If you’re like me, your wallet (or purse) is crammed with so-called loyalty cards. They come from grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and even credit card companies themselves. But, are they really loyalty cards or are they just rewarding frequent purchases? Are they effective?

Do these cards increase purchase frequency? In my case they do. I will buy my gas at the same station every week because it offers Air Miles.

Do these cards drive product preference? Yes, because I try to use only my MasterCard credit card because, again, I can accumulate more Air Miles.

Do these cards result in brand switching? Yes, because I will select a brand (within my substitutable set of brands or commodity products) if there are reward points associated with the purchase.

So, the cards can influence purchase behaviors, which is good for marketers, but do they drive loyalty? Do the cards create Promoters. My response is emphatically NO!

Loyalty is based on an emotional attachment for a product or brand. To paraphrase Fred Reichheld, author of The Ultimate Question, “Have I been treated in a way that is worthy of my loyalty?”. If I have been treated well, received good value, had my expectations exceeded and developed an emotional attachment to the product or service, then I have become a loyal customer and will  recommend a product or service.

Plastic cards are no guarantee that I will be treated well or fairly. They do not create those intangible “warm and fuzzy” feelings that signify loyalty. My use of these cards is a very rational decision, and nothing to do with loyalty. For example, I shopped at a local grocery store for years to amass more Air Miles. On the surface, the retailer would see me as a loyal customer who shopped there on a regular basis and spent lots of money. In fact, I hated the store and shopped there only because it was conveniently located, open 24 hours and offered Air Miles. As soon as a better store open closer to my home, I was gone even though the new store did not offer reward points. I became a former customer overnight because I had a better option. Had I been a loyal customer, they would still have my business.

On the other hand, I have owned 12 Toyotas since 1976. They don’t offer reward points but I have developed a deep emotional attachment with the brand and that has overcome all the disappointments that the brand has experienced in the past year or so. I don’t need a plastic card to give them my business provided they continue to treat me fairly, offer good value and exceed my expectations. I just feel good about the brand.

Those little plastic cards can influence purchase decisions. They can provide incentives to change behaviors. But call them what they really are – reward cards not loyalty cards.

My loyalty is not for sale.

Keith Chapin is a Certified Net Promoter® Associate and Consultant with over 35 years of experience in research, marketing and customer insights. He can be reached at kchapin@promotersrecommend.com

Net Promoter, NPS, and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s