Brands that run exclusive members-only loyalty programs are well placed to give their most valuable ambassadors the VIP treatment in return for greater consumer engagement.

There’s an exclusive association that many people feel when they become a member of a club. Being part of a private members’ club or an expensive gym is something to boast about. It’s this cachet that brands are attempting to tap into by creating their own clubs.

Coffee brand Nespresso has 7 million club members worldwide, which it calls a “community of coffee connoisseurs”. Its club has grown by more than 50% since 2001 with ambitious plans for a double- digit increase in membership each year for the foreseeable future.

While the idea of coffee and an exclusive, premium club may not seem automatically linked, Nespresso has made this model work. Once a customer buys a Nespresso-enabled coffee machine, they become an instant club member. Customers then have access to an online ordering system and 24-hour telephone information line and ordering system.

The Nestle-owned brand is able to stay connected to its customers via the phone and internet. Creating a club makes a benefit out of the need to order online or over the phone, as Nespresso has a limited presence on the high street. There are just seven boutique stores in the UK,  mainly concessions in department stores, although there are plans to open a flagship store in central London.

Even without much of a physical presence offline, Nespresso’s membership club allows the brand to have conversations and access to its millions of customers. A 35.5% sales growth in the UK alone in the 12 months to December 2009 suggests that the club strategy is working.

“We see our mission as having a relationship with consumers about coffee,” says Brema Drohan, managing director for Nespresso in the UK and Ireland. This relationship starts as soon as a customer registers on the site or over the phone. To help customers on their journey to become fully-fledged club “connoisseurs”, they receive a “nursing call”  to talk them through the coffee options and are given advice on how to use their machine.

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