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Most Consumers Want Premium Loyalty Programs – Why Aren’t Retailers Offering Them?

Premium loyalty programs are becoming best practice for some retailers because they increase engagement with your best customers and build emotional loyalty.

These programs offer instant, 24/7 access to top-tier benefits like free shipping and immediate discounts in exchange for a membership fee.

And 70% of consumers not in a premium loyalty program would join one if their favorite retailer offered one and the benefits were valuable.

So, if consumers want premium loyalty programs, why aren’t retailers offering them?

Retailers Aren’t Aligned With Customer Expectations When it Comes to Loyalty

In last year’s Premium Loyalty Data Study, 60% of respondents said instant benefits would motivate them to join a premium loyalty program.

Conversely, in our 2021 Loyalty Industry Data Study, 22% of retailers currently don’t provide this benefit but would like to in the future, and 12% currently provide this.

And 66% of consumers said free shipping would motivate them to join premium loyalty programs; yet 13% of retailers don’t currently provide this benefit but would like to in the future. Why don’t more want to appeal to something their top customers want – And are willing to pay for?

There is an apparent disconnect between what retailers offer and what consumers really want.

We live in an instant society and consumers expect everything instantly. Most traditional loyalty programs make members wait too long to receive benefits.

One of the enticing factors of a premium loyalty program is it offers instant benefits to members. And that’s one of the main reasons consumers join these programs.

Yet, that disconnect between what retailers offer and consumers want is there to see.

It seems that many retailers aren’t prioritizing many core benefits consumers expect in a premium loyalty program. That disconnect between brands and their customers is the reason for these statistical discrepancies.

Consider that 42% of companies don’t survey their customers or collect feedback. This is alarming, especially because consumers have infinite choices and heightened expectations.

Less than half (49%) of marketing leaders across brands believe they provide an experience completely aligned with their customers’ expectations.

Talk to your customers regularly and listen to them. Use surveys and focus groups and talk to them directly.

That disconnect between retailers and their customers can be erased if you are proactive in how you communicate and listen to them.

Retailers Don’t Know If Customers Will Pay for a Loyalty Program

Although 58% of retailers believe that cost is the main deterrent to consumers joining premium loyalty programs, the reality is 66% of consumers currently belong to one.

And nearly 70% of premium loyalty members planned to join additional programs in 2020.

According to McKinsey, 63% of consumers pay for at least one loyalty program.

It seems apparent that consumers are willing to pay to join premium loyalty programs. And members of these programs have shown to be your most valuable customers.

Consider that 94% of premium loyalty members shop at that program’s retailer at least once a month.

And 88% are likely to choose a retailer whose premium loyalty program they belong to over a competitor offering a lower price. This statistic shows the allure and traction premium loyalty programs hold with their members.

To illustrate the appeal of premium loyalty, 70% of those not in a premium loyalty program would join if their favorite retailer offered one and the benefits were valuable.

Premium loyalty members are brand ambassadors as well. Nearly 90% of premium loyalty members would recommend a retailer to family or friends if the retailer’s premium loyalty program offers valuable benefits.

As these numbers reflect, paying to join a loyalty program is quite common today among consumers.

If the benefits are valuable, your best customers will gladly pay to join a premium loyalty program.

Lack of Budget and Internal Resources Prevent Some Retailers From Launching a Loyalty Program

Although 70% of consumers say they’d join a premium loyalty program if their favorite brand offered one, 57% of retailers cite lack of budget, internal resources, and IT support as the main reasons for not launching loyalty programs.

That makes sense, especially as we emerge from the pandemic and retailers are prioritizing just keeping their business running.

If you need help launching and managing a loyalty program, consider working with a vendor.

Our 2021 Loyalty Industry Data Study shows that 51% of retailers that work with a vendor see ROI within six months.

Updates are crucial to ensuring loyalty programs stay relevant and valuable for their members.

Consider that retailers who work with an experienced partner/vendor proved to be 3.5x more likely to have updated their loyalty programs in the prior month.

Despite this challenge, there is plenty of upside of launching a premium loyalty program for your customers.

According to our 2020 Premium Loyalty Consumer Data Study, 94% of premium loyalty members say they shop at that program’s retailer at least once a month, and 46% of retailers say premium loyalty program members shop with them at least every few days.

Premium loyalty programs have proven to be more profitable.

According to the 2021 Loyalty Industry Data Study, 82% of retailers with a premium loyalty program rate the profitability of their program at an 8 or above (out of 10).

On top of that, more than half (56%) of premium loyalty retailers consider loyalty members to be at least 4x as valuable as regular customers.

What Are You Waiting For?

Consider that 75% of U.S. consumers have changed their shopping behaviors since March 2020.

Your customers have spoken. They want instant benefits, tons of value, and a VIP experience.

Consumers are telling you they want you to offer a premium loyalty program. Listen to them and take your first step toward offering a new premium loyalty program.

If you’d like to talk to someone about launching a premium loyalty program, feel free to contact us here.


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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