US loyalty memberships exceeded 2 billion in 2010

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on April 28, 2011

US loyalty memberships exceeded 2 billion in 2010

In the eleven years since Colloquy conducted its first study of the loyalty marketing industry, the number of loyalty programme memberships among US households has grown steadily, rising from less than 1 billion in 2000 to more than 2 billion in 2010.

When the marketing publisher's study began back in 2000, it was simply intended as an exercise to gauge household participation in loyalty programmes. However, an increasingly ambitious set of studies since then has led to what can be more accurately called a 'loyalty census' - in fact a series of CensusTalk white papers that benchmarked the industry's progress.

Most recently, the '2011 Colloquy Loyalty Census' study was undertaken to examine membership numbers for what the company believes represents more than 96% of all loyalty programmes in the US market; the other 4% worth of membership data was estimated from proprietary and secondary research resources.

The 2011 study revealed that, for the first time, the number of loyalty programme memberships in the US exceeds 2 billion, averaging out to more than 18 memberships per household. That's up 16% from the almost 1.8 billon memberships counted in 2008 (or 14.1 programmes per household). In Canada, the census counted 120.7 million memberships, up 3.9% from the 2009 figure.

The US figure, although clearly a milestone for the industry, does represent a slowdown in growth from the 2009 census, which showed a membership increase of 34%.

Historically, the total loyalty programme memberships for each census year were as follows:

  • Year 2000: 0.973 billion;  
  • Year 2006: 1.335 billion;  
  • Year 2008: 1.796 billion;  
  • Year 2010: 2.089 billion.

On one hand, the good news is that more and more North Americans are being inspired to commit to their favourite chains and brands due to the benefits they get from their loyalty programmes. On the other hand, however, the number of active loyalty programme memberships in the US (at 8.4 active programme memberships per household) still accounts for less than half of the total number - despite the value of all of the rewards, points and miles being earned reaching almost US$48 billion in 2010.

It seems that the 'Great Recession' has worked both ways for loyalty marketers. In some industries, it heralded a need to tighten budgets for loyalty reward programme offers, while in others it inspired marketers to leverage loyalty programmes as tool to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Either way, Colloquy's conclusion is that both companies and consumers are much smarter today about using loyalty programmes than at any time in the past.

The loyalty census white paper has been made available for free download from Colloquy's web site - click here (free registration required).

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