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Consumers Expect More Out of Loyalty Programs

Latest survey from Bizrate Insights highlights importance of diversification of benefits, especially among younger shoppers
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
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While price and quality are top considerations, today's shoppers like the surprise-and-delight perks of loyalty programs.

Grocers and CPGs chase loyalty in different ways, including rewards programs, coupons, promotions, price and variety, among other aspects of their business. Fresh research from Bizrate Insights shows that consumers have their own – and sometimes surprising – thoughts about what makes them loyal to brands and stores.

Bizrate’s survey of 2,000 U.S. shoppers found that nearly 31% are more likely to switch brands now than before the pandemic and close to 70% report that it takes more than four purchases to consider themselves truly loyal to a brand. Those findings indicate that loyalty today takes time to build, that every interaction in nuance in the customer experience matters.

[RELATED: Who Are the Top U.S. Grocers for Customer Experience and Loyalty?]

The survey, covering the first quarter of 2024, also shows that what gets people to shop a certain product or store doesn’t necessary keep them there. In addition to traditional drivers including cost and quality, consistency is an overarching factor in shopper loyalty. According to Bizrate’s survey, one in three consumers say the biggest reason they are loyal to their favorites is because their purchasing experience constantly matches their expectations. 

Purchase experiences that engender loyalty are evolving in other ways, especially among younger consumers. For example, younger survey respondents place more importance on other value-add features of loyalty programs: 1 in 4 shoppers under 30 prioritize exclusive access to products and sales and 22% prioritize challenges, bonuses and games to earn rewards. 

Other results align with traditional notions about shopper loyalty. As inflation – and perceptions about inflation – remain elevated, this survey shows that consumers are the most sensitive to price and value when making a purchase decision. In addition, discounts and rewards came in as the top consideration for loyalty programs, followed by free shipping and returns.

Grocers can take heart that shoppers appreciate perks. An overwhelming 81% of respondents say they are more likely to buy from a source with a loyalty program.

Many loyalty program members appreciate unique perks. More than half of those surveyed (57%) said they like surprise gifts and offers and 46% say they would like to see upgraded services as an extra program feature. 

“These results show that U.S. consumers want more from loyalty programs than just the cheapest price tag. True loyalty requires meaningful touchpoints that make customers feel appreciated, engaged, and rewarded as individuals throughout their entire experience with your brand,” observed Elizabeth Pun, author of Bizrate’s survey report. 

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When it comes to paid loyalty and membership programs, the survey confirms that shoppers want to get as much value for their dollar as possible. Nearly 70% of survey participants said they expect free shipping and returns from paid loyalty programs and 62% expect exclusive discounts.

Feedback is an important part of the two-way street that is customer loyalty. Bizrate’s survey shows that 75% of shoppers expect a response to their negative review or feedback. On the positive side of things, about three in five younger shoppers under 40 reported that they made a product or brand recommendation within the last two weeks. Nearly all respondents (87%) recommended a store or product to their friends or family over the prior six months. 

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