US loyalty scheme memberships top 3 billion

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on February 26, 2015

US loyalty scheme memberships top 3 billion

US consumers hold 3.3 billion memberships in customer loyalty programmes, the 2015 Colloquy Loyalty Census shows, a 26% increase over the number of memberships reported in Colloquy's previous census study in 2013.

Colloquy's biennial report on the scope of US customer rewards programmes, released today, shows that American households hold memberships in 29 loyalty programmes spread among the retail, financial services, travel and various other economic sectors, but are active in just 12 of them.

The corresponding household membership figures in the 2013 census were 22 and nine. Those numbers add up to a drop of two percentage points in the active membership rate, from 44% to 42%, a 4.5% decline. That marks the beginning of a trend, as the active rate declined for the first time in the 2013 report. An active member generally is defined as one who earns or redeems at least once a year.

The 2015 census report shows that specialty store loyalty memberships now total 434 million, exceeding airline frequent flyer memberships (356 million) for the first time, placing second only to credit card reward programmes, which account for 578 million memberships. Specialty retailers, such as Best Buy and The Container Store, concentrate on selling one line of goods to a particular clientele and offer a narrow but deep selection in their niches.

Among the other retail sector highlights from the study:

  • Drug store memberships rose 88% to 268 million, the highest rate of growth of any census category other than restaurant programmes (107%);  
  • Drug store activation rates rose to 66% in the 2015 census versus 50% in 2013, while other retail and credit card programme activation rates were mostly flat;  
  • Grocery programme memberships declined for the second consecutive census, with memberships dropping at twice the rate in 2015 (2%) compared to 2013 (1%);  
  • The rate of decline in fuel/convenience store programmes slowed significantly to -3% in 2015 from -21% in 2013.

"Think of the US loyalty market in terms of a crowded party where half of the party-goers are standing in the corner without mingling," said Jeff Berry, Colloquy research director and census report author. "Companies and brands that understand the key touch-points in the relationship, pay attention to how best customers respond and optimize the overall experience can turn the party up so that people will join in the fun and never want to leave."

Other highlights from the 2015 Census report included:

  • Memberships in airline frequent flyer programmes declined (-4%) for the first time and stand at 356 million. They had risen 14% in the 2013 census;  
  • Credit card reward programme memberships grew at a significantly slower pace, 5% in 2015 versus 28% in 2013;  
  • While restaurant loyalty programme memberships rose 107% to 55 million in 2015, that's down from 171% growth in 2013.

The retail, financial and travel categories traditionally have offered two loyalty programme types, proprietary and partnership. But the lines are being blurred by a group of emerging programmes that were non-existent five years ago, including large e-commerce loyalty programmes, daily deals, cash and discount online platforms, and mobile loyalty programmes, among others, which now account for 13% of nationwide memberships.

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