping, or dedicated customer support.

Old Navy is a great example of a brand that successfully implements a tiered-based system. The clothing retailer’s tiered rewards program includes three levels: Core, Enthusiast, and Icon. Customers start at Core and can move up by earning points through purchases. As they accumulate more points, they unlock increased benefits, such as higher reward point multipliers, birthday gifts, and free shipping for Cardholders. Upon reaching the Icon level, customers enjoy even more perks like “Create Your Own Sale Day” and save an extra 15% on at Old Navy’s family of brands.

In essence, tiered-based systems encourage ongoing engagement and spending by offering customers a sense of accomplishment as they climb through the tiers and access more exclusive rewards. This strategy fosters loyalty and incentivizes customers to stick with a brand, enjoying increasing benefits along the way.

Paid: Added Exclusivity for Your Loyalty Program

A paid-based rewards system is a loyalty program where customers are required to pay a fee in order to access a range of exclusive benefits and perks. These programs often come in the form of memberships or subscriptions and offer a variety of value-added services in exchange for the payment. The fee can be a one-time payment or a recurring subscription fee, depending on the structure of the program.

Amazon Prime is probably the most well-known paid-based rewards system on the planet. Customers who subscribe to Amazon Prime pay an annual or monthly fee to gain access to a multitude of benefits. These benefits typically include free and expedited shipping on eligible items, access to streaming services like Prime Video and Prime Music, exclusive deals and discounts, early access to sales, and more. The recurring fee gives subscribers ongoing access to these premium services and perks.

Paid-based rewards systems like Amazon Prime are designed to offer a compelling value proposition to customers who are willing to invest in the membership. By paying for these added benefits, customers feel a sense of exclusivity and are more likely to engage more frequently with the brand, leading to increased loyalty and retention.

Value-Based: Tapping into the Emotional Side of Rewards

A value-based loyalty program is a unique approach where customers are given the option to allocate a percentage of their spending towards a charitable cause they care about, as part of their participation in a loyalty or rewards program. Instead of receiving traditional rewards or discounts, customers feel a sense of social responsibility and satisfaction by contributing to a charity of their choice through their purchases.

Sephora, a renowned cosmetics retailer, exemplifies this concept through its Sephora Beauty Insider Community program. This platform enables customers to redeem their accrued points in exchange for making a donation to a selected charity. This innovative approach aligns with the values of socially conscious consumers, allowing them to support causes they are passionate about while participating in a rewards program.

By integrating charitable contributions into the loyalty program, brands like Sephora can attract ethically-minded customers who want their purchases to make a positive impact beyond their own satisfaction. This strategy not only encourages customer engagement but also fosters a sense of community and shared values, building a deeper connection between the brand and its customers.

Cashback: Getting More by Giving Back

A cashback rewards system is a type of loyalty program where customers receive a percentage of the money they spend as a rebate or credit, effectively giving them back a portion of their purchase amount. This rewards mechanism encourages repeat business and customer loyalty by providing a tangible financial benefit for each transaction. Customers can accrue these cashback rewards over time and use them towards future purchases or receive the cash equivalent.

Walmart is one of the most competitively-priced retailers out there and still offers a cashback rewards system through its Walmart Rewards Card. Customers who hold this card receive a percentage of their spending at Walmart and affiliated stores as cashback rewards. These rewards can be redeemed as statement credits on their card balance, effectively lowering the overall cost of their purchases.

Cashback rewards systems like Walmart's provide customers with a straightforward and quantifiable incentive to continue shopping with the brand, fostering loyalty. By allowing customers to directly benefit from their spending, brands can enhance their relationship with consumers and create a sense of value, ultimately encouraging repeat purchases and engagement.

What is a Loyalty Program?

A loyalty program is a structured marketing strategy employed by businesses to incentivize and reward customers for their repeat patronage and engagement. Through these programs, customers typically accumulate points, discounts, or other tangible benefits based on their spending or participation. The aim is to cultivate customer loyalty, foster long-term relationships, and encourage continued interaction with the brand.

What Makes a Good Rewards Program?

A good loyalty program is characterized by several key elements that work in harmony to create a compelling and valuable experience for customers. Here are the essential components that contribute to the success of a loyalty program:

  1. Ease of Participation: A successful loyalty program should be easy for customers to join and engage with. Complex enrollment processes or convoluted rules can discourage participation. The program's structure and requirements should be straightforward and transparent, allowing customers to start earning rewards quickly.

  2. Personalization: The program should be designed to cater to individual customer preferences. Tailored offers, recommendations, and rewards based on past behaviors and purchases make customers feel understood and valued, enhancing their overall experience.

  3. Omni-Channel Accessibility: Loyalty programs should seamlessly span across various touchpoints, from in-store experiences to online interactions and mobile apps. Customers should have the flexibility to earn and redeem rewards across multiple channels, enhancing their convenience.

  4. Regular Communication: Consistent and relevant communication about the program's benefits, updates, and special offers helps keep customers engaged. Regular email updates, push notifications, or SMS alerts ensure that customers are aware of the rewards they can access.

  5. Exclusivity: Offering exclusive benefits or perks to loyalty program members creates a sense of belonging and privilege. Access to early sales, limited-time offers, or unique products gives customers a reason to stay loyal.

  6. Flexibility in Redemption: The redemption process should be hassle-free and versatile. Customers should be able to redeem rewards in a variety of ways, whether it's instant discounts, accumulating points for larger rewards, or redeeming rewards across different product categories.

  7. Continuous Improvement: Successful loyalty programs evolve with the changing needs and preferences of customers. Regularly assessing the program's effectiveness, seeking feedback, and making adjustments ensures that it remains engaging and relevant over time.

Ultimately, a good loyalty program is customer-centric, providing a seamless and rewarding experience that reflects the brand's values and resonates with the target audience. It goes beyond mere transactions, fostering emotional connections and cultivating a loyal customer base that not only contributes to the business's success but becomes advocates and ambassadors for the brand.

When Should Businesses Think About Adding Loyalty Programs?

Businesses should consider adding loyalty programs as strategic tools to attract new customers and prevent existing ones from switching to competing brands. Loyalty programs offer a range of benefits that can be leveraged effectively. For instance, they can entice new customers by providing exclusive offers or discounts upon enrollment. By offering recurring sales or subscription-based models, businesses can secure steady revenue streams while fostering customer loyalty.

Loyalty programs also facilitate interaction with new social media platforms, aiding in broadening the brand's reach and engaging potential customers. Additionally, these programs provide opportunities for building valuable email and text lists, enabling direct communication and personalized offers.

The launch of new product releases can also be amplified by loyalty programs, attracting attention and generating excitement among program members. Offering customers coupons or gift certificates after purchases not only increases transaction values but also enhances the likelihood of repeat business.

In essence, integrating loyalty programs should be a priority when businesses seek to strengthen customer loyalty, increase sales, and fortify their market position.

Companies That Have Great Loyalty & Rewards Programs

In the realm of modern business, loyalty and rewards programs have become essential tools for cultivating customer engagement, satisfaction, and long-term brand loyalty. These programs go beyond transactional relationships, offering customers a spectrum of benefits that range from exclusive discounts and personalized offers to unique experiences and enhanced convenience. Here are several forward-thinking companies have excelled in crafting exceptional loyalty and rewards programs that not only drive customer retention but also set new standards for customer-centric approaches.

  • Amazon:

Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, is a global e-commerce and technology giant headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Renowned for its diverse range of products, seamless shopping experiences, and groundbreaking innovations like Amazon Prime, the company has redefined online retail and become a cornerstone of modern consumer culture. Its loyalty program, Amazon Prime, is known for perks like free two-day shipping, access to Prime Video and Music, exclusive deals, and early access to sales. To join, users can start with a 30-day free trial and subsequently opt for a paid subscription on an annual or monthly basis.

  • Starbucks:

Starbucks, established in 1971 by three partners in Seattle, Washington, has evolved into a globally recognized coffeehouse chain known for its signature beverages, inviting atmosphere, and commitment to ethical sourcing. With thousands of locations worldwide, Starbucks has become synonymous with quality coffee experiences and community engagement. The Starbucks Rewards loyalty program lets members earn stars through purchases, leading to free drinks and food items. Additional perks include birthday rewards and convenient order-ahead options. Enrolling in Starbucks Rewards is as simple as downloading the Starbucks app and signing up, with no cost to join.

  • The North Face:

Founded in 1966, The North Face emerged as a prominent outdoor apparel and equipment brand, driven by its mission to provide innovative products that empower exploration and adventure. Recognized for its enduring commitment to quality, performance, and sustainability, The North Face has become an emblem of outdoor enthusiasts and explorers worldwide. It offers the XPLR Pass loyalty program which was previously deemed VIPeak. Members enjoy benefits like early access to sales, exclusive events, and points on purchases, which can be redeemed for rewards. Joining XPLR Pass is free; interested individuals can create an account on The North Face's website.

  • DSW:

DSW, founded in 1991, has become a leading footwear and accessories retailer known for its vast selection of brands and styles at accessible prices. With a focus on customer experience and value, DSW offers a wide range of options for fashion-conscious shoppers seeking both trendsetting and classic designs. The DSW VIP loyalty program offers points on purchases, birthday rewards, free shipping on all purchases, and exclusive offers. Customers can join DSW VIP for free by signing up via the website.

  • Sephora:

Established in 1970, Sephora has emerged as a globally acclaimed beauty and cosmetics retailer renowned for its extensive range of skincare, makeup, and fragrance products. With a commitment to providing a diverse selection, expert guidance, and immersive shopping experiences, Sephora has become a destination for beauty enthusiasts seeking innovation and self-expression. Its loyalty program, Beauty Insider, rewards members with points on purchases, birthday gifts, free beauty classes, and early access to new product launches. Becoming a Beauty Insider is free, and customers can easily sign up either in-store or online.

  • Kohl’s:

Founded in 1962, Kohl's has evolved into a prominent American department store chain offering an extensive array of clothing, home goods, and accessories. With a focus on providing quality products at competitive prices, Kohl's has cultivated a loyal customer base and become a staple in the retail landscape. The Kohl's Rewards program allows members to earn 5% Kohl's Cash on purchases, access personalized deals, and receive a birthday gift. Joining Kohl's Rewards is free of charge and members can also apply for its store credit card for additional perks.

  • Radisson:

Radisson, established in 1909, has grown into a well-recognized global hotel chain known for its commitment to exceptional hospitality and memorable stays. With a diverse portfolio of properties, Radisson offers a range of accommodations that cater to various travel preferences and needs, making it a trusted choice for travelers seeking comfort and quality service. The Radisson Rewards loyalty program provides members with points for stays, exclusive member rates, and benefits such as complimentary room upgrades. Sign up is free and can be done directly on Radisson’s website.

What Types of Companies Offer the Best Loyalty Programs?

The travel industry is renowned for offering robust and rewarding loyalty programs, particularly for individuals who consistently choose a specific airline for flights or prefer to stay within a particular hotel group. These programs capitalize on the frequent and repeat nature of travel-related transactions.

By aligning customer loyalty with these patterns, airlines and hotel chains can provide tailored benefits such as priority boarding, complimentary upgrades, exclusive lounge access, and discounted rates. This not only encourages customers to stick with a preferred airline or hotel brand but also amplifies the overall travel experience, fostering a sense of appreciation and connection that extends beyond basic transactions.

Small businesses can gain valuable insights from the travel and hospitality industry when designing effective loyalty programs. Just as airlines and hotels offer personalized experiences and exclusive benefits, small businesses can tailor their programs to individual customer preferences. By offering tiered rewards, exclusive access, or seamless booking experiences, similar to hotel loyalty programs, small businesses can create a sense of belonging and added value.

Additionally, taking cues from travel companies' use of partnerships and collaborations, small businesses can expand their loyalty programs by teaming up with complementary brands to offer diversified rewards. Ultimately, adopting strategies from the travel and hospitality sector can help small businesses create loyalty programs that not only foster customer engagement but also reflect their unique brand identity.

Good Customer Loyalty Ideas For Small Businesses

No matter how small a business is, a loyalty program offers significant advantages by fostering lasting relationships with customers. These programs not only incentivize repeat purchases but also contribute to customer retention and advocacy. By offering personalized rewards, exclusive discounts, or special experiences, small businesses can differentiate themselves from competitors and enhance their brand's value proposition. Here are some loyalty ideas for different types of local businesses.

Service Businesses:

  • Loyalty Punch Cards: Implement a classic punch card system, where customers earn a stamp for each service received. After a certain number of stamps, they receive a free or discounted service, incentivizing them to keep returning.

  • Subscription Services: Offer subscription plans for regular services, such as monthly massages or grooming sessions. Subscribers could benefit from discounted rates or exclusive perks, encouraging them to commit to your services long-term.

  • Referral Rewards: Encourage satisfied clients to refer friends and family by offering them a discount on their next service for each successful referral. This expands your customer base while rewarding loyal customers for their advocacy.


  • Digital Loyalty App: Create a mobile app where customers can accumulate points for each visit and track their rewards progress. The app could also feature exclusive offers and a direct channel for communication with patrons.

  • Tasting Events: Host special tasting events or chef's table experiences exclusively for loyal customers. This gives them a chance to try new dishes, meet the chefs, and feel like valued insiders.

  • Seasonal Specials: Offer limited-time seasonal dishes exclusively for loyal customers. This creates a sense of anticipation and excitement, encouraging them to visit during those specific periods.

Retail Stores:

  • Customer Anniversary Discounts: Send personalized discounts or special offers to customers on the anniversary of their first purchase. This helps maintain a connection and encourages repeat visits.

  • Virtual Personal Shopping: Offer loyal customers virtual shopping appointments where they receive personalized recommendations from your staff. This enhances the shopping experience and makes them feel valued.

  • Loyalty Events: Host private shopping events for loyal customers, where they can enjoy exclusive discounts, early access to sales, and perhaps even refreshments or entertainment.

These suggestions cater to different aspects of customer loyalty, from personalized rewards to exclusive experiences, creating a well-rounded strategy for improving loyalty for service businesses, restaurants, and retail stores.

Elevating Loyalty Programs for Lasting Engagement

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, loyalty and rewards programs have emerged as integral strategies for nurturing customer relationships and fostering brand loyalty. These programs transcend transactional interactions, offering customers a spectrum of benefits that range from exclusive discounts to personalized experiences. As we've explored the diverse types of loyalty programs and examined successful examples from various industries, it's evident that these initiatives are far more than just transactional rewards—they are bridges that connect businesses and customers in meaningful ways.

Loyalty programs not only incentivize repeat purchases and drive customer retention but also serve as vital sources of insights into consumer behaviors and preferences. By harnessing the power of these programs, businesses can tailor their offerings, marketing strategies, and customer experiences to align with what truly resonates with their audience. This, in turn, creates a powerful feedback loop where customers feel heard, valued, and motivated to continue engaging with the brand.

The travel and hospitality industry, with its exemplary loyalty programs, serves as a beacon for small businesses seeking to enhance customer loyalty. By taking inspiration from tiered rewards, exclusive access, and partnerships that enrich the travel experience, small businesses can create loyalty programs that foster a sense of community and belonging. Furthermore, learning from the value-based and cashback systems employed by some of the industry leaders, small businesses can inject a sense of purpose and direct financial benefits into their loyalty initiatives.

The world of loyalty programs is diverse and dynamic, offering businesses a myriad of options to tailor their strategies to their unique audience and goals. From the mega-brand Amazon to the local coffee shop down the street, loyalty programs continue to shape the modern business landscape by forging emotional connections, driving sales, and creating unforgettable customer experiences. As companies navigate the ever-changing consumer landscape, embracing loyalty programs as more than just a marketing tactic but a powerful means of building enduring relationships is the key to success in a crowded marketplace.

about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Founder and CEO, CouponFollow
As the Founder and CEO of CouponFollow, Marc has a passion for helping consumers save time and money while shopping online. He’s been a bargain and deal hunter since the early 2000s.