How a Boutique Publisher Created and Promoted a Loyalty Program Her Customers Can’t Put Down

Loyalty programs are powerful drivers of repeat business. They build a sense of community around your business and make customers feel rewarded. And, considering that acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than selling to a current one (Source: Harvard Business Review), it’s no wonder that many small business owners are on the lookout for ways to boost loyalty. What’s more, customers are more likely than ever to be motivated by rewards. According to recent statistics published by Invesp, 69% of consumers say the presence of a rewards program influences their decision of where to shop.

Faced with increased competition from major online retailers, CEO Linda Hill of boutique publisher Bella Books created a loyalty program to set her business apart and reward her customers for sticking with a small, independent bookseller. The results? It works “almost too well,” Linda admits, as loyal readers consistently log in and cash out their Bella Bucks more often than she ever imagined. Whether you’re setting up a fully automated e-commerce rewards program or starting with a simple punch card, Bella Books’ story is a standout example of how to create a loyalty program that lasts.

“When I started Bella Bucks, it wasn’t just about sales. I wanted my customers to genuinely feel that when they bought a book from us, they were part of a community that accepted them. I wanted to support them as much as they supported us.”

How she increased customer loyalty

Make it easy to join and use.

Linda created Bella Bucks, an online rewards program that allowed buyers to earn points to redeem for future purchases. When shoppers sign up for a Bella Books account, they're auto-enrolled into Bella Bucks, which immediately drove results. If your loyalty program is digital, removing the barriers to enrollment can increase participation. If you’re using a classic stamp card, it could be as easy as prominently displaying the cards at point-of-purchase, or even including them in your packaging.

Apply what works for you.

Surprisingly, Linda got the idea to start Bella Bucks while shopping on a major retailer’s ecommerce site. Rather than deciding she couldn’t create something at that scale, she took inspiration from outside her own industry and applied it to her small business. Look for inspiration everywhere.

Promote your loyalty program in a useful way.

To get the word out about Bella Bucks, Linda thought of a simple yet clever way to get her loyalty program into the hands of her customers—a printed bookmark. She knew her base of avid readers would find it useful, so it was a natural moment to engage with them, and a perfect example of digital and physical marketing working in unison. Now, every time a reader returns to her story, Bella Books is there holding her spot. Of course, a bookmark isn’t right for every business, but the same principle applies. Think of moments in your customers’ lives when your business is top-of-mind, and then tailor your marketing materials to match. For example, a classic business card might work well for a salon, while a refrigerator magnet could be more effective for an artisanal chocolate company.

Position it as a gift.

The little extras can go a long way. Bella Books’ bookmark is an inexpensive giveaway that’s ideal for her audience. And, for her customers, it feels more like a gift than a piece of promotional collateral.

Use all available space to tell your story.

Linda also maximized the potential of her bookmark by printing it double-sided. On the opposite side, she included top-selling titles to give her customers a recommended reading list. As soon as they turn that last page, their next purchase is right at their fingertips.

Go above and beyond just the discount.

By including her list of suggested titles on the reverse side of the bookmark, Linda engaged with her audience in a way that shares their enthusiasm and speaks authentically to their interest. Subtle touches like this demonstrate to your customers that you truly understand them.

About the business

Bella Books is the premiere publisher of stories that capture the complexity and honor the struggles, hopes and dreams of women who love women.

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