The Good, The Bad, and The Future of Customer Loyalty

The Good, The Bad, and The Future of Customer Loyalty


Do you belong to a customer loyalty program? Maybe Starbucks, Walgreens, or Gilt? If so, you’re part of a three-billion strong membership within the U.S., according to Barry Kirk of Maritz Motivation.

While that may appear to be a staggering number, Kirk’s follow-up figure was even more surprising. Although there were billions of U.S. loyalty program members in 2014, many companies and brands experienced a decrease in engagement.

“We have people joining programs at record numbers. The average household, depending on which survey you look at, [belongs to] 12 to 15 loyalty programs—but they engage in less than half of those.”

From this data, Kirk suggests that customer loyalty programs, which have existed for decades, are moving into an era where marketers need to devise new ways of enticing customers to engage with their programs. According to Kirk, customers tend to expect companies to have some type of rewards program, but if the loyalty program isn’t very engaging the customer will leave the program, or simply never redeem whatever points they may have accrued. If users don’t engage in these program, they might as well be zombies.

This engagement gap is an area where many companies and brands have room for improvement. Loyalty program expert Ashley Tate suggests that customers will come to brands that offer “more unique experiences” than their counterparts. Consequently, such companies have to learn who their customers are not just as discrete groups of customers, but as discrete, one-of-a-kind individuals. The time and money involved in accruing such individualized customer data may be a greater investment than traditional loyalty programs warrant, but Tate believes the payoff will be longer-lasting loyalty.

For this to be the best year in loyalty marketing yet, marketers must focus on the heart of customers. These actions are powered by a suite of technologies including marketing automation platforms, customer loyalty tools and CRM software – all are designed to better understand your customers and add more value to their lives. Customer loyalty programs are as popular as they’ve ever been, but for the future of customer rewards, marketers will have to continually learn how to better cater to their unique customers. Only then will they begin to reap their own rewards.

To hear more thoughts from Tate and Kirk on the future of customer reward programs, including their loyalty predictions for 2015, listen to the full TechnologyAdvice interview above.


This interview was provided by Gsummit media partner TechnologyAdvice, an Inc. 5000 company that is dedicated to educating, advising, and connecting the buyers and sellers of business technology. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner.


Need help with behavioral science and gamification? Get in touch with our boutique consulting agency Dopamine.


  1. I totally agree with Tate, that brands need “more unique experiences”. I’m actually currently writing a thesis about a tool with which brands can improve their loyalty programs. I’ll let you know about it when it’s online!