According to the Road to Rewards Revisited annual report by Excentus Corp., certain types of rewards have the power to influence where, when and how frequently people shop. Based on a survey of over 1,000 U.S. consumers, the report also emphasized the importance shoppers place on value when making everyday purchase decisions.
Of respondents surveyed, 26 percent stated they shop more frequently at stores where they can earn rewards, 17 percent indicated they plan to take advantage of rewards and promotions, and 14 percent said they only shop where they can earn rewards.
"For merchants and retailers, the findings are clear: loyalty programs that skimp on delivering everyday value are missing critical opportunities to attract new customers and retain existing ones, increase foot traffic, and turn loyal shoppers into higher-value customers," said Brandon Logsdon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Excentus.
The report reinforced what marketers have acknowledged in recent years: the growing influence of millennials and the mobile environment on loyalty program participation. According to Excentus, nearly 40 percent of millennials surveyed said they rely on mobile apps to track and redeem rewards; use of plastic membership cards dipped 4 percent year-over-year among respondents surveyed.
"Mobile technology has and will continue to make it much easier, faster and cheaper to leverage loyalty programs, particularly for the growing segment of consumers who rely on their mobile devices for life's daily activities," Logsdon said.
As to which type of rewards program ranked highest among consumers, 37 percent said they prefer fuel-saving discounts over credit card rewards, coupons, retail points and instant discounts at the POS. Respondents indicated they would like to earn rewards from a broader range of retailers in the future. Categories of interest include restaurants, convenience stores, pharmacies, shared-economy services and online marketplaces.
"These new findings are particularly crucial for U.S. retailers and merchants as they face multiple challenges, including not only increased competition for customers but waning consumer activity in existing loyalty programs," Logsdon noted. With competition intensifying, 13 percent of respondents admitted they would switch brands or shop at a different store if the opportunity to earn more rewards or save more money were offered.
In related research, Acosta Inc.'s The Why? Behind The Buy explores the increasing influence of engagement in-store and across channels on grocery shopper behavior as consumers openly share shopping experiences and product information on social media. Steady sales growth in health-related products continues: 39 percent of grocery items purchased by millennials fit this category, compared with 25 percent for shoppers overall.
"The experiential factor is driving today's shoppers to make food choices rooted in what will bring them personal satisfaction and enjoyment," said Colin Stewart, Senior Vice President at Acosta. "As we head into 2017, it's important that brands and retailers think about how their product offerings contribute to grocery shoppers' positive experiences from the moment the item is spotted on the store shelf to when it reaches their kitchen tables."
Acosta's research revealed that grocery shoppers, in particular, are loyal to favorite stores. Nine in 10 shoppers planned to continue shopping most frequently at the same grocery retailers as last year. Factors cited in determining shopper loyalty to individual stores included loyalty to certain brands carried (77 percent), trust in the brands offered (46 percent) and reputation for social responsibility of brands offered (35 percent).
Another development cited was the growing influence of digital marketplaces on grocery shoppers, from promotions to expansion of product offerings. Of those surveyed by Acosta, 61 percent had redeemed digital/mobile coupons within the past month for grocery items, 59 percent had ordered grocery items online, 53 percent had received recipe ideas online prior to shopping in-store and 19 percent had posted recipe content on social media.
"From online grocery ordering and a desire to explore new foods, to natural products and socially responsible brands, consumers are at the wheel when it comes to steering the CPG [consumer packaged goods] industry in a new direction," Stewart noted. "There's no doubt that this evolution will continue in the coming year, so it's up to the industry to adapt by leaning into these trends and building trust and loyalty among all shoppers."
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