Salons stuck in the dark ages of card-based loyalty programs are missing out on opportunities to drive up sales and repeat visits, according to salon marketing specialist Valorie Reavis of Linkup Marketing. Instead they should be looking to digital systems.

"In an increasingly competitive landscape, offering a stamp on a card just isn’t enough," says Reavis. "Salons need to embrace more dynamic means of not only rewarding clients, but of monitoring their buying behavior. Companies that track loyalty are up to 60 percent more profitable than those that don’t, and we know once a guest is loyal, she’ll visit, on average, twice as often and spend four times as much money."

Reavis pointed to the new wave of affordable digital loyalty schemes that do far more than a stamp-collecting card can do. Being digital, they are easier to manage, but, more crucially, they can track clients’ buying behavior.

"Using social and mobile technology will build a radically improved loyalty program," she explained. "Not only will it herald the end of easy-to-lose stamp cards, it will make use of new communication methods such as smart phones and social media. And tracking and rewarding buying patterns will also be so much easier. You can reward referrals, drive engagement of social media platforms and so boost marketing."

Most digital loyalty schemes allow salons to create a tiered program of rewards that is easy to manage, including deals with partner companies or exclusive events. They can also be designed to reward initial behaviour to encourage interest and loyalty, moving on to offering sweeteners for additional purchases, to creating specific rewards for the most loyal, VIP clients.

But Reavis had one final piece of advice. There are many programs now available but salons should avoid choosing one based on cost alone, she warned. The delivery system must reflect whatever platform each salon’s clients prefer, be it social networks or texting, and it must complement its overall marketing strategy.