Last year was one that many Canadian loyalty program operators and members would probably like to forget. It seemed the industry was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. In some ways, 2016 was a wake-up call and a reminder of how important engagement is to the health of any loyalty program.

And by engagement, I don’t mean occasionally whipping out your card to collect the odd point here and there. I mean the type of engagement that allows you to confidently declare your point balance at any given time. The RBC Rewards app for example shows you from the palm of your hand your current and pending points and allows you to check points balances, earn points, redeem – anytime, anywhere. Or that allows you to take advantage of some of the massive bonus deals that only the so-called insiders seem to access. I’m talking about the kind of engagement that puts a permanent grin on your face knowing that you’ve somehow beat the system and are getting something meaningful for free.

For program operators, it’s the type of engagement that allows the brands that support these programs to design and deliver highly relevant offers in return for your loyalty and purchase behaviour insight.

It’s also the type of concept that works on the simple premise that the more you give (spend), the more you get (rewards).

Most airlines have now shifted away from rewarding the distance you travel, and have moved to a spend to earn program model. The same is true for the hotel industry and we can expect other reward program operators looking to simplify their offering to follow suit. Petro-Points is a great example of a program that has simplified its program to better suit consumers’ needs.

Another trend anchored on the philosophy of engagement is the rise of experiences. Increasingly, active and engaged collectors are gaining access to one-of-a-kind events and VIP treatment. Access to experiences are exactly what’s needed. Are you an RBC Rewards points collector with an Avion card? Chances are you’ve been targeted for a special promotion or VIP event. Ultimately, rewarding customer loyalty should be about making your best customers feel special.

Want more out of your loyalty program? Consider these five tips to stay engaged:

Set a reward goal and stick to it.

It’s incredible what happens when you take the time to set a reward goal. For example, if you want to cut your annual vacation costs in half using reward points, look for a program that offers the most flexibility and allows you to apply points to any travel expense.

Sign up for program alerts.

Or follow industry experts who report on bonus offers and industry alerts such as The Points Guy or RewardsCanada.ca.

Check your account balance frequently.

Keep track of how much you’re earning and make sure there aren’t any discrepancies or unusual behaviour on your account. RBC has an app for their rewards program that does a great job with this.

Get rid of the dead weight.

You need to clean out your closet occasionally, and the same holds true for your wallet. Too many cards means you’re spreading your attention too thin. Identify the program that’s most likely to reward you in a way you truly care about and stick with it.

Set alerts.

Some of the most dedicated collectors have spreadsheets that allow them to track and calculate the dollar value of an offer. While you don’t need to go this far, simply setting up a few calendar check-in dates can go a long way to staying on top of your game and realizing your reward goal.