What Can A Loyalty App Do That a Card Can’t?

Loyal Starbucks customers will no doubt use the coffee chain’s app, which gives them free rewards in return for them buying their daily coffee from them. Recently, the company revealed their overhaul of the app in order to personalise the experience for their customers. Now, they will receive ‘stars’ depending on how much they spend in the store, rather than how many times they visit their local store. Starbucks have received some backlash over the move, as those who regularly use the app say they will now have to pay much more in order to gain their free rewards.

The backlash isn’t great for Starbucks, but it does illustrate just how important loyalty apps are for some customers. Companies that encourage repeat, frequent business, such as coffee chains, have been creating loyalty apps to replace loyalty cards that have traditionally been used. Is it worth it to design a whole app when maybe just a card would do?

Possibly. With a loyalty card, you can only really give one kind of reward. Collecting stamps on a piece of paper is exciting at first, but the thrill wears off quickly, possibly taking your customers with it. An app shows the customer just how far away they are to reaching their reward, and incentivises them further to come shop with you.  Also, a card is easily lost when dropped out of a pocket, or swimming around in the bottom of a handbag. An app is always reachable as it’s on your phone.

An app can also offer greater interaction with your customers. A card can’t track your customers’ spending habits, or where they’re making purchases. It’s quite simple to actually harvest a lot of data using just a loyalty app.

One of the best features of loyalty apps is that you can personalise and localise rewards. Perhaps you want to send an offer to your customers in a certain city, with an app it’s easy to send out that offer just to those customers. It can also track multiple offers at once, meaning it’s a lot more versatile than a card.

More and more companies are finding that loyalty apps are increasing the footfall into their shops. Some, like Starbucks, have taken it one step further by allowing customers to place orders and pay for items directly through their phone. Slowly, apps are revolutionising the way we shop.

There are downsides, however. As seen above, if you maintain a strong loyalty base with your app, customers may be upset when you make changes. This means you’ll have to think carefully when designing the app, to make sure you won’t have to make major changes somewhere down the line. Also, design of the app is key. If an app is poorly designed or hard to use, you’re not going to keep customers interested.


All in all, companies have seen a real boost in business with their loyalty apps. They’re changing the way many stores do business, and with designers tinkering with them all the time, it’s going to be exciting to see what innovations we’ll see in the near future.

Posted in Blog & News.