I’m sure many of us have a variety of loyalty schemes they have signed up for, seeking rewards for their hard earned loyalty with a brand. From the big supermarkets, to Boots and Subway, more brands seem to possess loyalty programmes than not. A handful of retailers use the Christmas period to produce special incentives within their loyalty schemes to draw in their loyal customers.

A section of consumers flip to autopilot with these schemes, loyal to a handful of brands and blindly collecting points without any real focus. Others build the promotions into their everyday shopping to further their spend and purchase that extra item they wouldn’t normally afford, which is crucial during the ultra-expensive Christmas period. If I focus my spend on the same brand over time I will accumulate enough points\vouchers to be able to get savings, but how do these savings work? Plus, the main question I need to ask, with all the money I’m spending with a brand, is this saving me money or are these loyalty points more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing and it would have been cheaper overall if I had shopped elsewhere?

A selection of larger retailers in the UK offer vouchers for the points that you accumulate whilst shopping with them. Vouchers enable you to save a respectable amount of money off your next shop, as well as savings on an assortment of product led deals. I might pass on most niche offers, but certainly took advantage of saving a few pounds off my next shop. During Christmas, some retailers sweeten their loyalty program offers and give double the spend of your vouchers, with the spend deadline just before Christmas. With a normal voucher rising from £5 to £10, this is a large saving and really incentivises me to do all my Christmas shopping with that particular retailer from a cost perspective.

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Other loyalty models will allow you to collect points from third party retailers but offer little added incentive to spend those points over the Christmas period other than the standard offer. If I save up all my vouchers throughout the year, I can then use this for the Christmas shop, but this is an unlikely scenario and an inferior offer to the previous example. Some brands opt for simplicity and offer loyal cardholders a tea, coffee or newspaper free of charge each time you shop. Whilst this isn’t a substantial saving, it is at least tangible and seasonal considering the cold weather. Then you have a select few brands that have gone completely the opposite way, possessing no loyalty program and instead say they pass on savings to the customers. This is obviously a less tangible saving and more subjective.  

The biggest benefit with flexible loyalty programmes is that you can time the saving when you need it the most. If I’m running short and its nearing pay day, the double voucher model really helps make the shop be more affordable and presents relevant savings. For families, this is a key reward for all your loyal purchases, which would never happen with independent\discount stores which tend to not operate loyalty programmes.

The desire for savings, particularly across the Christmas shopping period, is at an annual high. Food shopping, along with present buying presents a huge cost for everyone, in particular larger families. A substantial saving on food could be the difference on whether I can afford an extra gift for someone. The chance to reduce costs could be the deciding factor in where I shop and influence me to go to a store I normally wouldn’t. Not only just for Christmas, but for multiple trips leading up to it.  

It would be nice if one retailer would offer Christmas lunch on them if I shopped with their brand a certain amount of times during the year. I’d see this as a nice touch and a fantastic reward for my loyalty to that brand. Whilst the logistics\cost of this would be a nightmare for the retailer in question, it would be an offer that would trump all current loyalty models. This reminds me of the air miles systems that aviation companies possess, where I get a free flight when I amass a certain amount of miles. I’d not only keep loyal to that brand, but would look forward to my sumptuous Christmas meal at the end of the year.   

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