Retail loyalty programs are some of the most abundant in the marketplace today. As a result, consumers can now expect most of their favorite brands to offer incremental benefits for loyalty. To the consumer, this sounds great, right? However, what we see is most retailer loyalty programs look nearly identical. In a world where loyalty programs have become “expected,” how do businesses stand out from the competition?
Aimia set out to uncover industry-specific and regional trends (across the US, UK, Australia, APAC and Dubai) to answer this very question.
Within the retail industry, loyalty programs commonly feature:
- A flat value exchange
- Standard benefits that give exclusive access to sales, birthday rewards, VIP packaging for online orders and VIP service support
- Very little tiering
Within the US, UK and Australia, most retail loyalty programs have a similar looking landscape. The typical structure requires customers to spend in-store or online to earn points, which can then be used for store discounts. Many of these retailers offer co-branded credit cards for accelerated earn. Select retailers also link partner businesses to deliver incremental earn-and-burn opportunities (i.e. multi-brand retailer coalition or retailer-to-brand loyalty partnership).
In the APAC region, larger chains or franchises offer points for spend, which can then be used for richer store discounts, while smaller businesses offer general CRM discount programs. Within region, some retailers also participate in broader coalition programs to support marketing costs. Today, these retailers are beginning to feel the pressure for greater control of their marketing effort and customer data to drive brand personalization and improve customer loyalty.
Dubai is slightly unique in that, while the focus is still on earn and redeem, most loyalty programs are app-based. As malls become experiential destinations for Middle Eastern shoppers, this region also sees opportunities for programs across mall retailers that will have a high potential to influence customer behaviors while shopping.
Based on the market analysis, most retail loyalty programs across the globe are similarly structured. They are “spend-and-get” discount programs that lack differentiators that drive emotional loyalty, such as customer experience, personalization and a long-term benefits.
Emotional Consumer Loyalty Research
Aimia’s recent emotional loyalty study reviews these loyalty trends to uncover what engages consumers (rational) and what consumers expect (emotional) from loyalty programs. Looking at the consumer needs and wants helps to uncover opportunities for program improvement and areas where brands can truly differentiate.
According to the study, US, UK and AUS consumers like the idea of Preferred Treatment in retail loyalty programs, yet they are rationally driven by the easy-to-get discount model. This is seen in the high percentage of ideal retail loyalty still driven by Rewards: 34% in the US, 31% in the UK and 31% in Australia. Dubai and APAC both saw the largest rational drivers to loyalty coming from Customer Data & Service.
Emotionally, however, this changes. Only the US and UK had high emotional expectations for Rewards from a program (+43% and +25%, respectively). Australia and Dubai both had high emotional expectations for Customer Data & Service (+43% and +53%, respectively). APAC was the lone region with highest expectations in Preferred Treatment (+50%).
Find Your Distinction
Retail loyalty programs globally should capture customer expectations for valuable Rewards and Preferred Treatment – this can be through a seamless program construct that gives customers control by allowing more options for earn, benefits and rewards. Often, tiering helps to capitalize on basic motivations for status and preferred treatment and incentivizes profitable behavior. Underlying all of this should be the demonstration and transparency of data collection and security, as seen in Apple’s latest privacy campaign.
Customer centricity is key to differentiation among a crowded loyalty landscape. Aimia uses its proprietary SmartJourney® methodology, taking a holistic and personalized customer-centric approach, where each brand interaction is designed to create a meaningful moment and ultimately drive emotional advocacy and long-term customer growth.
The data in this article is derived from Aimia’s emotional loyalty market research report, “Global Emotional Loyalty by Vertical.” For a full version of the study, please visit [this link].
Analysis of Retail Drivers
|US||Rewards (34%)||Rewards (+43% over mean)|
|UK||Rewards (31%)||Rewards (+25% over mean)|
|AUS||Rewards (31%)||Customer Data & Service (+43% over mean)|
|Dubai||Customer Data & Service (32%)||Customer Data & Service (+53% over mean)|
|APAC||Customer Data & Service (35%)||
Preferred Treatment (+50% over mean)
Ease & Participation: Ease of use in joining and participating in the program, and processes within the program such as gamification and recognition
Customer Data & Service: How much data is exchanged for program benefits and data security; general care for the customer