Whether you’re turning 29 for the 29th time or celebrating your first official year as an “adult,” there’s one day of the year that’s all about you — your birthday. With all of the calls, texts, social media posts, gifts and cards, you can’t help but feel pretty special, and who doesn’t love that? A little birthday love from friends and family goes a long way, and it turns out, brands also can reap the benefits of granting birthday wishes. Some birthday bling, in the form of a special discount or free gift with purchase, can enhance the customer relationship and go a long way toward building long-term loyalty.
Many consumers welcome a birthday gesture from their favorite brands. Like birthday money from parents (at any age), birthday rewards can provide an opportunity for “MEtail Therapy,” and that leaves the customer with a feeling of good will toward the brand. In fact, according to the Birthday Benefits Survey conducted by Alliance Data’s card services business, 51 percent of consumers feel special if a retailer acknowledges their birthday, and 40 percent are more likely to shop at a retailer that recognizes their birthday. Unfortunately, most consumers receive between five and nine offers, but only redeem one to four.
Why is that? Awareness is often one of the biggest barriers. Consumers are bombarded with birthday messages sent from everyone from their dentist to their dry cleaner, so a brand’s celebratory offer has to stand out. Here’s how retailers can make the most of a birthday benefit.
Timing is Everything
People want to feel like more than just a number. When someone applies to become a credit card member, their full birth date is captured. Brands can easily use this information to share a birthday offer and send a personal email or text on or around the customer's special day. Not all brands will, so it differentiates those that do as really knowing their most loyal customers.
According to the Alliance Data survey, it’s important for brands to recognize that more than half of consumers prefer mailed offers arrive two weeks to four weeks before someone’s birthday. Equally important is that retailers should give customers enough time to redeem the offer when they finally take a break from the cake and presents. In fact, many consumers (37 percent) want those offers to remain valid for up to 60 days after their birthday. We’re all busy around our birthdays, and customers need enough time to make it to their mailboxes and redeem their offers.
Happy Birthday, Dear SMS
To create a moment that matters for the customer, it’s important that the birthday offer be customized to the audience, right down to the method of delivery. While most actually prefer to receive their birthday offers via email or the U.S. Postal Service (after all, it’s nice to finally get something besides junk mail in your mailbox), 45 percent say they’re also likely to redeem a text message offer. Think of it this way: You get happy birthday texts from the people who care about you. How nice would it be to get the same from your favorite retailer? Brands should anticipate SMS becoming even more important when recognizing customers’ birthdays as consumer habits shift toward a mobile-centric mind-set. If you want to be on their mind, get on their phone.
Make it Meaningful
Everyone has received a gift they didn’t like or wouldn’t use. That’s why birthday offers should be a true gift — something personal, valuable and meaningful that resonates with the customer. Don’t give a customer the same offer you sent them throughout the year. Make this one different and more valuable, and you’ll get their attention. Remember, money talks. Those surveyed said they prefer dollars vs. discounts. When asked if they would rather get $15 off or a 15 percent discount, 66 percent would go for the cash prize every time. Retailers also should make sure offers are redeemable in all channels. Customers don’t want an offer that’s only good in-store. Let them decide how they want to shop. Minimize redemption effort and maximize the power of choice.
While it’s clear customers are looking for something special from brands, success is in the details. The offer needs to stand out among the different types of communications that consumers receive. It should be valuable, sent via their preferred channel and easily redeemed at the right time. If it isn’t personalized and meaningful, don’t bother sending it. Customers won’t respond, and that’s no reason to celebrate.
Mary O'Donnell is the vice president of marketing strategy and communications at Alliance Data, a provider of loyalty and marketing solutions such as private label credit cards, coalition loyalty programs and direct marketing services.