As shopping trends normalize post-pandemic, U.S. consumers are more likely than ever to join a premium loyalty program — especially if it comes with guaranteed and immediate discounts on gas and groceries to help offset the high inflation that’s hoisting fuel and food prices, new research from Clarus Commerce shows.
Of 2,500 U.S. shoppers polled, 78% said they’re interested in joining membership-based, premium loyalty programs and 72% already belong to one, according to the “2022: Premium Loyalty Data Study” report, released yesterday by Clarus, a Rocky Hill, Conn.-based loyalty and customer engagement strategy firm. Among consumers not already participating in a premium loyalty program, 77% said they would join one if offered by their favorite brands and if the value exchange is worth it.
The number of consumers who want immediate benefits from loyalty programs — both premium and traditional — has remained steady year over year, at 78% in 2022 versus 79% in 2021, the study reveals. But interest in gas and grocery premium programs has soared, jumping from 35% last year to 51% this year in gas loyalty and climbing from 58% to 65% in grocery.
Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said they’d be willing to pay an annual fee for a loyalty program with their preferred brand. That includes 46% open to paying less than $50 per year, 22% $51 to $100 annually, 8% $101 to $150 a year and 2% more than $150 per year. Twenty-three percent said they wouldn’t be willing to pay anything to take part in a premium program.
Clarus noted that, with consumers seeking new avenues for brand engagement, this year will be pivotal for brands trying to bring on more loyal customers. The 2022 study surveyed consumers about their shopping habits and expectations for premium loyalty programs, willingness to share data, and interest in brand activations in the metaverse.
“The pandemic has changed consumer expectations permanently, and brands are still figuring out their new normal,” explained Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus. “In tandem, brands are jumping into the metaverse, producing more mobile apps than ever and finding new ways to integrate social selling into consumers' everyday lives. With all of these blooming avenues for engagement, shoppers are noticing brands that are willing to reward them for their attention, and competition is becoming more significant.”
Other key findings from Clarus’ research include the following:
• 87% of Generation Z respondents said they plan to join a premium loyalty program within the next 12 months, compared with 85% of Millennials, 76% of Gen X, 61% of Baby Boomers and 46% of the Silent Generation.
• 83% of consumers taking part in traditional loyalty programs would sign up for the same brand’s premium plan if offered.
• Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) indicated an interest in engaging with a brand in the metaverse to unlock an exclusive offer, with over a quarter (27%) saying they were “very interested.”
“We can expect retailers to get more creative this year,” Caporaso added, “designing more tiered loyalty programs or adding premium tiers to existing programs, and finding new ways to increase customer engagement through other exciting promotional campaigns like sweepstakes and giveaways.”