Loyalty trends and best practices

Loyalty Makeover: Staples Rewards

by Zach Woith
February 25, 2014
Loyalty Makeover: Staples Rewards


In this installment of Loyalty Makeover, we look at the loyalty program at Staples, the $24 billion office supply retailer with more than 2,000 stores and over $10 billion in online sales. Loyalty Makeover offers suggestions to retail brands for making the most of their loyalty initiatives. 

What Staples Rewards looks like today

The core value proposition of Staples Rewards is 5% back on purchases. Customers receive the 5% reward once they hit a minimum quarterly spending threshold; if they fail to hit the quarterly threshold, they stop receiving the reward. Other notable elements of the program include 3 status tiers, free shipping (with no minimum), exclusive offers, and benefits tied to the ink category, which has elevated significance to both Staples and its customers.

First impressions

In its most recent earnings call (on Q3 2013 results), Staples said its revenues and margins had dipped slightly (2% and 0.5%, respectively) versus the previous year. However, Staples also announced an investment in personalization through its acquisition of Silicon Valley-based Runa (now a Staples Lab). The combination of personalization and loyalty could create a powerful weapon in Staples' war against Amazon and others as it strives to regain sales and profit momentum.

Makeover ideas:

  1. Deploy personalized loyalty offers to expand share of wallet: Staples recently launched a new tagline, “Make More Happen," signaling its desire to expand beyond core office supplies. Yet the 5% rebate across the board means that many customers are purchasing the same (office) products, over and over, at a discount. To drive revenue over a broader assortment of products, Staples could offer higher rewards on target product categories (not just ink), thereby encouraging trial. These offers could be personalized based on individual account activity, demographics, and other relevant data.

  2. Leverage Staples Rewards to boost omnichannel engagement: While Staples offers some reward (free shipping with no minimum) to spur online purchases and provides recycling discounts to drive store traffic, Staples could incentivize loyalty program members to download the Staples mobile app, offering a bonus for first in-app purchase. Staples could do the same for purchases at in-store kiosks.

  3. Use loyalty to get customers engaged before — and between — purchases: Staples has a huge, untapped opportunity to use loyalty to acquire customers and keep them engaged between purchases, leading to reduced churn and, ultimately, higher purchase frequency. For example, Staples could use rewards to show appreciation to customers who submit product reviews, making them eligible for a giveaway. Retailers from Best Buy and JC Penney to Gilt and Kate Somerville are rewarding non-purchase activities, and this trend is only getting stronger.

Questions? Or is there a loyalty program you'd like to see featured in Loyalty Makeover? Send me a note at

Zach Woith is Director of Loyalty Strategy at 500friends, which offers a complete SaaS loyalty solution for today's CMO. 


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