The future of shopping and loyalty is mobile – – we are continually reminded about this. Digital loyalty programs can leverage vast storehouses of data and sophisticated analytics, and can deliver individualized promotions at a time, place and shopping occasion that optimizes ROI.
So why the heck is there, sitting on my kitchen counter, a sheet for gluing small stamps received with each shopping trip at the local Jewel (Albertson’s)? (If enough stamps are collected, a piece of Cuisinart cookware can be ours!).
After all, this is an utterly low-tech, old media, one-size-fits-all loyalty promotion here in the digital age.
Ultimately the reasons for this low-tech promotion’s survival are related to its low-techness, and can be helpful to more tech-driven modern programs.
Hard to believe but this is essentially the same concept as S&H Green Stamps, which debuted over 100 years ago and were highly popular from the 1930s to the 1980s. You got stamps when you bought stuff, filled out books (typically 1200 stamps) and could then win prizes from a catalog. Stores that gave out these stamps used it as a competitive advantage.
And this is not an isolated grocery type program – – McDonald’s famously runs its Monopoly program, where customers get game pieces on everything they buy, and can win big prizes if they collect the right stamps.
So what accounts for these games’ popularity?
1) Simplicity – no apps, no logging on or passwords, no points to track online, no devices at all. Just shop, stick, rinse and repeat. It’s likely that there is greater appeal among older users for some of these promotions, but that doesn’t explain the McDonald’s popularity.
2) Can visualize success – each new stamp makes progress tangible and encourages continued participation
3) User involvement – Unlike an automatic electronic promotion, manually applying the stamps actively involves the participant, much like adding the proverbial egg to the cake mix turned Mom into a baker – increasing personal commitment level.
4) Closed-ended – a finite promotion period, so no long-term commitment or long wait for a payoff
5) It’s fun! – there’s an excitement to participating in these promotions! It’s not just a mercenary exercise in repetitive purchases; there’s often an element of chance (and like gambling and golf, hope is what brings people back in the face of continued abject failure).
I’ve not seen any statistics about whether any of these promotions is more effective at driving shopper loyalty than any other. I know that stamp programs definitely impact our shopping habits at home.
In any case, it’s clear that digital/mobile is the future of loyalty programs, even if the transition will take some time.
But some of the factors that make these old-school promotions popular can help make future loyalty efforts more successful.
And until tech can replicate all of the above factors, it’s likely we’ll be shopping, sticking and winning, well into the future.