Although discounts and free products remain the top reasons to join a loyalty/rewards program, engagement and recognition-focused elements are required to maintain and strengthen that connection, according to the '2020 Loyalty Barometer Report' from marketing agency Merkle. This article is copyright 2020 The Best Customer Guide.

Additionally, deeper loyalty can be achieved when brands know and engage their consumers, as 41% of consumers indicate that the most important way a brand can interact with them is by saying 'Thank You' for being a customer.

The report analysed how consumers feel about loyalty and rewards programs with insights on how marketers can improve marketing strategies and align them with consumer preferences and individual need states. It also features original research into loyalty program structures and the importance of building emotional relationships with consumers.

Consumers are interested in deepening their engagement with brands outside of earning rewards, with 33% saying they would like to be able to unlock additional features to find the right product.

Integrating different engagement mechanics into a loyalty program can further enhance the customer experience and provide new benefits outside of traditional rewards.

The report also takes a deeper look into gamification and personalization. Among the report's key findings:

  • Consumers expect individualized experiences, but growing concerns and regulations around data privacy influence what information should be used and how the experience should be designed.
  • Unlocking new features, accessing tools to help their shopping process, and participating in surveys or polls are top gamification and engagement-focused activities consumers would like to see in loyalty programs.
  • The ability to drive their own experience is top of mind for consumers in 2020, as 85% want to choose their own rewards and benefits.

"Consumer behavior and consumption are shifting at an unprecedented pace. We're in the new loyalty economy where loyalty leaders grow revenue two and a half times faster than industry peers," said Chris Wayman, executive vice president and general manager of Promotion & Loyalty Solutions at Merkle. "Effective loyalty leaders are in relentless pursuit of deepening customer relationships through personalized experiences, rewards, and recognition that anticipate and address the individual needs of consumers."

Merkle surveyed more than 1,500 consumers in 2019 who were sourced outside of the programs it manages for clients. The responses came from US residents aged 18-65, allowing the data to be segmented from baby boomers to Gen X to millennials to Gen Y.