When it comes to loyalty programs, customers want immediate benefits and they’re willing to pay


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Loyalty points have always been a staple of brands’ loyalty programs. But 79% of consumers don’t want to wait for value anymore. Instead, they want immediate benefits like free shipping or instant discounts — and they’ll pay for them.

With premium loyalty programs like Amazon Prime, CVS CarePass and GameStop PowerUp Rewards Pro, members pay to opt in and receive these more experiential and immediate benefits. And it works: 70% of consumers currently pay for a premium loyalty program.

In July 2021, Clarus Commerce conducted our annual Premium Loyalty Data Study, surveying 2,500 U.S. consumers about their shopping habits and expectations for loyalty programs. The results of the survey showed that consumer expectations are evolving and adoption of premium loyalty may be at a tipping point.

4 key findings from our 2021 consumer loyalty study

Customer expectations are rising — 68% of customers agree their loyalty is more difficult to maintain than ever. To keep customers in the fold, you need to re-examine your loyalty strategies. Our report revealed several key findings about the changing face of loyalty and CX in 2021:

Customers are willing to pay for a better brand experience. Customers are more eager to opt in to a loyalty program that offers enhanced rewards. In fact, 76% of consumers surveyed would pay for a premium loyalty program. Adding a premium tier on top of your existing traditional loyalty program can help satisfy customers’ desire for more useful benefits and an engaging experience.

Immediacy appeals to customers. To maintain customer loyalty, your loyalty program needs to offer instant gratification. Our study found that 72% of consumers expect to see benefits within the first week or immediately after joining. With immediate benefits like free shipping or a 20% discount on their first purchase, you can encourage customers to opt in to your premium loyalty program.

Consumers want a variety of perks and benefits. Free shipping is still the most popular perk in 2021 — 64% of consumers say it would entice them to invest in or renew a premium loyalty program. But to get customers to renew their memberships, you may need to get more creative. While customers may join for the free shipping, benefits like free giveaways, exclusive deals or VIP experiences could be what keeps them hooked — and encourages them to keep paying for membership year in and year out.

Traditional and premium loyalty programs can work together. Eighty-one percent of traditional loyalty members say they would join their favorite retailer’s premium loyalty program if they found the benefits valuable — a 14% increase from our 2020 study. Traditional programs are great for acquiring members and collecting valuable zero-party data, but premium loyalty programs offer more engagement thanks to highly compelling benefits. By offering your customers both options, you can improve satisfaction and keep customers coming back for the long term.

The opportunity is in premium loyalty programs

To enhance the customer experience, exceed expectations and create brand ambassadors, you need to give customers what they want. And that means challenging the status quo when it comes to loyalty. Our 2021 survey showed that traditional loyalty programs alone are no longer enough to satisfy customers. The opportunity lies in a holistic approach that not only includes your existing loyalty program but also gives your best customers the choice to opt in to a premium tier.

Tom Caporaso
Tom Caporaso is the CEO of Clarus Commerce, the only company specializing in building, managing and optimizing premium loyalty programs. He has been in the loyalty and subscription space for over 25 years, empowering brands to build better relationships with their top customers for the long-term. A solidified thought leader across the retail and loyalty sphere, Caporaso has a 100% CEO approval rating on Glassdoor, a 2020 leadership award from The Hartford Courant, and has helped Clarus Commerce earn the Connecticut Top Workplaces award every year since 2013.


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