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2022-10-19 5:00 pm

The Definitive Guide to Loyalty Programs

  • Exclusive tips and insights to take your loyalty marketing to the next level.
  • How to increase brand loyalty through careful planning and strategy?
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How to Build a Sustainable Loyalty Program for a Fashion Brand
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How to Build a Sustainable Loyalty Program for a Fashion Brand

Sustainability in ecommerce

Although sustainability and ecommerce are not terms that frequently come up together, at least at first sight, the time has come to find common ground for them, especially when it comes to fashion brands.

Sustainability is rapidly growing in importance. Eco-awareness is a dominating trend these days, in particular among the Gen-Zers. Customers generally require more and more social responsibility from the brands they buy from. Pressing environmental issues force literally everyone to take action against climate change, and consumers expect companies to become climate-neutral.

The changing lifestyle choices and the emergence of value-motivated consumerism is clearly visible in data. In general terms, Gartner predicts that the rate of sustainability in business will accelerate in 2023 and further. To be more specific: according to Rare:Group, more than 63% of respondents say that sustainability is crucial for staying loyal to a brand.

How does this translate and contribute to creating promotional campaigns and loyalty programs by fashion brands? How can you turn sustainability into an asset that drives loyalty among your customers? I hope to outline this subject for you in this article. Read on!

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Sustainability in fashion: key points

Let me start by sketching out the subject of sustainability in fashion. Sustainable fashion is mostly related to the following ideas and actions:

  • Limiting clothes use, clothes waste, and fashion seasonality.
  • Avoiding fast fashion leftovers and destruction of unsold clothes.
  • Use of eco-friendly materials and fabrics.
  • Reducing or offsetting carbon footprint.
  • Ensuring sustainable supply chains and production methods.
  • Offering green shipping options.
  • Offering reduced and recyclable packaging.
  • Reverse commerce: opening second-hand pop-up shops and circular boutiques or clothes rental options.

How to create a sustainable loyalty program for a fashion brand?

You might start wondering if there is any way on earth the trend of sustainability could actually benefit your business. How to take advantage of it to build your fashion brand? Well, sustainability and fashion don’t have to be at odds: you can combine them to create a high-performing green loyalty program for your fashion company, relying on the principles of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Here’s how to do that:

1. Introduce digital loyalty cards

Let’s start from the step which is the easiest to make real: implement digital loyalty cards in place of plastic ones. This way, you will reduce waste, and you will actually make life easier for your customers, as they will no longer need to browse their bags searching for their cards or coupons. Instead, they can carry these incentives in a digital wallet. Win-win!

H&M digital loyalty card screenshot
Sustainable digital loyalty card scheme at H&M

2. Offer green loyalty rewards

Eco-friendly rewards are digital perks, products made of environmentally-neutral materials, or objects and services that foster sustainability. They are the best choice if you create a sustainable loyalty program and want to win over eco-aware consumers. You can choose from a wide array of attractive rewards: from tickets to environment-oriented exhibitions or events, to quite fancy but very useful objects like edible cutlery or plates and filter bottles.

Learn more: Innovative ideas for B2B and B2C loyalty rewards

3. Encourage members to reuse and recycle

You might decide to boost your loyalty program by offering incentives and bonuses for reusing, recycling, and other sustainable behaviors. For instance, you could encourage customers to take old clothes back to your shops and offer them discount codes for new purchases. Or, grant double loyalty points to customers who give used clothes to charity. This approach will make them appreciate your eco-conscious efforts, at the same time reinforcing and prolonging their bond with your brand.

4. Educational and informational features

Eco-savvy consumers want to learn and grow in all sustainability-related subjects. And you can give them that! For example, create ebooks or explainer videos clarifying certain issues related to fashion sustainability or providing knowledge about the latest trends in sustainable fabrics, and offer these as a gift for upgrading a loyalty tier or hitting an anniversary of shopping with you.

screenshot of Smallable Greenable magazine
Educational green fashion magazine for loyal customers by Smallable

5. Collecting points for environmental causes

You may invite your customers to collect loyalty points not exactly for their own individual needs but for environmental causes. Acting for the sake of a cause they find important will effectively prompt your customers to remain loyal and take the necessary steps. There are plenty of ideas: customers may exchange points for donations to a selected environmental NGOs or you may declare that you will plant a tree for every specified purchase amount. Or, you can directly support and finance environmental causes, this way showing your personal commitment to the problem.

6. Partner with environmental charities and other sustainable brands

This is even a step further from the above. Apart from supporting ecology-first organizations, be it directly or through rewards choices offered to your customers, you can enter partnerships with charities or other sustainability-oriented brands. As a result, for example, your customers will know that every time they shop with you, a fair-trade organization gets a boost from your company. Or, in the latter case, you may invest in mutually-beneficial alliances, where you offer loyalty rewards coming from your affiliate sustainable fashion brand and the other way round. This may also bring you increased interest from the community around these partners.

7. Encourage referrals

Loyalty can be built also through compelling refer-a-friend programs. People are more effectively persuaded to take action when a friend recommends them to do so or when they see a friend involved in a particular behavior. This refers both to committing to a sustainable habit or making an eco-friendly choice and to making fashion shopping decisions. Referrals build loyalty through two-sided commitment from the referrer and the referee. Especially in the context of sustainability, peer pressure concerning lifestyle choices may be a deciding factor here.

8. Be transparent

Last but very much not least – always be transparent and open about your methods, actions, and approaches. Transparency is of very high value among eco-aware consumers and you won’t fool them with empty promises and greenwashing excuses. If your brand is consistently transparent and honest, loyalty among your customers will grow immediately and with long-lasting effects. Support your declarations with data, e.g. about your carbon footprint or resource consumption, and specify which United Nations Sustainability Goals you follow with your approach and actions.

screenshot of sustainability pledge by Otrium
Otrium’s sustainable targets

Benefits of sustainable loyalty programs

A sustainable loyalty campaign reflects the growing global awareness of the need for environmentally-friendly and socially-conscious business operations. By adopting sustainable practices and green values, you can build a thriving loyalty program based on solid customer engagement.

Here are several benefits of creating sustainable loyalty programs for fashion brands:

1. Community & trust building

Highlighting the themes of sustainability and ecology in your brand image and storytelling – and staying true to them – is a wonderful foundation for building a close-knit community among and with your customers. People become strongly attached to brands that share their values and this emotional connection with your target audience is a sure way to nurturing loyalty through engagement and brand affinity. Remember that to keep the sense of engagement and community strong, you need to remain reliable and authentic in your actions and campaigns. Otherwise, you may lose the hard-earned trust and respect of your customers.

2. Make sustainability your brand’s USP

It is really difficult to stand out as a fashion brand these days, and to give exceptional value to customers in the crowded global fashion market. You could take this opportunity and turn sustainability into your unique selling point. Presented with an endless choice of fashion brands, customers will turn to the one that has something really extraordinary to offer. By putting sustainability at the forefront of your loyalty program, you are bound to attract and retain well-targeted loyal customers.

3. Popularity among the Millennials and Generation Z

Sustainability and environmental protection are high-priority issues, particularly for two generations: the Millenials and Gen Z. As it happens, these two cohorts also constitute the largest group of global consumers with a constantly growing buying power and disposable income. Why not capitalize on this and target these generations with your loyalty campaign, especially if your fashion brand is specifically addressed to them? 90% of Gen Zs say that they are more willing to purchase products that they deem beneficial to society – consequently, they’ll be more willing to buy them from brands that align with their beliefs.

4. Commitment breeds commitment

When planning your sustainable loyalty strategy, you may rely on the reciprocity effect with your customers. In other words, you can build customer commitment through showing your brand’s commitment to environmental causes. When the brand shows it cares, it works like a magnet. Shoppers interested in sustainability will choose to buy from a brand with proven environmental involvement. As the brand’s commitment grows, customer engagement deepens as well. Customers will appreciate the dedication and, by participating in a sustainable fashion loyalty program, they will feel like they are also active changemakers who have made an informed consumer decision.

5. Positive word-of-mouth

The power of positive word-of-mouth marketing and widespread brand advocacy cannot be overestimated. Especially in the fashion industry, which is all about, well, fashion and trends. And since sustainability is a trend followed by many, you can draw from it, emphasizing this aspect in your loyalty campaign. Satisfied customers, happy that a fashion brand meets their needs also in terms of values, will not only remain loyal on that basis but they’ll also recommend you to their friends, thus creating new loyal customers.

6. Lower costs

This is not a guaranteed outcome, but if you plan your sustainable loyalty campaign well, it may turn out that you don’t need to invest as much in it as in a regular loyalty program. Opt for low-impact non-material rewards that reduce waste (e.g. educational ebooks about the 3Rs in fashion) or rewards that support environmental organizations (e.g., giving customers an option to donate their points to a cause). Besides, reward customers for returning old clothes to promote textile reuse, or consider reusing packaging and make it your asset. You’ll see that it may actually be more cost-effective for you than relying on traditional discounts and material rewards.

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10 real-life examples of green loyalty programs by fashion brands

Many fashion brands have successfully implemented sustainable loyalty campaigns. Here are a few examples of companies that do it best:

1. Patagonia

Patagonia may be THE most famous brand when it comes to sustainability. No wonder then that its loyalty scheme is also based on sustainable values as it boosts the company’s environment-oriented approach even further.

  • The outdoor clothing company offers a loyalty program dubbed “Worn Wear”.
  • Customers are invited to buy used Patagonia products, repair their existing items, and recycle worn-out garments.
  • Customers earn credits for future purchases by trading in their used Patagonia gear.
  • When customers bring in a used Patagonia item in good condition, they receive a Worn Wear Merchandise Credit of up to $100 per item to purchase used gear on WornWear.com or new gear in Patagonia online and retail stores.
patagonia worn wear sustainable loyalty program description screenshot

patagonia sustainable loyalty program steps screenshot

2. REI

REI is a sustainable outdoor shopping cooperative that approaches loyalty by consistent community building through an extensive paid membership program. Its members feel they are part of a huge community focused on supporting worthy causes.

  • Members have exclusive access to special discounts, coupons, and limited product editions.
  • With the REI Co-op Mastercard, they can redeem member-only rewards, including unique experiences in nature.
  • With Re/Supply, members can trade in used outdoor gear for a gift card.
  • The brand offers free shipping, free flat tire repair for bikes, free machine wax for skis or boards, and gear rental.
  • With the profits of the program, REI invests millions of dollars in environmental nonprofits.
REI loyalty program website screenshot
rei membership rules screenshot

3. Madewell

Madewell, a clothing company specializing in jeans, has launched a great green loyalty program.

  • Members get a $20 discount for a new pair of jeans if they return their old jeans to Madewell stores, no matter the producer.
  • Madewell partners with the denim recycling initiative Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ and they turn old jeans trousers into housing insulation. How cool is that, right?
Madewell loyalty program rules screenshot
Madewell sustainability info screenshot

4. Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective is a US slow fashion activewear brand for women, with sustainability at the core of its mission. As part of its rewards program, the brand combines sustainability and loyalty to strengthen the sense of community among its target audience.

  • Customers can earn 100 points for each action taken to protect the environment.
  • To get points, a customer needs to, for example, volunteer at a charity, clean up a local natural area, or plant a tree.
  • Then, the customer should post a picture of herself doing the good deed, wearing a GF item, apply the #goodjobgf hashtag, and tag the company.
  • The brand encourages customers to “Go Green, Earn More” and unlock subsequent tiers of the loyalty program.
  • The points can be redeemed for exclusive discounts, free shipping, and early access to new collections.
  • When customers are done with their Girlfriend Collective clothes, they can send them back to be recycled into new ones and get a $15 store credit in return. The project has a catchy name of “Recycle. Reuse. ReGirlfriend”.
Girlfriend Collective loyalty program rules screenshot

5. H&M

H&M, the multinational clothing giant, also turns its focus to sustainability by offering low-impact choices to its customers.

  • Membership perks include granting Conscious Points for using own shopping bag or purchasing a Conscious Collection product.
  • In the H&M Garment Collecting program under the motto of “Let’s close the loop”, the brand encourages shoppers to bring unwanted clothes (by any brand and in any condition) to one of H&M stores. In return, customers receive a thank-you coupon for the next purchase.
  • Then, the old textiles are recycled, reused, or sold as second-hand clothing.
  • H&M supports environmental education by providing “Take Care” guides on its website, instructing customers on how to take good care of their apparel.
H&M garment collective program screenshot

6. EILEEN FISHER

The US women’s apparel brand EILEEN FISHER claims it has sustainability “woven in” its approach. Through its loyalty program, the brand promotes circular fashion and waste reduction.

  • In the Renew Rewards program, customers can bring back any EILEEN FISHER clothes to the brand’s retail store and they’ll receive a $5 credit for each piece.
  • The discount is redeemable at any EILEEN FISHER store, also online.
  • Then, the company sorts and cleans the used garments to later resell them or donate to local nonprofits.
Eileen Fisher Renew program screenshot

7. Tentree

Tentree is a sustainable clothing and accessories brand with a truly inspiring loyalty program.

  • For every item purchased, the brand plants ten trees.
  • Customers can track their trees in the Impact Wallet and feel the power of their contribution, which definitely boosts their engagement with the brand.
  • The company has already planted around 100 million trees as part of the program.
Tentree website screenshot
Tentree loyalty program rules screenshot

8. Plae

Plae is a shoewear company whose loyalty program highlights positive values and increases customer engagement by involving them in a worthy cause.

  • Plae’s loyalty program includes traditional rewards alongside the possibility of donating to a charity.
  • The brand has partnered with Race4Good.
  • For every 1000 points collected, a customer may donate $10 to support Nepalese families with shoes and supplies.
Plae donations program screenshot

9. TK Maxx

The loyalty program at TK Maxx features a bunch of eco-friendly rewards.

  • Customers may choose from woven platters, bamboo straws, and other reusable or degradable objects.
  • Sometimes, rather than claiming a tangible reward, a customer may choose to donate to a charity.
  • The experience is gamified to be more attractive and unique: while shopping, instead of points, customers collect keys that unlock the rewards.
  • The keys are collected in a Treasure card, which can be stored in a digital wallet.
  • The rewards change periodically and are sometimes surprise rewards.
  • Reward redemptions are limited in time to create an added sense of excitement and urgency.
TK MAXX Treasure loyalty program screenshot

10. COS

COS commits to sustainability by offering a choice of sustainably sourced or recycled materials and reusable or compostable packaging. It builds a community by providing educational information about product care to ensure the longevity of their purchases.

  • In the Resell program, customer loyalty is built through recommerce options of reselling and buying old clothes.
  • The Full Circle initiative is where customers can drop off their old COS pieces at COS in-store collection points to get a 10% off voucher for every piece to be used in the next purchase.
  • The clothes are then restored, recycled, or repurposed. This service is now available in more than 20 countries in Europe.
COS Resell program screenshot

Find the right tool for building green loyalty programs

To sum up, a sustainable loyalty campaign combines customer engagement and retention strategies with a commitment to environmental responsibility. By integrating green practices into loyalty programs, businesses can align with the values of environmentally-conscious customers and have a positive social impact.

On the other hand, fashion and beauty brands that ignore sustainability in their approach may risk losing their customer base as consumers tend to boycott companies that don’t display any environmental awareness. Also, make sure your approach is compatible with applicable sustainability legislation.

As you can see from the versatile examples presented above, a sustainable loyalty program doesn’t have to be complex or complicated. Once you decide to launch a sustainable loyalty scheme, simply make sure it features at least one sustainable characteristic: eco-friendly rewards, recycling options, support to environmental causes, or others. The continuous cycle of returning used clothes and receiving perks for sustainable behaviors boosts loyalty and gives room for new purchases.

To implement a successful sustainable fashion loyalty program, you need an effective tool. Use Voucherify Promotion Engine to build multi-tiered loyalty campaigns with personalized rewards and currencies, easy earning and validation rules, and detailed campaign tracking opportunities. Using customizable promotion software, you will position your brand as a sustainable fashion industry leader.

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