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3 Reasons I’m Not Active In Most Loyalty Programs I Belong To

I belong to 118 loyalty programs.

Am I a glutton for punishment?

No, I didn’t sign up for them all at once. I have belonged to some of those programs for 25 years and others for 25 weeks.

They run the gamut from credit cards, to travel, to restaurant, to grocery, and retail. Most of the programs are free and a few are paid.

I decided to see how many benefits from any of these 118 programs I used in the past 18 months.

This is where I used points, got cash back, received an upgrade or a coupon for percentage off based on shopping history, etc. Basically, anything I view as value.

The grand total? 17.

That’s only 14 percent of the programs I belong to.

Oh, and just to clarify, myself or one of my family members did make a purchase at 109 of the 118 host brands (scary for my wallet!).

So, why did I only take advantage of benefits in 17 programs?

Couldn’t I have leveraged them better? Didn’t I sign up for them for a reason? All good questions with many different answers, but it boils down to three things.

1. Too Old and Difficult to Use

So many brands have had the same program for years.

It’s tired, the benefits have to be searched for and carry many stipulations, and the technology just isn’t there. I don’t have a short attention span and I’m not technically challenged.

I love a good bargain, but I don’t want to get to the checkout to find out in the small print that this deal is only valid on the first Tuesday of a month… Beginning with the letter J… During a Harvest Moon.

Or, that a message “excluding the following 75 brands” is in a type font that needs to be magnified 20 times to read. Or, that I can’t redeem for the following travel dates, which are basically when my kids are on vacation.

I want valuable benefits that are easy to understand. And I want to be able to use them whenever I shop.

2. Benefits are Shallow or Stale

Take the staple birthday coupon of 5 percent, 15 percent, $5, or $10 off.

EVERYONE has this.

I can’t shop at 78 different stores in one day (my credits cards and cardiologist might have a problem with that!).

Thanks for acknowledging my special day, but it would be a greater benefit if you provided this for the 25 other birthdays I need to buy for each year.

Maybe surprise me? Maybe give me a percentage off based on age or tenure?

My point is, most traditional loyalty programs feel similar. Most of the discounts available are easily replicated by any retailer. Give me something deeper than a discount.

3. Communication Breakdown

Know the frequency of your purchase and the tolerance of your customer. I signed up for one program, which is an annual purchase, and for some, maybe semiannual.

I started getting five to eight emails a week from this brand. Hello???

I just blocked you and will never again shop with you. Over communication does not build loyalty.

How Do We Solve These Loyalty Killers?

Value – Deliver benefits that offer everyday savings and have an actual or perceived high value.

Clarity – Messages need to reinforce the brand, be concise, and not have any gray areas.

Simplicity – Jumping through hoops gets exhausting, so leverage technology that all can use and understand.

Timeliness – Use your data to know when someone could be browsing or in a buying mode.

How to Gain Loyalty From People Like Me

If you want consumers like me to build a relationship with you and not just commoditize you, then listen to us.

Loyalty isn’t about being pushy. It’s making the most out of each moment you engage with your customers.

Make yourself stand out, deliver meaningful benefits, and you will gain momentum with your customers.

Tom Baker

Tom Baker has been Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, at Clarus Commerce since late 2015. He has been partnering with retailers for the last 18 years delivering innovative solutions to impact companies' bottom lines. As part of this process, Tom has spent thousands of hours in retail locations and call centers listening, learning and providing advice on how to maximize every customer touch point. He has worked for leading brands creating new consumer engagement strategies, products & services and revenue generation for such companies as Dun & Bradstreet, Oxford Health, GE & Time Inc. His specific areas of focus have been in business development, brand management, direct & digital marketing, new product development and client services. Tom enjoys volleyball and watching his daughters dance. He's a passionate, lifelong fan of the NY Yankees, Giants & St. John's.

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