Discover 13 of the most successful and innovative loyalty program examples and the lessons they offer on how to level-up your loyalty strategy. In this article, you’ll get insight into some of the world’s biggest loyalty programs through 4 simple criteria: the program, the positioning, the perks, and the performance.
Loyalty programs have taken the ecommerce world by storm. 9 in 10 companies now offer some form of customer loyalty program.
The prominence of customer loyalty programs should come as no surprise once you see the data. The statistics spell it out again and again. Customers love loyalty programs and spend more with brands when they’re part of one:
- 79% of consumers are part of at least one loyalty program
- Of these, 75% say they purchase more from these brands
- Top loyalty programs see a 15-25% annual revenue increase from customers who use them
But what makes a loyalty rewards program stand out? What benefits can you offer customers to keep them coming back for more? What lessons can you learn from the world’s most successful loyalty programs?
In this article, you’ll get an in-depth look at 13 of the most successful and innovative loyalty program examples from around the world. Get at-a-glance insights into each program from 4 simple but revealing angles:
- The program: what it is, who offers it, the loyalty mechanism it operates on
- The positioning: how it’s pitched, the alignment with the brand and target audience
- The perks: what it offers members, how it attracts and nurtures loyalty
- The performance: the ROI, the number of sign-ups, the impact on sales (where available)
Loyalty program examples
- Adidas: adiClub
- Rapha: Rapha Cycling Club
- Starbucks: Starbucks Rewards
- The North Face: XPLR Pass
- Lululemon: lululemon membership
- Walmart: Walmart+
- Sephora: The Beauty Insider
- FARFETCH: FARFETCH ACCESS
- H&M: H&M Membership
- IKEA: IKEA Family
- Rakuten: Rakuten Points
- McDonald's: MyMcDonald's Rewards
- Wesfarmers: OnePass
AdiClub is adidas’ free-to-join, point-based loyalty program. AdiClub has been one of adidas’ biggest strategic moves in recent years. The extensive program is the driving force in their DTC shift. AdiClub received the top ranking in the apparel category in Bond’s Loyalty Report in both 2021 and 2022.
AdiClub’s success lies in its perfect alignment with the two core elements of the adidas brand: fashion and sport.
Customers interested in adidas for its style appeal get benefits like early and exclusive access to sneaker and product drops, as well as the opportunity to personalize products.
Customers interested in adidas for its sports heritage get access to community events, adidas Running and Training apps, tickets to sporting games, and meet-and-greets and signed products from adidas-sponsored athletes.
Members of adidas’ adiClub receive points for purchases (10 points for every dollar spent) as well as for adding personal information, leaving reviews, and taking part in adidas events. These points not only work to move customers up a membership tier but can also be used for discounts and vouchers. AdiClub involves 4 levels:
Level 1: customers get free shipping, members-only access to exclusive releases, access to the CONFIRMED app for sneaker drops and Early Access to select drops.
Level 2: customers get the above benefits plus special discounts, 2 months access to the adidas Running and Training apps, and a birthday gift.
Level 3: customers get first access to new products, the ability to personalize products, and priority customer service.
Level 4: customers get all the above rewards, plus tickets to special events, priority access on the CONFIRMED app to win more drops, and 12 months premium access to adidas Running and Training apps. To get to level 4, you need to spend about $1,200 on adidas goods over the course of a year.
Adidas additionally infuses their membership program with other attractive benefits, such as:
- Chances to win adidas box seats at sporting games
- Products signed by some of the world’s biggest athletes
- Access to adidas member’s week, a week full of product drops, exclusive experiences, and rewards
- AdiClub has over 240 million members
- Members buy 50% more often than non-members
- Members have 2x the lifetime value of non-members
Rapha is one of the world’s biggest—and trendiest—cycling apparel brands. Their mission is to make cycling the most popular sport in the world by bringing people together and celebrating cycling.
Their subscription-based loyalty program, Rapha Cycling Club (RCC), is unique in that it combines traditional member benefits (early access, discounts, etc.) with access to global Rapha Clubhouses and a community of like-minded cyclists.
Rapha pitches RCC more like a community than a loyalty program. When members sign up, they’re not just entering a relationship with Rapha, they’re entering a global community of cyclists. As Rapha’s website says “Being a member of the RCC means being part of something bigger – a global riding community with a friendly local spirit. You can feel it at our Clubhouses, on our rides and on the RCC App which connects our members around the globe.”
Like adidas, Rapha’s loyalty program addresses both the fashion and the sporting aspect of their brand. But what’s unique about RCC is that the benefits are about 50% product-focused (discounts, exclusive access, etc.), and 50% connection and community focused (the RCC app, group rides, clubhouses, etc.).
Rapha is ahead of the curve here. In a recent survey of loyalty program owners, 87.5% said they plan to engage with customers in more non-transactional ways.
“We take brand loyalty seriously. We sell premium cycling and lifestyle apparel, but the core of our brand is based around cycling, and strongly supported by our Clubhouse network and the Rapha Cycling Club”
Tristan Watson, Engineering Manager, Rapha
- Organized club rides from 23 Clubhouse and Chapter locations
- Exclusive riding trips and access to fully-supported RCC Summits along with priority access to key Rapha events
- Subsidized members-only Club kit and early access to special editions and brand collaborations
- Clubhouse perks with half-price coffee and subsidized bike hire
- Members-only app to see what's on at Rapha, join rides and connect with fellow members
- Bicycle hire at a reasonable price from premium manufacturers
- RCC has over 23,000 members
- They run over 1,000 group rides every month
To handle massive demand for their product drops and ensure RCC members get first access, Rapha use Queue-it for their high-profile drops.
“Running the sale with Queue-it in place made sure we achieved our goal of delivering an enhanced experience for our loyal members. We gave them the priority access we had promised them as a cornerstone membership benefit.”
Tristan Watson, Engineering Manager
Starbucks Rewards is another points-based loyalty program, rewarding customers based on the number and value of products they purchase.
But Starbucks Rewards goes beyond your local café’s buy-10-coffees-get-one-free stamp card. It offers personalized benefits, exclusive games, and the ability to pre-load cash for extra points (or “stars” as they call them). With almost 30 million members, it’s likely the most successful café loyalty program of all time.
Starbucks Rewards, like Starbucks itself, is all about simplicity and convenience. Members can save their coffee order, order ahead, pre-load cash onto their account. These make it easier to get your coffee when you want it—fast.
Starbucks executed their loyalty program well, offering straightforward but compelling benefits like free coffee refills, along with more advanced ones like member-only games, for customers who want to engage more.
Surveys show customers want loyalty programs that are easy to use, easy to understand, and offer great discounts. Starbucks Rewards ticks all three boxes.
- Free coffee on sign-up
- Birthday treat
- Free refills on coffee and tea
- Save your coffee order & store location to order ahead and pay on app
- Points based benefits:
- 25 stars: Free customized drink (extra-shot, non-dairy milk, etc.)
- 100 stars: Free iced coffee, croissant, bag of chips, and more
- 200 stars: Free cold brew, lattes, cappuccino, etc. or hot breakfast
- 300 stars: Free sandwich, protein box, or take-home coffee bean bag
- 400 stars: Free piece of merchandise with value of up to $20
- Member-only games that offer exclusive prizes, free food and drinks, etc.
- In 2022, there were 28.7 million active Starbucks Reward members
- This represents 16% year-over-year growth
- “Starbucks Rewards now represents 53% of the spend in our stores, which is at an all-time high, and which is a three-point increase versus fiscal Q1 fiscal 21,” said Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks
XPLR Pass is The North Face’s free-to-join loyalty program. Revamped in 2021, the program includes points but doesn’t have membership tiers like many other points-based programs. Instead, points equate to discounts.
The North Face bridges the gap between fashion and function—and so does their loyalty program. In addition to the perks you’d see in other loyalty programs, The North Face includes invitations to annual member-only XPLR Pass Trail Days, events that include group hikes, activities, lunch and merchandise, and talks from guests and athletes.
Vanessa Christie, the Director of Loyalty and Experiences at The North Face, explains:
“Whether it's a large sweepstakes that enables exploration — like flyaway trips to a mountain — Film Fests that we're sponsoring or other things, we’re also looking for more ways to bring The North Face to life in an experiential way, where you have to be an XPLR Pass member to gain access to the experience.”
The program also aligns itself with climate action by rewarding members who return old products to give them a second life through The North Face Renewed Take Back program. Members can also earn points by checking-in at National Parks and Monuments.
- 1 point for every dollar spent (100 points = a $10 voucher)
- Early and exclusive access to limited-edition collections and collaborations
- 60-day members-only field testing
- Free shipping
- XPLR Pass gifts on birthdays and with purchases
- Exclusive events
- Access to the North Face Renewed Take-Back Program
- The chance to test unreleased products
To ensure XPLR members get first access to these exclusive product drops, The North Face uses Queue-it’s invite-only waiting room. Members get invited to an exclusive queue that puts them ahead of non-members, allowing The North Face to block bots and resellers and incentivize thousands of new sign-ups with every drop.
“[XPLR] members have access to exclusive products. These are our most iconic, most coveted products that usually sell out in less than a day, whether it's Gucci, Kaws, or Online Ceramics, XPLR Pass members get that first."
VANESSA CHRISTIE, DIRECTOR OF LOYALTY AND EXPERIENCES OF THE NORTH FACE
- The North Face had a 54% increase in traffic to the XPLR landing page YoY when the program was launched
- An average of 10k mobile app downloads per month in 2021
Lululemon is unique on this list as it has two types of loyalty programs: one for regular, everyday shoppers; and another exclusively “leaders in sweat” AKA fitness professionals, coaches and leaders.
The standard program, called lululemon membership, is perks-based (no points), and focuses almost entirely on experiential benefits rather than dollar-based savings.
The exclusive program, called The Sweat Collective, is like a small-scale influencer community, offering 25% discounts to verified fitness professionals (studio & gym managers, personal trainers, group fitness instructors, athletes, coaches, and team staff).
Lululemon redefined the activewear product category with its high-quality, made-to-last apparel. The lululemon membership positions itself similarly. Like a luxury brand, it doesn’t offer discounts on products, but instead offers convenience, peace of mind, and good customer service experiences with exclusive benefits like early access to product drops, free hemming, receipt-free returns, and exchanges or credits on sale items.
The Sweat Collective is positioned to reward established members of the fitness community. The 25% off perk is a huge one—especially for a brand that rarely discounts products. It’s clever in that it incentivizes people who are prominent in the fitness space to wear lululemon gear.
The yoga teachers leading 300 people through movements each week. The coaches leading local sporting teams. The personal trainers helping dozens of people get fitter every week. The Sweat Collective helps put visible members of the fitness community in lululemon gear.
- Early access to product drops
- Exchange or credit on sale items
- Select lululemon Studio Classes
- Membership events
- Receipt-free returns
- Free hemming
- Lululemon got 9 million membership sign-ups in 5 months
- Over 30% of members took advantage of at least one of the benefits in that period
Walmart+ is Walmart’s answer to Amazon Prime. It’s a subscription-based loyalty program with a price tag of $12.95 per month or $98 per year.
Walmart+ makes a big claim on its sign-up page: It’ll save you $1,300+ per year.
The claim aligns perfectly with Walmart’s brand positioning—a low-price retailer—and the values of its customers—saving money. It establishes the program’s value in bold and concrete terms by screaming “you’re leaving money on the table by not signing up!”
- Save up to 10 cents per gallon at several gas stations
- Get free delivery of groceries from their local Walmart store and free delivery from the Walmart marketplace
- Get early access to Black Friday sales, product launches, and other major shopping events
- Get contact-free checkout
- Get assorted other benefits, for example, 6 months free of Spotify premium
- Early access to big sales like Black Friday and product drops
A Consumer Intelligence Research Partners report estimates:
- Walmart+ members spend an average of $79 per online visit, compared to $62 for non-members
- Walmart+ customers shopped an average of 11 more times per year (29 visits) compared with non-members (18)
Skincare brand Sephora’s loyalty program is a points-based program where benefits are issued according to loyalty tiers. The program has been revamped several times since it was first launched in 2007, with Sephora refining their approach to loyalty.
Allegra Stanley, Sephora’s vice president and general manager of loyalty says:
“The way we think about loyalty is that our clients are the core of everything we do. We are driven by what our customers love and want more of. So it’s not about what their loyalty demonstrates to us, but what we can deliver to our clients that creates the most meaningful and connected experience with our brands.”
Sephora’s Beauty Insider program has three tiers:
- Insider: which is free to join
- Very Important Beauty (VIB): which is achieved after a $350 annual spend
- Rouge: which is achieved after a $1,000 annual spend
The benefits of these tiers are split up into three simple categories:
- Savings: where and how much money customers will save
- Samples: the free and exclusive samples customers will get access to
- Experiences: the exclusive and first access experiences customers get
- Sephora has over 31 million U.S. members
- Members make up to 80% of Sephora’s sales
- An 8.08 score in Newsweek’s best American Loyalty Programs list
In reference to Sephora’s generous birthday gifts, Allegra Stanley, VP of Loyalty at the company said:
“Research has found that almost 75% of what drives customer engagement and loyalty are emotional perks. Now more than ever customers, especially the younger generations, decide to engage with brands based on emotional loyalty drivers.”
Luxury ecommerce retailer FARFETCH has an extensive loyalty and rewards program called FARFETCH ACCESS. Like an airline, it offers a broad range of benefits based on tiers, which are determined by customer spend.
FARFETCH’s loyalty program aligns with its customer base and brand values. Where Walmart customers are focused on low prices, FARFETCH customers want luxury and exclusivity.
Of particular note is the Private Client access loyalty tier, which is clearly targeted at the upper echelons of the fashion world, offering extensive and desirable benefits to the most valuable of customers. It offers a fashion concierge, a personal stylist, and exclusive invites to events such as the Dior Shanghai exhibition.
FARFETCH ACCESS’ loyalty tiers include:
Bronze access: Achieved after one purchase, entitles you to a welcome reward, a birthday reward, and access to a private members’ sale.
Silver Access: Achieved after $1500 spend. Offers above benefits plus exclusive discounts and free international shipping on 2 orders.
Gold access: Achieved after a $3,000 annual spend. Gold Access members get the same benefits as silver, along with exclusive discounts, exclusive access to designer collections and free worldwide shipping on 4 orders.
Platinum access: Achieved after a $7,500 spend. Offers above benefits plus free international shipping for a year, priority customer care, and extended returns.
Private Client access: Achieved after a massive $15,000 spend. All the above plus a fashion concierge who will find you items unavailable to the general public, and a personal stylist who can offer 1:1 fashion advice around the clock.
H&M’s customer loyalty program is another points-based program, but it only puts customers into one of two tiers. For the H&M membership, H&M has collaborated with Klarna—another Swedish brand popular among Gen Z consumers—to allow members to buy now and pay in 4 installments.
H&M is a low-cost, quick-to-market fashion brand. But it wants to avoid the label of “fast fashion” and highlight its commitment to sustainability.
The H&M Membership addresses the brand’s core appeals by offering predominantly savings and convenience-based benefits, but it emphasizes sustainability by giving members the chance to save more money by recycling clothes and bringing in their own bags.
Standard H&M members get:
- 10% off welcome offer
- 1 point per dollar spent (200 points for $5 voucher)
- Earn points for recycling old clothes
- Earn points for bringing your own bag in-store
- Exclusive offers & discounts
- Birthday treats
- Invite-only shopping events
- Free online returns
- Free shipping over $40
- Monthly giftcard giveaway
- Ability to pay in 4 interest-free installments with Klarna
And plus members get:
- Free shipping on all purchases
- Unique experiences
- Surprise offers
- Special exclusive access to limited-edition collections
- H&M has 120+ million members in 26 markets
- They saw 71% YoY membership growth in 2021
IKEA’s IKEA Family is a free, perks-based loyalty program. It may well be the oldest loyalty program on this list, starting in 1984. IKEA Family doesn’t reward customers based on spend, but instead offers a range of attractive discounts, exclusive experiences, and free member perks.
IKEA Family’s positioning is basically in the name. “We really do treat our members like family” they say. It makes sense for the brand that turns houses into homes. They invite you into their stores with a free hot drink and discounts on food, they give you peace of mind with product damage cover, and they give you “family discounts.”
- $10 voucher on sign-up
- Free tea or coffee at IKEA stores
- Member-only events such as free home furnishing workshops and previews of new ranges
- Free “Oops-assurance” (cover for damages during delivery or assembly)
- Member-only discounts
- Birthday gifts
- Price protection (partial refunds if a product goes on sale within 90 days of purchase)
- IKEA Family has 170 million worldwide members
- Since the launch of the updated program in 2022, the share of sales from IKEA Family members has increased to 58% of all sales
Rakuten is a Japanese bank and one of the world’s biggest retailers. Rakuten Points makes it to this list because it isn’t quite like other airline or bank points systems. Rakuten uses its omnipresence in Japan to create a loyalty ecosystem where consumers can find everything they need. With 80% of the Japanese population on board, it’s probably the most successful country-based loyalty program on this list.
Like Amazon, Rakuten leverages its ecosystem of brands to create a loyalty program customers can reap benefits from wherever they shop. Points earned while shopping with the Rakuten card can be used to book an appointment at a salon via Rakuten Beauty or order a meal via Rakuten Gurunavi Delivery.
RELATED: A TV Spot Spiked Rakuten France’s Traffic 819% in 2 minutes. Here’s How it Went.
Rakuten Members can spend and earn points in hundreds of ways, including:
- Spending with any of the 49,000 stores on the Rakuten Ichiba platform
- Upload your cooking recipe on Rakuten Recipe
- Spending with any of the hundreds of partner brands across dining, shopping, beauty, living and essential services (e.g., fuel stations, convenience stores, airlines, pharmacy’s, postal office, McDonald’s etc.)
- Engaging with any of Rakuten’s 70+ subsidiary services, for example:
- Make a reservation with Rakuten Travel
- Purchase a plan with Rakuten Energy
- Buy movies with Rakuten TV
- Using points to offset the cost of certain Rakuten subsidiary services, e.g., paying electricity bills, paying mobile plan bills and purchasing entertainment plans
- Using points to offset the cost of partner brands e.g., use points to offset the cost of a McDonald’s meal
- Exchange points with All Nippon Airways (ANA) airlines
Members can also earn and spend points through activities like investing, checking-in to Rakuten partner stores, even collecting parcels from post offices.
- Rakuten has 111.4 million members—80% of the population of Japan!
- Over three trillion points issued
- 500 billion Rakuten Points issued in 11 months
McDonald’s was late to the loyalty program party, launching their MyMcDonald’s Rewards program in mid-2021. Like other food and beverage chains, McDonald’s went for a points-based reward system while mixing in a range of other benefits.
The positioning of McDonald’s loyalty program is pretty simple: get more McDonald’s for less money. For regular McDonald’s consumers, points and free items will rack up quickly (you can get a free cheeseburger with just one $15 spend). And for those who don’t eat at McDonald’s so often, exclusive weekly deals and free birthday gifts serve as a good incentive to give into their cravings.
- Free Big Mac on sign-up
- Exclusive weekly deals
- Free birthday gift
- $1 spent = 100 points earned
- Tier 1: (1500 points)
- Cheeseburger, Hash Brown, Vanilla Cone, McChicken
- Tier 2: (3000 points)
- Medium Fries, 6 Chicken McNugget, Sausage Burrito, Large Iced Coffee
- Tier 3: (4500 points)
- Large Fries, Fillet-O-Fish, Sausage McMuffin with Egg
- Tier 4: (6000 points)
- Big Mac, Happy Meal, Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit, Happy Meal
- MyMcdonald's Rewards has 25 million members in the U.S.
- Customer frequency has grown every quarter since the program was launched
- “About two thirds” of members in the U.S. have engaged in the past 3 months
OnePass in a unique loyalty program in that it’s a collaboration between several major Australian brands. These brands are owned by the same conglomerate, but previously operated entirely independently. With OnePass they’re brought together, giving members benefits across 5 of Australia’s biggest retailers.
Additionally, members can bundle the program with Disney+ for additional discounts and get extra FlyBuys points—a point system like that of major airlines but run through and by Australian supermarkets.
The success of Amazon Prime demonstrates the value of having a loyalty program ecosystem. The more benefits you can offer a customer, the more sticky the program becomes. So as Amazon ventured into the Australian market, Wesfarmers—Australia’s largest retail conglomerate—created OnePass to fight back.
Like Amazon Prime, OnePass is positioned as a way to save time and money. It differentiates itself from Prime, however, by leveraging the massive brick-and-mortar presence of the 5 participating stores, and incentivizing click and collect and in-store shopping.
- Free delivery
- 365 day change of mind returns
- Discounted express delivery
- Access to member-only discounts, exclusive weekly deals, and early access sales
- Discounted pricing on Disney+
- Express click & collect
- 5x Flybuys points when shopping in-store
- OnePass members made double the number of transactions compared to non-members
- OnePass members spend an average of $1,000 online across participating retailers per year
Every one of the loyalty programs on this list has one thing in common: exclusive benefits for members.
While benefits like free shipping and discounts are attractive, they also cost retailers money. That’s why so many brands are turning to experiential-based benefits like early and exclusive access.
After benefits that cost retailers money, these are what customers want most from a loyalty program.
9 out of the 13 brands on this list offer early or exclusive access to product drops and flash sales.
We ran an analysis of Newsweek's top apparel loyalty programs of 2023, and found 91% of them offered early or exclusive access for members.
91% of America's best apparel loyalty programs offer early or exclusive access to sales and new products.
But early access or invite-only sales can be difficult to get right. Often companies will simply email out a link to a private sale page that quickly gets shared around and exploited by bots and resellers.
Loyal customers who follow the link just an hour after it’s sent find products sold out and question just how exclusive their “exclusive access” really is.
To avoid this problem, retailers like Rapha and The North Face use exclusive access solutions like an invite-only waiting room.
With an invite-only waiting room, you can control access to exclusive sales to engage loyal customers, block bots, and incentivize loyalty program sign-ups. You can do this by gating access with unique user identifiers (such as an email address), which can only be used by the email address holder and can only be activated once.
The invite-only waiting room ensures early and exclusive access sales are truly exclusive to only the customers you choose, giving you the control you need to reward your loyal customers with confidence.