• The “Pick a Card” marketing strategy is an excellent tool for customer retention. 
  • Cards could be physical or digital, each with its unique benefits. 

The “Pick a Card” marketing strategy uses various tactics to incentivize repeat purchases and boost consumer retention and brand loyalty. A brand allows consumers to pick a card when buying something that could provide them with added benefits, either related or non-related to the product or service.

There are various mechanisms brands can follow to incorporate this strategy into their business modules and campaigns. They can use cards, which could be physical cards like in-store cards for discounts or loyalty cards for some offers, which can be digital cards used on websites, application emails, etc. 

Brands can allow customers to choose a card from a deck, which could be physical or digital, providing similar features as mentioned above and the option of choice. Rewards could include discounts, free products or services, bonus loyalty points, early access to sales, or sweepstake entries.

How Did Hotels.com Successfully Use The “Pick a Card” Marketing Strategy? 

Hotels.com is a website. It’s an online travel agency (OTA) that allows you to book hotel rooms worldwide. The platform leveraged the concepts of the “Pick a Card” marketing strategy for customer retention by creating a fun and engaging booking experience that reconnects past guests with the brand and potentially entices them to book again.

Intelligent Campaign Mechanism

This Hotels.com campaign ran on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc, where users are accustomed to interactive content. Then they focused on card designs that featured various travel themes like beach vacations, mountain gateway, city breaks, etc, or hotel amenities like spas, pools, gyms, rooftop bars, etc. Each card is designed to be visually appealing and pique the user’s interest. 

Upon encountering the advertisements for the cards, users would be promoted to “Pick a Card,” and this selection would then reveal a personalized message based on their choice. It could also provide them with an offer on hotel tariffs or something similar. 

Understanding the Retention Benefits

This interactive element, coupled with the element of surprise, made the campaign engaging, rekindling the users’ interest. Past guests who might have forgotten about their interaction with the brand were reminded of positive experiences, while potential customers were intrigued to find out more about what the platform offers. 

The revealed message could have been tailored to the user’s past booking behaviour. For example, if you previously booked a beach vacation, you might see a message highlighting deals on famous coastal destinations. This personalization makes the users feel valued and increases the likelihood of a successful booking.

Sometimes, these messages showcased exclusive deals or discounts for returning customers, incentivizing them to choose Hotels.com over other competitors for their next trip. Also, marketers could track users’ interactions, gaining valuable insights about travel preferences in the process and allowing them to personalize future marketing efforts. 

Hotels.com gained immensely by incorporating this “Pick a Card” marketing strategy. It increased brand awareness and value, boosted user engagement, and drove repeat bookings on the platform while allowing marketers to gather valuable data for future customer segmentation and targeting. 

What is the “Pick a Card” Marketing Strategy? 

The “Pick a Card” marketing strategy can be a great way for customer retention by offering them a chance to win surprise rewards by selecting a physical or digital card. Experts say it’s a gamification technique that adds an element of fun and intrigue to the retention process.

Mechanisms of “Pick a Card” Marketing Strategy

When using the “Pick a Card” marketing strategy, brands must first understand its mechanics. It’s crucial to realize that cards can be physical or digital, where physical cards could be handed out at stores, loyalty program events, or included in the packaging. In comparison, digital cards can be presented on websites, applications, emails, or social media platforms. 

Customers can also pick a card from a deck, which can be either physical or digital. Each card can unveil pre-assigned awards, which could be the following. 

  • Discounts on future purchases
  • Free product or service
  • Bonus points on the Loyalty program
  • Early access to sales or promotions
  • Entries into sweepstakes for bigger prizes. 

Each of these offerings has to be deeply thought out by marketers before providing to ensure that customers get what they get in the card. This also avoids the possibility of coming out as fraudulent. 

Multiple Benefits for Customer Retention

Repeat purchases are the main factor in a business’s growth; customer retention is directly related to this aspect. Unveiling hidden rewards creates a deep sense of excitement and anticipation among customers. It fosters a more positive brand association by riding on the surprise and delight provided to customers through cards. 

The gamification element is inculcated to encourage customer participation, leading to increased engagement. Rewards tend to incentivize repeat purchases and make customers feel valued. If done digitally, marketers can collect valuable information about customers’ preferences by tracking card selection, which helps in future marketing efforts. 

Things to Consider

Before implementing this strategy, marketers should target the right audience. They could tailor the rewards based on customer segments and understand that high-value customers appreciate exclusive discounts, while new customers would respond well to free trials or gifts. 

They should provide a good mix of rewards to maintain the excitement while allowing the scope of high-value options alongside some common ones. Brands should convey the mechanics of picking a card program and rewards to the customers. Plus, digital cards provide a channel presence when integrated with the website, application, or loyalty program. 

Pros and Cons of “Pick a Card” Marketing Strategy

Like every other marketing strategy, the “Pick a Card” strategy has pros and cons, as discussed below. 


The element of surprise and gamification can potentially create a fun and interactive experience, encourage customer participation, and push them to return for more interactions, potentially increasing customer engagement with the brand.

Receiving a surprise reward, even a small one, can create a positive association with the brand, enhancing customer satisfaction. Rewards tend to incentivize repeat purchases and make customers feel valued, eventually boosting brand loyalty. 

The digital formats allow tracking customer card selections, providing valuable insights into preferences. This data can be used to make informed decisions about future marketing campaigns and personalization strategies. Compared to traditional retention programs, this is relatively inexpensive and can be adapted to different strategies by tailoring rewards and presentation methods. 


If the rewards are underwhelming, the strategy could backfire, creating customer disappointment and damaging the brand’s reputation. Even if this strategy generates initial excitement, it might only be able to foster long-term loyalty with additional efforts to build meaningful relationships.

Large companies can find managing physical cards cumbersome and expensive. The change facilitated by the pick-a-card marketing strategy means that some customers receive less desirable rewards, which could lead to frustration. Overusing gamification tactics can cause a loss of effectiveness over time, and it is tough to maintain freshness and engagement for long. In conclusion, the “Pick a Card” marketing strategy can be a very effective tool for customer retention. A well-designed strategy revolving around tailored rewards, clear communication, and seamless execution is crucial for success. Remember, the key here is to tailor the program to brand objectives, and marketers should continually optimize the strategy based on customer response.