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If Loyalty Programs Annoy You, It Could be Your Age


I had just been thinking how most loyalty programs annoy the heck out of me, when a new study by Colloquy arrived explaining why.

When the server at Panera Bread asks each and every time: Do you have a Panera card? Do you want a pastry for 99 cents? I answer no and no, each and every time, because the last thing I need is another account number to remember, and the second to the last thing I need is another pastry. (Or that might be the other way around.)

When Caribou Coffee asks me each and every time whether I want to donate coffee to the military or to breast cancer research, I’m irked. Employees there, I’m told, are required to push, push, push donations to fill a quota, but in my view corporations should contribute to their own charities and leave their employees and customers alone.

Turns out that’s just me being a baby boomer. The new Colloquy study reports 34 percent of millennials said the word that best describes their participation in a customer reward program is “fun.” By comparison, 26 percent of the general population chose that word, meaning millennials scored 24 percent higher on the loyalty-needs-to-be-fun meter. More findings:

-Sixty-three percent of millennials said they had joined a program within the past year, versus 55 percent of the general population.

-Twenty-five percent of millennials said they joined a program in the past year because it offered access to members-only events, versus 16 percent of the general population.

-Sixty-three percent of millennials said it’s important their loyalty program participation supports lifestyle preferences such as wellness programs, sustainability efforts or a charity, vs. 53 percent of Gen Xers (35-50) and 46 percent of baby boomers (51 and over.)

“Millennials aren’t simply you in a time warp. Yes, you were once their age, but that doesn’t mean you understand their needs,” said Colloquy Research Director Jeff Berry. “Millennials have dramatically different ideas about consumerism and loyalty than other demographics.”

Berry’s tip for loyalty marketers, who of course are rabid to gain the young set and couldn’t care less about their elders: “Prioritize experiences over economic gains, because millennials love to try new things. And gamify everything.”

That last tip comes from this fact: 27 percent of millennials continue to participate in a program because it featured a competitive game, or a social element such as badges, leaderboards or communities. By comparison, just 7 percent of baby boomers stayed with a program for those reasons. (The other 93 percent, I'm betting, thought those games or "communities" were just plain annoying.) Isn't the generation gap fun?

Colloquy is a publishing, education and research practice and an independently operated division of LoyaltyOne.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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