How National Coney Island Doubled Reward Program Registrations

You’ve launched a great loyalty program and your staff members are handing out a lot of activated cards to customers. Why aren’t enough of your customers registering these cards? Until the customers register their loyalty cards by entering their information, you don’t know anything about them and they can’t redeem any rewards. Your program depends on these registrations, but they’re not happening enough. Sounds like a lose-lose, right?

Coney Bucks TMOne restaurant chain figured out how to turn this scenario into a win-win. National Coney Island (NCI) is a quick-service restaurant serving Coney Island-style hot dogs and cuisine to the Metro Detroit area. They realized during the summer of 2014 that only 30% of their Coney BucksTM rewards cards were being registered. That means that a whopping 70% of customers were accepting rewards cards but not registering their account. Because NCI couldn’t get to know those guests or track their information, they weren’t able to give them the most relevant offers possible.

NCI set out to fix this problem, and they came up with a savvy solution: an instant win campaign. This surprise and delight strategy worked magnificently. Guests with activated rewards received vouchers for prizes such as free menu items or event tickets. Once they actually registered their card, the voucher then became a redeemable reward. As a result of this campaign, registrations nearly doubled for the month of July, and that success was sustained over the following three months. That is some serious success. Hear this story straight from Martyna Nowak, Marketing Director at NCI.

Whether your company is a restaurant or retail concept, the approach to increasing reward program registrations is the same. You’re asking something of your customers, and thus you should offer something to them in return. An instant win promotion is an excellent solution mainly for these reasons:


  1. The customer always wins. It doesn’t matter if it’s a free medium drink or two tickets to an NFL playoff game, everyone gets something. This builds trust with your brand.
  2. The anticipation of a surprise is thrilling. Every customer hopes to get the biggest prize, and that hope builds excitement. The customers know they will get something, they just don’t know what.
  3. Non-members are compelled to join. When a customer is in line and overhears the person in front of them suddenly win a prize, they’ll think to themselves “Hey, what about me?”

When customers trust your brand, are excited, and know they will be rewarded, it’s a no brainer that they’ll register their rewards card. National Coney Island’s story is just proof of this logic. They’ll also spend more –  check out this quick-service chain’s 21% lift in spend!)  If you choose to run an instant-win campaign to increase loyalty card registrations, consider these tips:

  1. Train your staff. Staff buy-in is the key to any program’s success. If servers and cashiers aren’t enthusiastic about the campaign, it’s unlikely they’ll get anyone else to be excited about it.
  2. Strategize in-store signage. Place visuals at strategic points within your locations to show off the possible prizes and explain how the promotion works.
  3. Use social media. Use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more to promote the campaign. An especially savvy strategy is to ask for user-generated content where customers show off their prizes. Creating an Instagram photo contest is a great way to do this.
  4. Make it easy to register. Customers are more likely to register their rewards card if there are many ways to do so (such as online, in-app, in person, or over the phone) and if the process itself is simple. Ask only for the information that is most helpful to your loyalty program.

Running an instant win promotion to increase your loyalty card registrations is an excellent strategy, but it’s not the only one. A convenience store, for example, could run a charitable promotion to increase registrations where every time someone registers their rewards card, the brand donates a mini toiletries kit to a local homeless shelter. What has your company done to increase reward program registrations? What promotion ideas do you have? Share your thoughts in a comment below!

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