Case in point: a recent COLLOQUY survey showed that 90 percent of Canadians belong to at least one loyalty program, compared to just 74 percent of consumers in the United States.

Interestingly enough, the same research revealed that the total number of loyalty program memberships held by Canadians declined in the past two years from 120.7 million to 119.9 million. The drop off, while slight, broke a streak of steady increases.

A recent COLLOQUY survey showed that 90 percent of Canadians belong to at least one loyalty program, compared to just 74 percent of consumers in the United States.

The abundance of rewards programs combined with the high loyalty IQ of consumers, it seems, is making Canadians somewhat fussy about which programs they join.

To aid in the selection process and increase prospects that Canadians will maximize their return on a decision to get involved with a favorite brand, we sat down with COLLOQUY Research Director, Jeff Berry.  Berry talked about finding the program that attracts and engages the cultivated Canadian consumer.

Mediaplanet: What’s the single best piece of advice you can give to the loyalty consumer seeking to be surprised and delighted?

Jeff Berry: As in many aspects of life, the best advice is simple. Consumers should look beyond programs that merely offer short-term rewards, such as discounts. In this case, Canadians aren’t very different from Americans or Brits or Brazilians. Our research shows that loyalty programs across the globe suffer from a degree of sameness. In offering discounts and the deal of the moment, they actually foster the exact opposite of loyalty.

As a consumer, you don’t have to settle for the "same old, same old."  Expect to be wowed! Look for a program that provides meaningful rewards with a reasonable time to redeem, a program that recognizes best customers by featuring experiential and aspirational rewards, such as back-stage passes or a dream trip to Hawaii.

Keep in mind two more "wow factor" fundamentals: Programs that are truly designed to engage the customer will feature highly personalized communications and they’ll provide members with opportunities to interact in multiple ways and at multiple stages of their relationships with the brands.

"As a consumer, you don’t have to settle for the "same old, same old."  Expect to be wowed!"

MP: Do consumers need to be “big data” experts to participate successfully in a loyalty program? What do they need to know?

JB: Here’s a valuable research insight from LoyaltyOne’s privacy research. Consumers in 2013 reported significantly lower expectations around the benefits of sharing their personal data compared to previous years. But you can restore your faith by selecting loyalty programs that collect only the amount of personal information and type of data they need to serve you effectively.

You can be confident your favorite loyalty program is effectively using your personal data if the information is used to improve customer service, make your buying process easier, deliver communications based on your preferences and provide offers based on what you buy. You also should receive preferential treatment and access to exclusive offers and events.

In return for the personal information you exchange, you should expect no less than the delivery of relevant offers at precisely the right moments.

"As a smart, savvy shopper, you should embrace the opportunity to capitalize on personalized prices that satisfy your specific needs and save your family money."

MP: What’s on the horizon for loyalty program participants? What’s new and exciting?

JB: In a word — technology. Technology reminds us that it’s nearly 2014, not 2004 or 1994. Retailers in 2014 can leverage their loyalty programs by sending individualized prices in the form of electronic coupons to individual customers via email, or by asking customers to sign in to an account on the retailer’s website. Customers can load coupons onto their loyalty cards for redemption at the register.

Further, by incorporating mobile or smartphone technology, retailers can leverage loyalty programs to send electronic coupons via text message or apps to a customer’s mobile phone — enabling redemption by scanning barcodes or QR codes at the register.

Retail marketers, of course, must be careful that differential pricing isn’t seen as price gouging by some customers. But as a smart, savvy shopper, you should embrace the opportunity to capitalize on personalized prices that satisfy your specific needs and save your family money.

editorial@mediaplanet.com