John Ross | August 9, 2013

There's been some press lately about grocery chains doing away with their loyalty programs. And, with it, some industry discussion as to whether or not this constitutes a trend among grocery retailers. In response, I would offer "no."

While it is not my place to question the quality of this business decision, I feel it's important to address one aspect of the rationale that was portrayed in the published articles. That is, the intent to provide all shoppers with the same savings opportunities. It's an admirable approach, but is it really what shoppers want? Is it a strategy that will lift sales across all shopper segments? The data suggests it is not.

What we are seeing in all of our shopper studies is an increasing demand for personalized engagement and the immediate availability of offers that closely align with shoppers' product and purchase preferences. I have presented on this topic many times and have termed this trend the "Amazonification of Retail." Amazon has set a new precedent in terms of personalized shopper engagement, and physical retailers are under pressure to find ways to follow suit.

Consumers, reacting to their online experiences, are moving away from the belief that it is their responsibility to find deals to an expectation that brands and retailers should readily provide these deals as a means of keeping their loyalty. Shoppers want to have coupons and other sale information all in one place. They expect offers to match their spending habits and, preferably, be loaded directly to their store loyalty card. The answer to these demands? A well-executed, data-driven and proactive loyalty program.

By its very nature, shopper loyalty is being reevaluated -- every time the shopper engages with the retailer. And, to "pass" that evaluation, maintain good relations with shoppers and drive sales, retailers must have in place a formalized loyalty program that engages on the most personal level possible. Shopper loyalty is not in decline; it's evolving.

But, how do you perceive the "future of loyalty?" I invite you to leave your comments below.