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How 3 Big Brands are Thinking About Loyalty Differently in 2020

Last year we saw many retailers focus on revamping or reinventing their loyalty programs.

This trend has continued into early 2020 with several top companies like Panera, Walmart, and Publix.

They are in very different verticals but continue to make a big splash with new (or improved) loyalty solutions.

While the categories of business and the program benefits vary greatly, the fact that all focus on a combination of instant rewards, removing consumer pain points, improving the customer experience and delivering savings, makes me believe these retailers will find success.

Here’s what they’re doing.



MyPanera + Coffee: Members pay $8.99/month for unlimited hot coffee, iced coffee, and hot tea of any size.

For the consumer, this is the equivalent of four cups a month or visiting Panera once a week for your Joe…anything beyond that and you’re saving money!

For Panera, this subscription is on a traditionally high margin product. The expectation is while it may eat into some of the previous profit on the subscription/coffee, these members will increase their monthly visits to Panera and make additional purchases they might not otherwise have made.

Like many subscription programs, it may serve as a leader to increase shopping frequency, spend, and customer engagement with their best customers.



Viewed as a direct response to Amazon Prime, and member benefits within the program like Prime Pantry, Amazon Fresh and the link now with Whole Foods, the soon-to-be-released Walmart + is focused on its grocery delivery service.

While it remains to be seen what the premium loyalty solution will cost for consumers and what the full suite of benefits within the program will look like, many believe that it will build upon Walmart’s Delivery Unlimited program ($98 year or $12.95 month).

It will be interesting to see what the overall membership benefits are for consumers, as it will be difficult to match the depth of Prime benefits, however, Walmart is well-positioned to compete on delivery speed based on its broad brick-and-mortar footprint.  What else Walmart can bring to the table with unique and immediate rewards for consumers will ultimately determine if the program will take off with its best customers.

The most important thing for Walmart+ is it must be different than Prime for people to sign up for both. Some of the rumored benefits seem to be built around gas and pharmacy, which would certainly be different from Prime’s offerings and would offer a significant value proposition for an extremely broad group of consumers.



The Publix supermarket chain, which has more than 1,200 locations in the Southeast, has long been recognized as a leader in its industry, both with its superior customer experience and as a top employer.

With its recent launch of Club Publix, a personalized loyalty program, Publix has focused on providing both high-level rewards and improved convenience for its customers.

Club Publix is free to join for consumers and digitally based. Loyalty members receive exclusive and personalized benefits, curated content, and a sneak peek at sales. Additionally, a simple scan of your Publix app at registers to pay and receive an e-Receipt will speed up the checkout process.

With the wealth of data that grocers have at their disposal, including frequency of shopping, spend, product preferences, etc., the opportunity to customize offers and messaging will allow Publix to create a more personalized experience. Ultimately, this positions them well to increase both frequency and spend from its loyal customers and even gain critical incremental visits from those occasional shoppers to drive up Publix market share.


These Retailers Will See Increased Brand Engagement

Time will tell how these new and unique loyalty programs from Panera, Walmart, and Publix fare.

But given the valuable instant rewards and benefits, removing barriers that could prevent completing transactions, improved and personalized customer experiences and delivering savings back to the customer, I expect these retailers will see a lift in purchase frequency, spend, and brand engagement from its members.

It’s precisely loyalty programs like these that create stronger emotional bonds with customers and serve as key differentiators among the competition.

What are the most important things you look for in a loyalty program that drive you to shop more often, spend more and have higher brand affinity?

What are your favorite loyalty programs and what makes you love them?


ebbo helps brands achieve their customer loyalty goals with full-service, end-to-end solutions and also creates original educational content straight from the experts to help loyalty marketers stay on the cutting edge of customer engagement.

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ebbo™ is an all-in-one loyalty company. With our data driven strategy, full-service approach, and the unwavering support of the people behind the platform, our dedicated team will work with you to understand your loyalty goals, innovate solutions and help you build customer engagement on repeat.

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