Skip to content

Podcast Recap: How to Acquire and Retain Premium Loyalty Members (and What Makes Them So Valuable)

If you’re a brand, chances are, you’re discussing premium loyalty – where customers pay for enhanced, instant benefits and VIP experiences. 

Amazon started this trend with Prime back in 2005 but many other retailers have gotten on board with their own programs. 

  • Why is there a rising trend toward premium loyalty programs? 
  • Why are premium loyalty members so valuable to retailers? 
  • How does combining a free program with a premium tier present your customers with the best options? 

The answers to these questions and more can be found in a recent Total Retail Tech Insights podcast featuring Carlos Dunlap-Beard, VP of Business Development and Loyalty Strategy, ebbo; and hosted by Joe Keenan, editor-in-chief of Total Retail. 

Listen to the second episode in this four-part series here: How to Acquire and Retain Premium Loyalty Members (and What Makes Them So Valuable) [Podcast]

But in case you don’t get a chance to listen, here are the five biggest takeaways from the episode.  

There is a Rising Trend Toward Brands Launching Premium Loyalty Programs 

Consider nearly two-thirds of consumers say their loyalty is more difficult for retailers to maintain than ever before.  

This speaks to consumer behavioral change, infinite choices and the collective desire for value in a loyalty program. 

There are many brands with existing premium loyalty programs like REI, Barnes & Noble, GameStop and others, like Walmart, which opened many industry eyes when it launched Walmart+ in September 2020. 

Still, others have current pilot premium loyalty programs like Urban Outfitterslululemon, and Best Buy. These programs and others illustrate this is a rising trend, not just a fad. 

These brands have passionate customers and company officials realized their respective customers are willing to pay for a better experience. And they receive enhanced customer experiences as members of a premium loyalty program. 

A premium loyalty program increases your incremental spend, frequency, and average order value. Your premium program also helps you fund benefits, which relieves pressure from a budgetary perspective. 

Premium Loyalty Members Are So Valuable to Retailers 

Premium loyalty members are a brand’s best customers who have the most passion and engage the most. 

Those reasons alone show how valuable they are to a retailer. 

Once customers see the value in your program and enroll in it, they have already done the math. They don’t enroll in your premium loyalty program to be a casual shopper. They enroll because they are all-in, completely engaged, and a brand advocate. 

Premium loyalty program members represent the top 5%-20% of your customers. As your best customers, they also carry high expectations from your program. 

That’s where optimization plays a crucial role.  

If you consistently offer great value in your program, members will be retained for the long run. 

According to our 2021 Loyalty Industry Data Study, 51% of respondents with premium loyalty programs consider program members to be at least 4x as valuable as non-members. 

Combining a Free Loyalty Program and a Premium Tier Lets Consumers Create Their Desired Brand Relationship 

Free programs are quite valuable, especially in terms of their ability to collect data on a massive scale across a customer base.  

And it begins to nurture a relationship with consumers. 

Adding a premium tier to your free loyalty program gives your customers options. The beauty of a premium tier on top of an existing free program is it allows your customers to choose the type of relationship they want to have with your brand. 

If members in a free program want a better experience, then a premium tier would be for them. 

With a premium on convenience today, consumers want to pay for what they want, when they want it. 

A free program with a premium tier encompasses all members in your loyalty ecosystem. 

Offering a free program and a premium tier keeps all members happy. 

Free programs are great for acquisition and collecting first-party data and, from a loyalty perspective, serve as a springboard to your premium tier offering.   

When you offer both loyalty options for your customers, you’re covering all bases as far as expectations and creating options for your best customers.   

Existing Loyalty Members Would Join a Premium Program If Their Favorite Brand Offered One 

If you offer a free loyalty program and a premium tier, you’re in luck. 

Just consider the stats. 

According to our 2021 Premium Loyalty Data Study, 81% of respondents (up from 70% last year) said they would join a premium loyalty program if their favorite retailer offered one and the benefits were valuable. 

Consumers desire choices and demand value. 

Your best, most engaged customers will rise to the top and live in your premium loyalty program. 

Free, traditional loyalty programs offer significant value, and adding a premium tier to those gives your customers options.  

If consumers would join a premium program if you offered one, and so would many existing members of your free program, what are you waiting for? 

Optimization is Critical to Ensure Great Value in Your Premium Loyalty Program 

We’ve all heard about the “set it and forget it”-type of loyalty program. 

The opposite is true for premium loyalty programs. 

Optimization is an ongoing theme and strategy for your program after it launches. 

This process allows brands to regularly evaluate, refresh, and optimize their premium loyalty programs to keep providing great value. By doing that, brands retain members through the program value offered, with little attrition.  

Brands must give customers a reason to engage. 

Research shows that getting loyalty program members active within the first 60-90 days of joining goes a long way toward retention. 

Since consumers want things when they want them, and join loyalty programs when they join them, you can be sure they’ll be engaged in your program if it gives them apparent value. 

And the more active and engaged members are, the more information you receive about them that can be used to personalize future offers. 

Engaged program members talk to family and friends about your program, consume brand content, attend in-store events and provide product and service reviews. 

These activities benefit the brand and the member and deepen this all-important two-way relationship. 

Give Value in Your Premium Loyalty Program and Receive Undeniable Loyalty   

Consumers want things now because we live in an instant society. 

They want convenience and don’t want to wait for loyalty program rewards. 

Show off the best of your brand in a premium loyalty program and you will acquire and retain members. 

Major retailers have influenced the movement toward premium loyalty. In fact, 90% of retailers say the launch of Walmart+ influenced their decision to consider a premium loyalty program by the end of 2021. 

When you join a premium loyalty program, you’re on board immediately. 

Give your customers value in your premium loyalty program and you will receive their undeniable loyalty.  

Check out the previous podcast recap in the series: What is Premium Loyalty and Why You Should Consider Launching Your Own Program

Check out the next podcast recap in the series: Lessons You Can Learn from the Best Premium Loyalty Programs in Retail



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.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Thank you for subscribing!

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.

Related Posts


6 Benefits of Adding a Free Tier to Your Paid Loyalty Program + 6 Strategies for Success 

Read now

Industry Trends

Top 5 Takeaways from Shoptalk 2024 

Read now


The Ultimate Guide to Subscription Loyalty

Read now

Premium Loyalty

Things to Consider Before You Price Your Subscription Loyalty Program

Read now

Premium Loyalty

How to Mitigate Your Loyalty Program Costs By Adding a Subscription

Read now

Be the brand people love