Applying effective surprise and delight tactics to different customer segments

June 17, 2020 | 4 minute read
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co-workers learning about marketing tacticsReceiving an unexpected gift or perk from a business not only has the potential to make a customer’s day, it also has the potential to turn them into a lifelong, loyal, brand advocate.

Customers who have a good experience are not only likely to purchase more, but they usually tell their friends about it too. Therefore, surprise and delight can be an effective strategy to help reinforce your relationship with your customers.

Identifying the right customer segments

It’s important to not blanket your customers with a surprise and delight campaign. Not all customer segments are a good fit for these tactics. Mine your data and note trends to determine which audiences to target. Consider which segments would be most responsive to a campaign, and those who are most valuable to your brand.

Two customer segments make an ideal fit for a surprise and delight campaign. Customers who can be segmented as “Champions” or “Loyals” are already highly engaged and brand loyal. Surprise and delight campaigns work well to reward, retain, and spur advocacy among these two customer groups.

Another group—the “Persuadables” do respond to marketing but require a little more nurturing. Surprise and delight campaigns can be applied to this customer segment to positively influence them to take an action and engage beyond sales and become “Champions.”

Different campaign objectives require different tactics, here’s a guide to delivering the right surprise and delight tactics to each customer segment.

Surprise and delight tactics for Champions

These are your brand advocates. Campaigns targeting this segment would help companies increase spend or champion positive word-of-mouth.

  1. Exclusive rewards. To keep their customers buying their products or services, companies can mine their data to identify which customers are more engaged and reward them accordingly. Sending a surprise gift keeps brands top of mind and recipients active and happy.
  2. Experiential surprises. Every so often brands need to show their most loyal customers how much they appreciate them by offering an experience of luxury or convenience. Surprising your customer with an unexpected exclusive experience creates excitement and prompts them to spread the love for the brand.

  3. Personal gifts. Establish and reaffirm meaningful connections with your brand champions and demonstrate how important they are by surprising them with thoughtful gifts you know they’ll enjoy based on the data you have on them. 

Surprise and delight tactics for persuadables

These customers could be persuaded to develop a stronger connection to the brand. Campaigns targeting this segment need to focus on brand recognition and engagement to increase brand loyalty.

  1. Re-engagement rewards. If a once loyal or active customer goes inactive, incentivize them with a gift or additional points to spark new activity. This unexpected gesture can create a memorable experience and reconnect them to the brand.
  2. Perks that promote brand value. To further engage or reengage with consumers, some companies extend special perks that align with their brand values, e.g., an online fitness company offering free workout tips. This reinforces an emotional connection with the recipients and helps build greater affinity for the brand.

  3. Milestones and birthdays. Use customer data to help build an emotional bond. Surprising customers with a gift to commemorate a special occasion builds better brand association and reminds them that you’re there and that you value them.

By defining surprise and delight objectives and targeting campaigns to the appropriate customer segments, companies have the opportunity to heighten the customer experience and establish stronger brand connections. If executed effectively, to the right audience at the right time, companies can enjoy higher customer satisfaction rates, increased sales, expanded brand recognition, and more customer referrals.

It’s important to also consider that brand loyalty requires constant nurturing to keep customer satisfaction high and that a surprise and delight strategy should be part of an overarching loyalty marketing initiative. And just as the reasons to implement these tactics vary across brands, companies are best served to take a multi-pronged approach to such campaigns. By targeting the right customers at the right time with unexpected surprises, brands can reinforce greater loyalty and drive advocacy.


Every marketer strives to send the right message at the right time and acquire the tools to help them do so effectively. Marketing automation can help. Find out “How to Sell Marketing Automation to Executives.”

Cat Rossi

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