The UX design of creating point cards

Photo of Lawson by Flickr user Yuya Tamai
Photo of Lawson by Flickr user Yuya Tamai

If you live in Japan and say yes to every offer to create a point card for the restaurant/shop/{whatever}, your wallet will blow up in no time. It also takes a bit of discipline to accumulate enough points to actually make it worth the effort.

I’ve stopped saying yes to offers to create new cards because I usually regret it while filling out the long forms. After all, it’s giving away time and personal information in exchange for points that I will probably not be bothered to redeem.

*Drumroll* I had a new experience today!

I went to the new Lawson in my neighborhood for the third time. The last two times, I just shook my head when they asked if I wanted to make a point card. Convenience store cards are typically tied to credit cards and a bazillion other point systems – just way more complicated than I want to handle for buying the occasional stick of gum. (And the convenience store that I most frequent are the Sunkus and Mini Stop close to the office.)

Today, the lady behind the counter said “We’re passing out free point cards, would you like one?”

So I said yes. I was intrigued. She handed me an electronic card and a pamphlet, and told me that the points from my purchase had already been added to the card. And then…

“Please go online to register your details when you wish to redeem points.”

And if that wasn’t enough, she waved to a row of bottled tea near the entrance and told me to take one.

It was a real world version of

the best UX practices for online account creation.

Lawson card
Lawson card

Don’t ask users to do anything before giving them value. Reward users at each step, even if it’s a little something. Don’t ask for information, just because. Let users start or stop whenever they want. Transaction speed matters.

I’m really curious to know how the experience design of this Lawson card came about – is it just coincidence that elements of UX design for digital products crept into retail experience design (or whatever it’s called)?

Retail experience has traditionally been better cared for since it has an immediate impact on sales, but there’s a lot that both fields can learn from each other. I love noticing these small tweaks just going through daily life, especially as the degree to which offline interactions is interwoven within our work in the digital realm grows in leaps and bounds. It’s all about people doing stuff. Period.