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03/07/2022

10 Hottest Retail Loyalty Plans in 2022

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
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Loyalty Program

Today, loyalty programs are more than a simple tool utilized to increase retention figures. Businesses face steep competition, as new rewards programs emerge and companies battle it out to differentiate their rewards. 

Many new and upcoming programs straddle the line between the traditional equation — cash spent equals rewards earned — and more complex formulas that integrate AI, convince consumers to sign up for paid rewards programs, and even incorporate retail partnerships. 

The hurdle isn’t in persuading consumers to sign up for rewards programs, especially those offered at no cost, however. According to recent research from RIS News, of the retailers surveyed that offer a loyalty program, a third (33%) report that more than 50% of shoppers are members of the program. 

The challenge is in offering a system that not only recognizes consumers’ brand loyalty, but also incentivizes them to continue shopping, refer their friends and family, and maintain a direct and continuous line of valuable zero- and first-party data that retailers can then use to retarget, personalize offerings, boost sales, and form valuable partnerships. 

We’ve analyzed the retail industry's hottest retail loyalty plans for 2022, highlighting companies that continuously see growth across their loyalty membership count, are innovating new ways to create brand evangelists, and are streamlining rewards to provide a consolidated experience that creates a win-win scenario for multiple businesses and their shared consumers.

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1. Nike Membership

 

Number of people in the program: 79 million engaged members; the company did not directly identify these as loyalty plan members

Type of program: Flat, points-based system, retail partnership

Cost to join: Free

Nike membership gives consumers first access to items in the member shop, special offers and promos, workouts and training plans, styling guidance, receiptless returns, the ability to customize their sneakers, and more. 

Nike Membership stands out for its retail partnership with Dick’s Scorecard, which allows Nike consumers to connect their membership accounts through the Dick’s mobile app.The loyalty integration allows the retailers to team up and provide consumers with access to exclusive products, experiences, and offers. 

During its 2021 Q2 earnings call, the company stated that member engagement has grown 27%, with repeat buyers up 50%. 

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2. Ulta Beauty Ultamate Rewards

 

Number of people in the program: 35.9 million, per Q3 earnings call

Type of program: Tiered, points accrue based on dollars spent 

Cost to join: Free for base level, upper tiers have minimum spending requirements

With Ultamate Rewards, consumers earn points for every dollar spent, can opt into email and mobile notifications for bonus points offers, and redeem points for products or services. They receive $3 off for 100 points all the way to $125 off for 2,000 points.

To become platinum members, consumers must spend at least $500 annually, while diamond members have an annual $1,200 spend minimum. 

Ulta’s rewards program provides consumers with opportunities to earn points via its Ultamate Rewards but also three types of rewards cards — two being credit cards with a bonus points system. 

Additionally, as part of the company’s retail partnership, Ulta consumers also have access to the Target Red Circle program.

According to the company’s Q3 earnings report, Ulta increased the number of members in its Ultamate Rewards programs by 13%, returning to pre-pandemic levels. 

[See also: Ulta Beauty Sees Loyalty Member Numbers Return in Droves]

The company says it is leveraging personalization to further cement brand loyalty among its consumers, providing immersive digital experiences with customized beauty tips, products, and services. 

Ulta uses the data garnered from its rewards system to push out these personalization tactics, also sharing data with its retail partners.

“With this dataset, we understand what our members are buying, how frequently they are buying, where they're buying — whether that be in the site, in the app, or even in our stores,” said Kelly Mahoney, vice president of customer marketing at Ulta Beauty at a recent virtual event.

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Starbucks rewards text on mobile app

3. Starbucks Rewards

 

Number of people in the program: 26.4 million 90-day active members, per the company’s Q1 fiscal 2022 results 

Type of program: Tiered, points accrue based on dollars spent 

Cost to join: Free for base level, option to sign up for credit card

The coffee giant launched its first rewards program in 2008, beginning with a simple punch card. Over the last 14 years, Starbucks Rewards has transformed into a digital asset through which consumers can redeem stars for free food, drinks, merchandise, coffee beans, and more. 

Consumers can sign up for the rewards program at no cost at the base level. However, funding through the app raises the earnings potential from one star to two per dollar, and signing up and using the Starbucks Rewards Visa Card increases that again to three stars per dollar. 

The company also incentivizes increased purchasing by promoting bonus star challenges and Double Star days.  

According to Starbucks, membership in the U.S. is up 21% year-over-year, and during the retailer's Q4 2021 earnings call, CEO Kevin Johnson noted that 51% of U.S. tender for company-operated stores was generated by its membership base. 

Starbucks is, once again, looking for new ways to reach and incentivize its loyal consumer base. In 2020, the company launched its Stars for Everyone program in 2020, which provided more ways to earn rewards as well as pay via the mobile app. 

Now the company is looking into ways it can incorporate blockchain technologyto further connect with consumers and create profitable partnerships with relevant retailers. It recently partnered with Bakkt to allow coffee drinkers to pay for their products in crypto. 

“Through blockchain or other innovative technologies, we are exploring how to tokenize Stars, create the ability for other merchants to connect their rewards program to Starbucks Rewards,” said Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “This will enable customers to exchange value across brands, engage in more personalized experiences, enhance digital services, and exchange other loyalty points for stars at Starbucks.”

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David's Bridal rewards program

4. David’s Bridal - Diamond Loyalty Program

 

Number of people in the program: 1 million-plus

Type of program: Tiered, points accrue based on dollars spent 

Cost to join: Free

The David’s Bridal loyalty program launched in December 2021 and has since climbed to over 1 million members, according to the company. 

The free, points-based, dollar-for-dollar loyalty program awards members with free gifts at each level, such as free consultations with wedding vendors, free photo books from retail partners like Shutterfly, and a free honeymoon for Sparkle level subscribers.

The three tiers are Shimmer (3,000 points), Shine (4,000 points), and Sparkle (5,000 points).

The retailer faces a unique hurdle of offering niche services that consumers may not continuously subscribe to, something Lizzy Ellingson, chief digital experience officer, David's Bridal, noted at Analytics Unite 2021: "We don’t want someone buying a wedding dress every year, so the question is how do we get recurring revenue."

One of the answers to this is that the Diamond Loyalty Program leverages personal connections, allowing members to continue accruing points even if they, themselves, are not purchasing goods or services — as long as purchases are registered under their rewards account.

Partnerships with other retailers also set this program apart, as consumers can access discounted services from other wedding-related companies, providing a consolidated shopping experience. 

5. Tractor Supply Neighbor’s Club

 

Number of people in the program: 23.6 million, per the company’s Q4 2021 financial results

Type of program: Tiered, points accrue based on dollars spent 

Cost to join: Free for base level, option to sign up for credit card

Tractor Supply’s loyalty program was updated last yearand now features three tiers: Neighbor, Preferred Neighbor, and Preferred Plus Neighbor.

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At a minimum, rewards members receive a birthday gift, exclusive offers, and receipt-free returns. On the third tier, members become TSC personal credit cardholders and are eligible for additional rewards, including free, same-day delivery (two per quarter), full-day trailer rentals (two per quarter), and everyday standard shipping on $29 minimum order spends.

TSC personal credit cardholders also receive 5% on purchase (five points per dollar spent) and a $20 bonus reward upon sign-up. 

Members redeem points in the company’s rewards hub, called The Market, where they can obtain services and more in exchange for rewards points.

According to an October 2021 earnings call, the company reports that its members account for nearly 70% of Tractor Supply Company’s sales, and year-of-year sales from members increased more than 20%.

Additionally, Neighbor’s Club members spend more than about three times the rate of non-members, and retention rates have exceeded 95% for high-value customers.

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Levi's red tab on jeans

6. Levi’s Red Tab

 

Number of people in the program: More than 5 million members, reported in 2021

Type of program: Flat, points-based system

Cost to join: Free

Levi’s Red Tab program provides members withearly access to product drops, free shipping, birthday rewards and exclusive promos, tailor shop services, and VIP events like workshops or member-only shopping hours.

In 2020, the company expanded its membership offering into all U.S. stores and Levi.com after seeing increased consumer acquisitions and repeat purchases rising to 40%. According to the company, membership increased by 35% in the last quarter, now reaching a younger consumer who is more engaged — and engaged longer per visit. 

During the latest earnings call, the company stated it was utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to “enhance and differentiate” its loyalty programs and app, with Levi’s seeing strong acquisition rates and meaningful growth both in performance and productivity of its existing members.

[See more: Levi’s Doubling Down On AI to Power Demand Forecasting & CX]

The company is using this tech paired with first-party data to create personalized offers to each consumer, and leveraging its mobile app to send them notifications for exclusive access and early drops. 

7. Lowe’s MVPs Pro Rewards 

 

Number of people in the program: N/A, new program

Type of program: Tiered, points accrue based on dollars spent 

Cost to join: Free 

Lowe’s MVPs Pro Rewards and Partnership program is the newest entrant among this list, having just launched in select regions in February. The program will be available nationally beginning March 7.

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The new program showcases a continued shift toward personalized services for its professional consumers, a growing segment that overtakes its DIY consumer base in sheer volume of spend, according to the company. 

Rewards members earn e-gift cards when they spend in-store and online on eligible purchases. Additionally, they can access business resources to tackle back-of-house-operations, and receive exclusive offers for rewards on eligible paint purchases, such as free select snacks and drinks. 

Members can navigate their earned points on a mobile and online user experience that allows them to track and claim rewards. 

The company also announced it would soon be offering MVPs Bonus Points that can be exchanged for additional rewards. 

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8. The Container Store POP! Rewards

 

Number of people in the program:10.8 million members

Type of program: Tiered, points accrue based on dollars spent 

Cost to join: Free

The Container’s Store new rewards program is launching at the end of March and will run on a tiered points system. Its current loyalty program, Perfectly Organized Perks (POP!), launched in 2014 and offers 15% off a purchase upon sign-up and has additional offerings like receipt-free returns, birthday gifts, exclusive shopping days, and invitations to local events. 

The new loyalty program will have a dedicated mobile app, and CEO and president Satish Malhotra said during the retailer’s Q3 2021 earnings call that the goals of the new program are to attract new customers and reward deeper engagement with existing customers.

“The intent of it is really not only to attract new customers with our program, but really reward those customers that are engaging with us on a day in, day out basis,” said Malhotra. “We have an ability to ensure that we can improve the active rate of our members and improve the frequency of their visits, including their spend. And I think the program that will be unveiled by the end of fiscal '21 will satisfy our objectives on that.”

9. Amazon Prime 

 

Number of people in the program: 172 million-plus, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners

Type of program: Paid subscription

Cost to join: $139 annually if paid upfront, $180 if paid monthly

While Amazon’s Prime membership blurs the line between a service and a loyalty program, its discount benefits are so varied and widespread that it has been included in this list. 

From free, same-day shipping to Prime Video access to discounted services for Amazon Music, Whole Foods, and other offerings, Amazon’s membership crosses the boundaries of retail, traversing multiple segments and offering them under one umbrella

In addition, Amazon Prime includes other built-in sources for savings, including its subscribe-and-save offerings where consumers can sign up for monthly subscriptions of their most-used products at a discounted rate, or Prime Day, a discounted shopping event for members that exceeded $11 billion in total U.S. sales last summer, according to Adobe Analytics.

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Amazon Prime’s cost is climbing $20 to $139 for an annual membership, or nearly $180 per year if consumers choose the new monthly $14.99 fee.

According to data from Chicago research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, although Amazon Prime members who subscribe monthly vs. annually pay more, they are almost as loyal as annual members, with nearly 97% likely to renew compared with 99% for their counterparts.

A note regarding the subscription number reported above: One Prime subscription can have multiple members as many households share a single account.

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10. Walmart+

 

Number of people in the program: N/A, Walmart declined to comment in its earnings call

Type of program: Paid subscription

Cost to join: $12.95 per month or $98 per year

Like Amazon Prime, Walmart’s membership offering Walmart+ also toes the line. However, its discount offerings are so varied we included them in this list. 

From exclusive access to deals and events, free delivery, and even discounted fuel, Walmart+ partners with several retailers to offer consumers discounts not only online and in-store at its own shopping centers, but at external retailers as well, including Sam’s Club fuel centers, Murphy stations, and more. 

The company also offers its Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Card, a credit card with a tiered points system where consumers can redeem for cash, Walmart purchases, gift cards, and travel. The card carries no annual fee. 

Much like the other offerings on this list, Walmart is also leveraging data to differentiate itself from its competitors. 

“Walmart is always going to be a business where you need to look across and see how the omnichannel business is playing out,” said president and CEO of Walmart U.S. John Furner in the company’s latest earnings call, but the membership program is important. “It helps us grow our e-commerce business. It helps us deepen the relationship with customers and have more data.”

And while the company has not shed light on its future plans for the loyalty program, recent trademark filings signal a push toward plans to create its own cryptocurrency and collection of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) — offerings that could make their way onto the platform’s subscription services eventually.

Loyalty Insights

 

Today’s hottest loyalty offerings signal that companies continue to invest in loyalty tracking (26%) and personalized offers (23%), according to an RIS study that looked at how retailers are considering upgrading their services.

And according to The Forrester Wave: Loyalty Service Providers report, 83% of the companies surveyed plan to increase their spending on loyalty by 5% or more in the next 12 months.

While paid subscriptions services reside in their own category, McKinsey data shows that demand for these types of offerings continues to grow. 

In 2019, consumers spent an estimated $25 billion to $30 billion on paid loyalty programs, about a 25% to 50% growth rate from the previous year. Additionally, 63% of consumers are already members of at least one paid loyalty program.

Key Takeaways

 

  • Consumers are willing to share data if they are being incentivized by rewards and feel appreciated.
  • Retailers can leverage zero- and first-party data to provide additional personalized messaging and offers that will continue to incentivize consumers but can also be valuable in retail partnerships. 
  • Loyal consumers will pay for subscription services if the amenities provided in return are substantial, and continued promotion of exclusive discount events are key to incentivizing continued purchasing. 
  • Retailers can get the most out of their loyalty offerings with AI-enabled capabilities that include benchmarking, customer segmentation, behavioral analytics, churn/retention models, predictive models, look-alike modeling, and dashboards to visualize the data easily, according to Forrester.

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