The Latest Loyalty Program Trends: What to Watch

January 18, 2024
8
minutes
loyalty program trends

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Volatility, high inflation, rising interest rates, and geopolitical tensions define today's macroeconomic environment. The challenges for businesses are magnified. This is particularly evident in the online shopping sector, where booming demand is met with fierce competition, making customer retention difficult. Given the increased competition and evolving customer expectations, customer loyalty programs have never been more important. Yet, too many brands rely on customer loyalty programs that are outdated. By staying up-to-date with loyalty program trends, you can anticipate changes and take proactive steps to adapt to them.

In this blog, we will delve into the most current and innovative trends in customer loyalty programs. 

4 Loyalty Program Trends to Know in 2024

Building customer loyalty is not only crucial but also cost-effective for any business. Implementing loyalty programs, for example, can significantly impact customer retention, which is notably cheaper than customer acquisition. Effective customer retention translates into higher revenue in the long term, thanks to continued purchases. With loyalty programs, you can increase customer engagement and cultivate long-term relationships. However, it’s crucial to recognize that not all of them are created equal, and customers’ wants and needs are always changing. Similarly, loyalty program trends are continually evolving. 

Here are the four latest loyalty program trends to boost your loyalty strategy:

01. Loyalty Partnerships

Loyalty program partnerships are like a scene from a James Franco movie – “same- same, but different.” At first glance, these partnerships may seem similar, but each partnership brings its unique flavor to the table. While they aren't new, they continue to be influential and relevant. 

We have already mentioned the importance of building customer loyalty. Loyalty partnerships offer brands fresh avenues to strengthen these bonds. By joining forces, companies can create a unique loyalty program that enhances the offerings for both brands' customers. This approach not only boosts brand visibility but also extends reach to a wider audience. Moreover, strategic loyalty partnerships bring an element of excitement and novelty to loyalty programs, making them more appealing. 

When it comes to customer loyalty programs, Starbucks Rewards stands out as a leading example. The Starbucks app is an outstanding loyalty program that not only exceeds customer expectations through its personalization and gamification features, but also meets them with its user-friendly design, special events, prizes, and more. 

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For example, Starbucks and Delta announced their loyalty partnership in the autumn of 2022. Through this collaboration, members of Delta SkyMiles and Starbucks Rewards can connect their accounts to accrue one mile for every $1 spent at Starbucks. Additionally, on days when traveling with Delta, they can earn double Stars. 

The result of this collaboration was a success, generating 1,000,000 linked accounts in just 16 days. Given that there is usually a Starbucks at every airport, the synergy between these two companies was meant to thrive. 

When it comes to loyalty partnerships , the only potential issue could be finding the right partner. The offer from your partner should be appealing to your audience. It needs to create a sense of excitement. This way, it will add value to your loyalty program. 

For a loyalty partnership to be successful, it should involve two businesses that complement each other without being direct competitors. 

A prime example of such a partnership is the collaboration between Starbucks and Delta Airlines.

Partnerships aren't limited to big companies; a neighborhood café can team up with a bookstore, or a local gym can partner with a wellness studio.

02. Gamification 

It should not be surprising, as games are fun. By incorporating that same excitement found in games into your loyalty program, you can leverage this competitive drive and influence customer behavior. This approach delves into the psychology of customers, fostering a connection that goes beyond mere transactions. When they accomplish predetermined goals, your customers feel proud of themselves. Since they are motivated to reach new goals, this positive reinforcement improves customer engagement and encourages long-term loyalty. 

What’s more, 81% of Gen Z customers and 77% of Millenials play video games. This type of digital experience resonates deeply with them. More and more brands are adopting gamification elements to enhance their loyalty programs. 

Given this growth, it's a good time to add game-like elements to your loyalty program. 

For example, Fitbit, a prominent player in the fitness wearables industry, offers a diverse range of products, including activity trackers, smartwatches, accessories, and more. 

The brand has skillfully blended gaming aspects into its rewards program. Fitbit’s gamified loyalty program positively influences user behavior and turns fitness into an enthralling and competitive experience. It provides rewards to customers for staying active, monitoring their health, and accomplishing their set goals. Customers have the opportunity to accumulate points through each step, minute, or hour of activity. These points can then be exchanged for discounts, products, or services. Customers can also gain access to personalized tips and insights. Additionally, they can compete with friends and other Fitbit customers, and earn badges that show their milestones, like walking a certain number of miles. 

What makes Fitbit's gamified loyalty program so attractive to customers is its simplicity and straightforward rules, along with appealing rewards. Furthermore, it offers added value in terms of health benefits.

03. Sustainable Loyalty Programs

Climate change is indeed becoming an increasingly evident and pressing issue, making the scenarios depicted in renowned films like “The Day After Tomorrow” more relevant. While “The Day After Tomorrow” is a work of fiction, it dramatizes some aspects of climate change that are rooted in truth. 

Climate change affects our health, environment, and economy. This growing reality has sparked important discussions across various fields. One such topic that merits attention in this context is the concept of green loyalty programs. In the past, loyalty programs weren't usually linked to ESG causes, but the situation is changing now. Sustainability has emerged as a key factor for consumers in selecting shopping destinations and choosing products to purchase. 

According to a study by the creative research platform Visual GPS, in collaboration with the market research firm YouGov, 81% of people anticipate that businesses will use environmentally friendly advertising and communications. Furthermore, 69% of the survey participants reported that they are taking all possible measures to reduce their carbon footprint.

Sustainable or green loyalty programs are designed to promote and reward sustainable customer behaviors and choices, aligning consumer habits with climate-conscious objectives. As we face the real-world impacts of climate change, exploring and implementing innovative ideas, such as green loyalty programs, becomes crucial in our collective effort to reduce environmental damage and promote sustainability. 

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For example, PLAE is a shoewear company that is committed to sustainability. The company designs footwear for kids and adults. It utilizes materials that are environmentally friendly, breathable, and washable. Plae's loyalty program offers traditional rewards and also provides the option to contribute to a charity. They are currently supporting The Maui Strong Fund, which aids communities impacted by the August wildfires in Lahaina and throughout Maui.

  • For every 1000 points collected, a customer has the opportunity to donate $10 to support the people and places affected by the devastating Maui wildfires.

04. Premium Loyalty Programs 

A premium loyalty program requires customers to pay for an exclusive membership. Unlike traditional loyalty programs, which are often free, premium loyalty programs offer enhanced benefits and exclusive perks in exchange for a subscription fee. Beyond that, customers can immediately enjoy benefits without having to accumulate a large number of points first. According to statistics, 45% of people think it takes too long to get rewards from traditional loyalty programs.

These programs are designed to foster a sense of community by cultivating exclusivity and engagement among loyal members. It also means regular money from your regular customers.

Implementing premium loyalty programs can be beneficial for companies looking to increase revenue and deepen customer loyalty. By offering premium members unique privileges such as exclusive discounts, early access to new products, and personalized services, businesses can incentivize customers to invest in a long-term relationship. The subscription fees contribute to a consistent revenue stream, and higher customer engagement may result in more purchases and brand advocacy. Overall, premium loyalty programs provide companies with a calculated approach to stand out from the competition, cultivate customer loyalty, and bring in more money. 

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Amazon Prime is a great example of a successful premium loyalty program. Amazon Prime membership is the main driver of the company’s growth. The membership has grown to offer more than just free shipping, now including streaming, shopping, reading, and various other benefits. 

As of 2023, Amazon has witnessed significant growth in its Prime membership, particularly in the United States. The number of Amazon Prime members in the U.S. has reached approximately 167.2 million, marking a 14.44% increase from the 146.1 million recorded in 2020. This growth is reflective of a broader global trend, as Amazon Prime's worldwide subscriber base now stands at an impressive 220 million. 

In 2022, Amazon's Prime membership program brought in revenues of $35.22 billion. 

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In 2023, Amazon's Prime Day sales reached $12.9 billion, a 7.5% increase from the $12 billion in 2022. Prime Day is an annual event offering a variety of exclusive deals and discounts, available solely to Amazon Prime members.

Amazon Prime's success as a premium loyalty program is largely due to its combination of diverse, high-value benefits and exclusive access to deals, which significantly improves the overall customer experience. Furthermore, the convenience and value provided by these perks motivate customers to remain engaged and frequently use Amazon's services.

Conclusion

As loyalty programs continue to evolve, businesses must stay aware of the new trends to remain competitive. Loyalty partnerships, gamified loyalty programs, sustainable or green loyalty programs, and premium loyalty programs are key drivers in today's competitive loyalty program landscape. Companies that adopt these strategies will not only deepen customer relationships but also increase brand loyalty and longevity. Businesses must adapt to these changes if they want to succeed in a dynamic market and satisfy the changing expectations of their customers. In the end, the success of loyalty programs in the future will hinge on their ability to stay relevant, engaging, and in line with the needs and values of their customers. 

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