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Loyalty in Canada just isn’t what it used to be

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By: Mike Giambattista, CLMP |

Posted on March 21, 2018

Eagle Eye study debunks long-held beliefs about Canadian loyalty.

By Mike Giambattista

Back in the 80’s when it was important to have such things, the pin on my backpack proclaimed my deeply-held-belief-du-jour to “Question Everything”.  It was a mantra that served me well through the end of college up to that moment when I got my first real job.  Turns out corporate America felt a little differently.

But in the world of data analysis – customer data analysis, specifically, that old mantra has become the working theme for some of most interesting and surprising finds in the field.  That certainly seems to have been the case when Eagle Eye surveyed 2,000 respondents across Canada to examine shopper behaviors, consumers’ needs and expectations towards loyalty programs.  As a result, several long-held “truths” are being questioned, and indeed, even dismantled.

What follows are several highlights that caught our attention and context from Sean Keith, Eagle Eye’s Director of New Business Development.

TWM:  There are several known-to-be-true data points that this study effectively debunks.  Were those just the natural results of what the data pointed out?

SK:  Yes, the data did show some interesting contradictions to commonly held views regarding loyalty. We found 87% of respondents belong to five programs or less, which contradicts other data released last year stating an average of 13 memberships per household.

Our data suggests that Canadians are selective when it comes to the loyalty programs they participate in, which reinforces just how important it is for brands to build personalization into their loyalty strategy. From engaging with customers via their preferred channel, to offering targeted rewards geared toward each shopper’s purchasing behaviors and emotional states in real-time and across the customer journey, today’s programs must be perceived as valuable, relevant and convenient in the eyes of Canadian customers, or risk abandonment.

TWM:  At a high level, tell us about some of the opportunities the study uncovered – particularly in the area of brand loyalty?

SK:   When it comes to the type and frequency of redemptions that Canadians prefer, it’s all about getting the balance right between instant rewards and longer earn-and-burn cycles, as well as consideration for the generation you’re targeting. We found that 72% of respondents prefer to save rewards, while 28% prefer to redeem them immediately. Looking across the generations, 37% of Millennials, 30% of Gen X and 21% of Boomers say they prefer instant rewards over longer earn-and-burn cycles. This indicates the market’s collective desire for new redemption constructs, and opportunity lies in providing new options across all channels—online, offline, in-store and mobile.

TWM:  The study suggests a growing interest in non-transactional rewards and emotional loyalty.  Can you elaborate?

SK:  Consumers are increasingly aware of the value they provide businesses that extend beyond the moment of purchase. Our research shows that Canadian consumers are open to new types of rewards and are interested in being rewarded for activities that don’t necessarily stem from a purchase or financial transaction. Understanding what consumers do outside of the buying process is of significant value to brands, which is where non-transactional rewards can come into play. In these instances, consumers can earn rewards in a variety of ways, with respondents interested in being rewarded for activities like the following:

  • Taking part in a survey (69%)
  • Reviewing a product (57%)
  • Paying accounts on time (54%)
  • Visiting a brand’s website (46%)
  • Completing their member profile online (32%)
  • Sharing on social media (Like, Tweet, Post, Follow, etc.) (24%)

TWM:  Where do brands go now?  What are your suggestions to navigate these dramatic changes in the Canadian loyalty landscape?

SK:  The traditional loyalty landscape in Canada is at a turning point, and the brands that will be the most successful will be those who leverage data and personalization to adapt and evolve their loyalty strategies. It will be important for brands to understand and deliver what their customers want, when, where and how they want it delivered.

Eagle Eye’s full report, “Shifting Loyalties” is available for download here.

Mike Giambattista is Editor in Chief at The Wise Marketer and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).