Dennis Armbruster
Editor-At-Large, COLLOQUY

Loyalty members today have more control, influence, and choice than any generation before them. Yet thanks to competition, and ease of enrollment, I bet few reward members know how many programs they are in. Many members, based on our own research, are unsure of the value of their rewards or what they are actually earning.

This means this is the best of times for new strategies in loyalty, and there are many. From activity-based recognition to more personalized recognition, here are four trends in loyalty geared toward satisfying today’s consumer preferences.

Rewarding for more than the “transaction”

Consumers are finding more ways to earn points for activities that do not directly involve purchases such as exercise, recycling, and even hygiene. The Beam Brush, a toothbrush that syncs with a smartphone, rewards users who meet pre-set Beam Goals with video games, movie tickets, and special deals on merchandise. Similarly, fitness devices such as FitBit and Jawbone’s UP band measure a wide range of physical activities, so as a user moves, he or she can track progress and share results on social media.

“Loyalty marketers will continue to tweak their programs, relying on consumer preferences as their leads.”

Frequent flyer redefined 

Thanks to major changes by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines in how they evaluate frequent flyer rewards, many travelers are likely re-evaluating their loyalty memberships. Further, Air Canada in March changed how its Altitude members can share upgrade privileges. Competing airlines are responding with expanded reward offerings, earnings opportunities and special offers, so consumers should carefully review the perks other programs might offer. 

Rewards for your entire banking experience

Banks are finally getting the big picture, with many trying to build relationships that extend beyond single product lines. Members of Citi’s ThankYou program, for example, can earn rewards across all bank services, from personal and corporate credit card purchases to checking accounts. Further, ThankYou members can combine points into one ThankYou account and redeem them for travel, merchandise, and gift cards. SunTrust, likewise, lets its loyalty members combine “SunPoints” from their personal, corporate, or executive accounts.

Loyalty programs evolving into customer strategies

Organizations understand that authentic customer engagement requires more than promotions, coupons, or reward points, so they are turning to brand experiences to deliver enhanced value. Expect more customer events, community functions, and personalized gestures of thanks. For example, Canadian Tire CEO Stephen Wetmore recently talked about using loyalty program information so its managers can identify and thank best customers when they enter the store. Nordstrom, which plans to enter Calgary later in 2014, offers its loyalty members a number of private shopping parties each year. 

Loyalty marketers will continue to tweak their programs, relying on consumer preferences as their leads. But they do not have to do so in a vacuum. The more involved shoppers are in providing feedback, the more likely rewards programs will, to borrow from another epoch line, enter an age of wisdom.