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Who doesn’t love a surprise? If you’ve ever been upgraded at a hotel, surprised with a free gift with purchase or had a barista say “This one’s on me,” then you know the power of surprise and delight (S&D).

Distinct moments like these are what customers remember and are what help drive long-term loyalty. At LoyaltyOne, we recently conducted a survey that found S&D can have a dramatic impact on a business’s loyalty-building measures and, ultimately, its bottom line. Among the 95% of Canadians who said that S&D initiatives leave them with an increased positive view of the company, more than half (56%) went on to provide word-of-mouth referrals by sharing their positive experience with friends and family. What’s more, that one in three (34%) revealed the experience led them to give the company more business.

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You’ve likely seen large-scale S&D marketing campaigns, among them WestJet’s Christmas Miracle video and, as you read this, are thinking “Sure—but at what cost?” But providing customers with a “WOW!” experience doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.

In a world of mass technology, many customers today are seeking the type of personalized experiences offered in the days of the friendly general store—where the shop owners truly understood who their customers were and what their interests were. Customers want businesses to be insightful and present S&D offers that are relevant to their buying behaviour.

According to the results of our survey, these are the top five S&D rewards customers want:

1. Receiving special privileges for being a long-time customer;
2. Receiving surprise discounts after spending a lot with a retailer during a particular month;
3. Receiving free samples or products based on relevant products they purchase often;
4. Receiving a special offer or coupon for their birthday;
5. Receiving a special gift during the holidays based on what they often purchase.

While technology today is enabling large companies to create personalized services, I believe there is huge opportunity for small businesses to leverage S&D at a local level because they have the ability to really know their customers. Having this deep understanding allows you to create enriched customer experiences based on their individual preferences.

So whether you’re providing those services or goods in a bricks and mortar or online environment your ability to be relevant can translate into their desire to give you more business. In a sea of brands vying for a bigger share of wallet, head and heart having brand ambassadors can be one of your biggest business-building assets.

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If you are interested in testing an S&D program, be sure to measure your offers. For instance, if you are giving away products or coupons, be sure to record who is interested in the offer. Track if you see a more consistent lift with a key demographic after your program runs. Measure if your referrals go up after an S&D program. In doing this, you will learn how to refine your programs so they can become more effective for your customers and your business.

Ultimately, the key to surprising and delighting your customers is relevance. By understanding who your customers are, you can find small, yet impactful ways to grow loyalty among your customers and your bottom line.

Bryan Pearson is an internationally-recognized expert and author in the field of customer loyalty. As President and CEO of LoyaltyOne, a pioneer in loyalty strategies and data-driven marketing, Bryan has spent more than two decades developing meaningful customer relationships for some of the world’s leading companies. Bryan has spearheaded LoyaltyOne’s expansion into new markets across the globe and has grown the AIR MILES Rewards Program into Canada’s premier coalition loyalty program with more than 10 million participants.

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What’s your strategy for surprising and delighting customers? Let us know by commenting below.

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