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Despite the current recession, US consumer participation in loyalty and rewards programs is rising across all demographic segments and has grown 19% since 2007 among the general population, according to a study by COLLOQUY.

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Activity in specific demographic segments is up even more, the research found. Participation by Millennials (ages 18-25) – which represent the fastest-growing demographic for loyalty programs – has soared 32% since it was last measured in 2007, while participation by women is up 29% in the same time period.

Retail Programs Most Valued During Recession

Of the various categories examined by COLLOQUY, the retail category has experienced the highest positive impact in reward program attitudes, with 75% surveyed reporting a net neutral or positive effect on their program participation as a result of the economy.

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Apparently, consumers appear to be leaning on loyalty programs to stretch household budgets further by earning rewards for their purchases, COLLOQUY said. In fact, the research found that one-third of consumers say retail loyalty programs are “more important” when battling tough times.

Not surprisingly, the Financial Services sector remained relatively flat, with 52.7% reporting “no difference” in the impact of the recession on program participation.

“In spite of the dire economic news of the past 18 months, consumers remain as engaged, if not more, with loyalty and rewards programs,” said COLLOQUY editorial director Rick Ferguson. “US consumers clearly see value in program participation, and continue to leverage their activity as an antidote to hard times – seeking added value and using rewards to stretch dollars.”

Millennial Participation Takes Off

Loyalty participation by Millennials has increased significantly since COLLOQUY’s last benchmarking effort in 2007. According to the study, recalled participation rates in this demographic stand at 58%, a 32% increase from two years ago.

Additional information about Millennial perceptions on loyalty programs:

  • Nearly half (46.4%) of responding Millennials rate retail rewards programs as “more important” during the recession. This outpaces the general population, at 32.3% for the same category.
  • 27% of Millennials are actively seeking to enroll in new programs to help expand their budgets.
  • Millennials are far more likely to enjoy engaging with programs through new media channels than the general population. More than 55% appreciate communicating through social networking sites (vs. 39% for the general population), and 52% enjoy communication via cell phone or text message (vs. 38%).

“Millennials represent a golden opportunity in a time of economic darkness for loyalty marketers,” said Kelly Hlavinka, COLLOQUY partner and co-author of a white paper that details survey findings. “This demographic is receptive to the wish-list of loyalty initiatives – eager to join programs, eager to build relationships with their favorite brands and eager to engage with new media channels.”

About the research: COLLOQUY’s study of loyalty perceptions “After the Meltdown” examines trends among 2,152 participants in six consumer segments: General Population representing a statistically distributed sample of the US overall; Affluent (heads of household with annual incomes of $125,000 or greater); Millennials or Young Adults (any respondent 18 to 25 years of age); Seniors (any respondent age 60+); Core Women (any female respondent ages 25-49 with an annual income between $50Kand $125K); and Emerging Hispanic (any respondent ages 21+ of Hispanic origin with an annual household income of $40K or less).

The whitepaper, “After the Meltdown: Consumer Attitudes and Perceptions About Loyalty Programs in the Post-Recession Economy,” is available for free download (registration required).

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