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How to Build a Real Loyalty Program (not a rewards program)

Loyalty programs and reward programs are not the same thing.

A lot of brands have reward programs. Customers are rewarded with discounts or samples for their past purchases. It’s transactional. It rewards purchases.

A loyalty program, on the other hand, is a curated experience designed to make your top customers feel special and cared for. It’s relational and emotional. It rewards loyalty.

When Kith unveiled its loyalty program, it received a resounding “So Good” from both marketers and customers.

It got me digging deeper. What makes their loyalty program so loved?

Incentive Sign-Ups: Exclusive Rewards For Every Customer From Day 1

We all know customers hate creating accounts, let alone downloading an app and creating an account, which is how you sign up for Kith’s loyalty program.

So the Kith team designed a way that makes everyone want to join.

For existing customers, they don’t have to start from 0!

They will be rewarded for their historical purchases, as long as it’s associated with their email address.

And it created a viral moment of customers flexing their points across social media - bringing more eyes to the program.

As for new customers, even if you have 0 points, you can access an exclusive capsule designed for your tier.

They are made to order, solely for loyalty members, and never sold to any customers outside the program.

For Kith customers who are into collecting limited-edition items, these are much more special rewards than discount offers.

Nurture Loyalty: Extra Points for Different Brand Experiences

What sets Kith's loyalty program apart? It’s a reward system.

Members can accumulate extra points by engaging in activities such as opening the app 7 days in a row, placing early access orders, participating in the online drawing feature, and shopping in stores.

This approach is intentionally designed to guide customers through the diverse shopping experiences Kith offers.

Kith's loyalty program has a never-expiring points system.

They value long-term relationships over short-term transactions: you won't find a Kith loyalist penalized for inactivity.

Retain Loyalty: Turn Tier Membership Into a Status Symbol

Kith transforms loyalty into status.

In the sneaker and hype release world, where acquiring limited editions typically requires luck or wealth, Kith's approach offers a unique alternative: access through loyalty.

Moving up the tiers isn't just about buying more; it's about joining exclusive community events, unlocking new designs, and having early access to launches.

The program turns Kith into a status symbol, where a piece from an exclusive capsule collection signals membership to an elite group.

Make it work for you: Test and get to know your audience.

Kith's Head of E-commerce, Andy Oliver, revealed that their loyalty program took years to prep and launch.

It’s partly due to the custom app build.

But another crucial aspect was extensive testing to discover the rewards that truly resonate with their audience.

Over recent years, Kith has conducted various small-scale loyalty offers aimed at their VIP customers.

These included exclusive access to products unavailable to the general market and early access to coveted limited-edition items—which now form the core of their loyalty program.

To launch your successful loyalty program, test the rewards that genuinely appeal to your audience before full implementation.

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