Marketing program designed to enhance brand loyalty by cultivating an ongoing relationship between a marketer and his customer.
Loyalty programs are structured marketing efforts that reward, and therefore encourage, loyal buying behavior — behavior which is potentially of benefit to the firm. In marketing generally and in retailing more specifically, a loyalty … see full wiki
Have you noticed how your keychain and wallet have been gradually expanding over the past few years? Do you now have more of those "rewards" cards on your keychain than keys? Are you tired of having to pull out your card just to buy a candy bar at the local drugstore? These days "customer loyalty" programs are all the rage with retailers and service providers of all sizes and descriptions. I don't know about you but I am suffering from "rewards card" fatigue! Recently I did a quick inventory of all of the cards that I am carrying right now. Here is what I found. I have cards for CVS, Borders, True Value, a pair of supermarket chains, Subway, Panera, my car dealer, Staples, the bagel shop and now just this week J.C. Penney. Fortunately for me I do very little travelling or I would possess additional cards for hotel chains, car rental companies and the airlines. It is getting to be a bit much!
Customer loyalty programs are really nothing new. When I was growing up trading stamps were the gimmick retailers used to attract and keep customers. If you are under the age of 45 you are probably unfamiliar with them. The best known of these trading stamps was S & H Green Stamps which were introduced by Sperry & Hutchinson way back in 1896. Customers collected stamps from retailers (double stamps during special promotions) and pasted them into books which were redeemable for merchandise from a catalog. Trading stamps were wildly popular in the 1950's and 1960's and during those halcyon days there were 6 or 7 companies in the stamp business. But times change and by the mid -1970's trading stamps were largely gone with the wind. Customer loyalty programs would make an impressive comeback commencing with American Airlines innovative "AAdvantage" program beginning in 1981. Suddenly "frequent flyer miles" became part of our lingo and over time more and more companies decided to get into the act. It appeared to be a "win/win" situation for everyone involved. Customers seemed to enjoy accumulating points and garnishing rewards while businesses enjoyed increased customer retention, increases in spending per visit and much better tracking of customer habits. I always found it a little bit creepy that retailers were able to track my purchases so thoroughly. Now it seems that just about everyone is trying to get into the act which begs the question: "If everyone is doing it then what is the point?"
History tells us that these so-called "customer loyalty programs" are somewhat cyclical in nature. Somewhere along the line a major retailer will announce a new marketing strategy emphasizing the "lowest prices possible without all of the gimmicks". Others will follow and gradually "rewards" programs will fade away only to return again at some point in the future in yet another format. Personally I cannot wait. I consider myself to be a fairly astute consumer and at the end of the day I am going to patronize companies that offer the lowest prices and best service whether or not they have a "rewards" program. It has actually gotten to the point where I have decided not to do business with some companies simply because I would be required to sign up for yet another card. Let's dispense with all of the nonsense. Just give me your best price and let's do business. Enough is enough!