The average consumer is said to hold 10 loyalty and rewards cards in their wallet.  And yet, despite having so many options to rack up bonuses, consumers only actively use about four or five cards. As a result, top brands are constantly exploring relevant and exciting avenues to connect with consumers so they can reward them in just the right way.

Being loyal has rewards

Michael Poyser, Vice President of analytics with Aimia, which manages loyalty rewards programs throughout the world, says it’s all about building a one-on-one experience between the customer and the retailer. It’s a model that dates back to the start of the century, when a store manager knew customers’ names, their favourite products, and how to reward them as a thank you for their loyalty.

That’s why gathering data on customers through rewards programs is important to building better bonds.

“The data is able to get you back to being a small retailer and making business personal for the client,” he says.

Examples of this include a grocery store inviting loyal customers to private, in-store events, or discounting products that they’re known to buy.

“Not only are you getting money off for being part of the loyalty program, we’re also saying, ‘If you give us data, we can give you offers on your shopping,’” Poyser says. “We’re rewarding your behaviour.”

Finding ways to engageand connect

Chris Willoughby, General Manager of Brand and Member Marketing with Aeroplan, says that loyalty is about being relevant and engaging your audience — knowing them as well as you can. The easiest way to do this is by embracing technology as a driver.

“It’s less about the technology and more about how you’re using it to engage and connect with your customers,” he says. “Things like mobile tools are becoming increasingly important to reach members and find different ways to engage them in channels that we know they’re very active with and using significantly.”

Steve Tyers, Vice President of Card Product Management with CIBC, says a compelling way to connect and engage with customers is to provide them with a unique — and handy — experience when using the product. An example of this includes partnering up on a card with another brand, where clients can earn rewards for their everyday spending on their credit card. Then they can instantly redeem those rewards at the touch of a button when shopping at the partnered brand.

“It’s a great example of delivering a new rewards option to clients through an innovative credit card design,” he says.

Get rewards in real time

Stephen Scott, Senior Manager with Loyalty Innovation Strategy at RBC Rewards, says the future of rewards programs will also be about immediacy — getting your rewards in real time.

“There’s a trend to more instant redemption,” he says. “We’re seeing a shift in rewarding people in the moment. People are time stretched and want [their rewards] now.  The whole industry is moving towards much more instant gratification and rewards.”

With the constantly changing market of rewards program, it’s a certain thing that the top brands will continue to cater closely to their customers, by exploring ways to keep them engaged.

“There’s still a lot of innovation to be had around how to make experiences even more seamless, more real-time, more rewarding, more engaging and frankly, more fun,” says Willoughby.