Report: US loyalty program memberships reach 3.8 billion

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By: RickFerguson |

Posted on June 29, 2017

The venerable COLLOQUY Loyalty Census is out again, which reveals that U.S. consumers hold 3.8 billion memberships in customer loyalty programs, and that memberhip growth has slowed to 15 percent compared to the 26 percent growth-rate achieved in the 2015 Census. Long-time industry observers will note that other consumer surveys dispute the 3.8 billion number, generally coming in with much lower numbers of members; the difference in numbers most likely comes down to methodology, as the COLLOQUY Census counts numbers of members as reported in company press releases, news reports, and 10K filings, while other reports use consumer surveys to determine to how many loyalty programs consumers belong. Whether or not you buy COLLOQUY's numbers, the Census always offers a useful snapshot of loyalty program growth.
The new consumer survey research from the 2017 Census shows that 53 percent of U.S. consumers identified “easy to use” as the main reason for participating in a loyalty program, topping “gives me great discounts” (39%) and “easy to understand” (37%) among other reasons. Conversely, the top reason given for abandoning a program was “it took too long to earn points or miles;” a concern cited by 57 percent of respondents. Additionally, the COLLOQUY Census shows that 51 percent of Americans still trust loyalty programs with their personal information. Other key findings:

  • The retail sector accounts for 1.6 billion reward program memberships, making it the largest slice of the loyalty pie. The biggest driver for active participation within retail is that the program is “easy to understand.”
  • Notably, grocery program memberships dropped to 142 million, compared to 188 million in 2015, continuing a downward trend in three consecutive Census reports. The 24 percent decrease is due in part to mergers and acquisitions within the industry.
  • Memberships in the financial services sector continued an upward trend, rising to 664 million versus 578 million in 2015. Cash back incentives led the pack when respondents were asked why they participate in financial loyalty programs.
  • The travel and hospitality sector, covering airline and hotel programs, plus restaurant, car-rental, cruise line and gaming programs, accounts for 1.1 billion memberships, the 2017 Census shows.
  • One of the most dynamic loyalty sectors, identified as other/emerging, covers online-only offerings, entertainment, daily deals, point aggregators and card-linked offers. Census research shows U.S. consumers hold a total of 462 million memberships in these evolving programs, and this sector accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. loyalty market.

Download the 2017 Loyalty Census here.