Customers are increasingly abandoning points-based loyalty programs, frustrated by low-value, difficult-to-redeem rewards. Instead, they want value in the form of instant gratification - and they want it now.
Having a great product or service is great - but it’s not enough. Americans want more. They want rewards, bonuses, and perks - but not points. Points may be a longstanding pillar of the American brand experience, but users are increasingly falling out of love.
Who can blame them? Often complicated to earn and even trickier to spend, many users feel rules and caveats are buried in small print. Not only that, but points don’t offer the kind of immediate gratification consumers - and increasingly, businesses - expect from a transaction.
The following looks into new research that highlights the alarm bells ringing in the points-based rewards industry. We also look at the point-free alternatives designed to build and retain user loyalty.
A value fallacy?
Anyone who's tried to upgrade a flight with points understands the challenge of earning them. And once enough points are earned, the redemption process starts, often via an online portal or app. Sometimes the points can be used to pay in part for a transaction - sometimes they must cover the full cost. It's this type of grey area that's likely to be the model's downfall, becasue customers are increasingly becoming frustrated.
A vast majority of respondents to a 2022 survey cited the time and effort it took to obtain a reward as the reason they disliked such loyalty programs - which explains their plummeting active user rates.
A 2023 survey of US reward program participants, half (50%) expressed increasing frustration at the lack of choice in how they receive their rewards. Additionally, 38% identified the challenges they encounter in earning rewards as a primary source of dissatisfaction.
This irritation extends to spending the points, too. Difficulty redeeming rewards because of a complex or multi-step redemption process has turned off 32% of customers. Limited options for redeeming points are also a point of concern. Almost a third claim that the rewards on offer are not meaningful or substantial.
There are further frustrations customers face with a point-based system, including:
- Expiration of Points. Some customers may feel frustrated if their reward points have an expiration date. The result? A perception of lost value.
- Hidden Fees or Costs. Customers might become annoyed if there are hidden fees associated with redeeming their points. This could include shipping fees, handling charges, or other unexpected costs.
- Unclear Terms and Conditions. Lack of transparency in terms and conditions can lead to confusion and frustration. Customers may feel misled or cheated if they are unaware of specific rules or limitations associated with the redemption process.
- Difficulty in Tracking Points. Keeping track of their accumulated points or understanding the fine print can lead to frustration. Clear communication and accessible account information are crucial.
There’s a disconnect between customers and the brands offering this style of reward program. More than 50% of participants encounter difficulties in spending rewards according to their preferences. This shows how consumers possess large quantities of untapped digital value that remain inaccessible for them to use as they see fit. Empowering them to unlock their unused digital value is crucial.
Addressing these concerns and providing a user-friendly, transparent, and flexible rewards program can help mitigate customer frustrations and enhance their overall experience with the brand.
Rewards the right way
Building brand loyalty starts with a great product or service. But it doesn't stop there. A 2022 survey by Statista found that 70% of Americans considered loyalty programs a leading factor in securing their loyalty toward their favorite brands.
There’s no doubt reward programs have a place, but how they’re structured is crucial in winning over - and retaining - consumers.
A value-based or tiered rewards system offers an alternative approach to incentivizing and rewarding customers without the frustration of points. They’re becoming increasingly popular for a range of reasons:
- Simplicity and Transparency. A non-point system is often simpler to understand for customers. They can easily grasp the value associated with their loyalty without the need to accumulate and track points. This also enhances transparency.
- Instant Gratification. With a non-point system, rewards are often delivered more quickly and immediately upon achieving a certain milestone or loyalty tier. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction and a sense of instant gratification.
- Reduced Complexity. Customers don't need to worry about understanding complex points conversion rates, expiration dates, or various rules associated with point-based systems. The simplicity can make the program more user-friendly.
- Customization and Personalization. Non-point systems often allow for more flexibility in offering personalized rewards. Businesses can tailor rewards based on individual customer preferences, creating a more meaningful and engaging experience.
Winning the competition for customer loyalty
Keeping customers happy and engaged is non-negotiable. In an age of soaring customer acquisition costs, research has shown that an increase in loyalty can result in a 25% or more increase in average profit per customer. Building the right loyalty program is essential. So what are consumers looking for?
Perks and benefits are a plus, but there’s something else customers are looking for that may surprise - emotional connection. Around half of the participants of another 2022 survey reported having joined a loyalty program simply to express their devotion to a brand or company.
Pleasing the other half comes down to delivering “easily-accessible” rewards. This is “critical to… brands’ ability to engage and build relationships with consumers across all age groups, from Gen Z to baby boomers.”
Research shows that almost 80% of consumers prefer to have shopping rewards automatically applied at checkout. A close percentage (69%) of consumers agree that this is the simplest form of accessing rewards.
Rewards and banking: the ultimate loyalty-boosting combo
The burden of delivering customer rewards lies not with vendors, but on financial institutions. Customers want a seamless experience with instant rewards pegged to their payment method.
“Consumers associate their payment mechanism with their loyalty, which is expressed in rewards. This is a huge opportunity for card issuers to increase their value proposition with additional shopping rewards,” says Michael Marcus, senior advisor and board member at Boston Consulting Group.
“Our dollars just do not stretch as far as they used to. Any opportunity to save money with cashback or coupons is a welcome benefit to consumers,” he added.
In 2024 and beyond, successful loyalty programs will move away from frustrating point-based models and instead, focus on instant gratification and stored digital value.
Inaccessible or difficult-to-access value is not a reward. Instead, businesses must recognize the necessity of transforming the rewards they pay out into a more liquid, 'cash-like' form, to unlock their potential and adapt to the evolving preferences of consumers.
Roll out Qorbis’s QStyle benefits and discount program to your customers. With concierge services plus exclusive benefits and discounts from an expansive, trusted supplier network of premier global brands, there are no points, just immediate value. Talk to us today.
Want to unlock a new level of fan engagement and drive continuous revenue growth? Plugging powerful financial features straight into their ecosystem is a winning solution for forward-thinking sports teams.
The collective gasp of millions of people at a close call. The unification of a triumphant win - or a devastating loss. There’s nothing quite like the emotional connection between sports teams and their fans. It’s a love affair deeply entrenched into America’s national culture - and with it comes serious brand power.
The average NBA team has 17.65 million fans on social media, with the LA Lakers boasting a whopping 60.3 million followers. Major League Baseball is just that, with an estimated 171 million fans following every pitch, home fun, and foul ball annually.
While traditionally, sports brands relied on fan attendance to drive their profits, digital transformation has meant that sports is now delivered to and consumed by a much wider audience, both on and off the field (or pitch!). This offers brands the chance to unlock new ways to engage and monetize their fan base.
Sports and finance might be the most obvious pairings, but in the new age of digital fan engagement, it pays off. There’s no need to go it alone though - embedded finance delivered by a fintech partner is fast becoming the go-to solution for teams looking not only to create a next-level experience for their fans but to increase engagement, create new revenue streams, and generate a wealth of actional user data.
“Embedded finance solutions like those offered by Qorbis enhance brand loyalty through promotional power, delivering simple, smart, and secure financial services alongside bespoke reward and loyalty programs."
“This is a game-changer, redefining the relationship between sport and finance, providing major brands with the tools they need to transform cost centers into revenue streams and deepen engagement with their fan bases.”Stephen Williams, CEO of Qorbis, a leader in the integration of embedded finance solutions.
Embedded finance: The flywheel effect
Imagine the insights gained from knowing your fans’ shopping habits, from spend frequency to category. Embedded finance powered by a Banking as a Service (BaaS) model enables just that, with benefits to both brands and end-users.
By engaging a partner with an API-based, cloud-native platform and licensed financial services, brands can build the banking services they want, brand it as their own, and roll it out securely and seamlessly to users both internally and externally. The result is staff and fans using team-branded digital banking and financial products with all the compliance of a traditional bank but with far more convenience and appeal to today’s digitally-savvy users.
The financial products not only generate revenue in and of themselves, but as a result, fans spend more on the brand’s products and services than they had before obtaining the financial product. It’s the ultimate brand flywheel effect, and in a climate where the battle for customer attention has never been more hotly contested, it’s fast becoming a cornerstone of success. Brands know that loyalty counts - and sports brands, with their hoards of committed, win-or-lose fans, are better positioned than most to make this loyalty count in their favor.
“Brand identity is a major facet of sports such as the NBA or MBA because of the trust fans place in teams. Platforms like Qorbis empower the sports industry to extend the brand experience beyond the field or the court into fans' everyday lives,” says WIlliams. “Doing so has significant commercial benefits but also creates a huge wealth of user data that can be leveraged to better inform decision-making and more.”
Brand Loyalty: the ultimate goalscorer
Brands are about 70% more likely to sell to a previous customer than a new one, and existing customers usually spend more. So whether a fan is purchasing game day tickets, an access pass to watch the game online, or a hat emblazoned with their favorite team’s logo, the chances are they’ll also buy something else from their beloved team, too. Including financial products.
More than half of 25-34-year-olds believe using financial products from their favorite brands is more convenient than banking with a traditional retail bank.
52% of 25-34 year olds feel brands offer financial products better tailored to their specific needs when compared to traditional institutions.
In further good news for brands looking to monetize their fan bases, among consumers who already get a financial product from a non-financial brand, a third said the product caused them to spend more money with the brand, three in 10 said they now choose the brand over its competitors more often, and a little more than a quarter feel more loyal to the brand.
It’s clear that fans are open to a financial product delivered to them seamlessly by their favorite baseball team, for example, in much the same way that Uber seamlessly charges their ride to the game. This is good news for fans as well as brands - here’s why.
By integrating financial services directly into a user's preferred platform or application - a team app, for instance, the customer experience is streamlined, with financial services there as and when they’re needed. This eliminates the need for customers to visit multiple platforms or applications to access financial services. Customers want the ease of accessing and managing their finances within their existing ecosystem - essentially: less friction, more loyalty.
Embedded finance solutions leverage customer data and insights from the platform to offer personalized financial products and services. By understanding user behavior, preferences, and financial needs, these solutions can provide tailored recommendations, customized offers, and relevant financial solutions This personalization creates a deeper connection between fans and their preferred teams, increases engagement, and fosters loyalty.
Enhanced Value Proposition
Brands that integrate financial services into their ecosystem provide an expanded value proposition to users, giving fans a 360-degree experience. By integrating financial services, they can offer additional benefits such as competitive FX rates or exclusive deals and discounts. These value-added benefits increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, as customers perceive the platform as a comprehensive solution that meets multiple needs and offers bonus perks.
Boosted Engagement and Interactions
Embedded finance solutions enable brands to engage customers more actively in their financial activities. Through features like real-time notifications, financial management tools, or budgeting assistance, customers are encouraged to be more involved in their financial decisions. The increased engagement and positive interactions create a sense of ownership and loyalty towards the platform.
New Revenue Opportunities
By using a platform provider to embed financial products and services into their brand’s ecosystem - such as charge cards bearing their logo - teams can create branded digital revenue streams by sharing income from fan purchases. This in turn drives the flywheel, creating value for fans via the customer data generated, allowing for a more tailored and personalized experience, and a higher average spend, providing further commercial opportunities for brands.
Actionable Data Insights
For brands, the prize goes beyond winning or retaining customers — BaaS-driven embedded finance brings a mountain of usable data to drive future products and services that build sustained growth and allow for more predictable decision-making.
“Having financial functions integrated with [brand ecosystems] enables new functionality, leveraging the persistent connection to move beyond transactions to relationships. These relationships are data-rich, which leads to smarter cross-sell, pre-qualification, and risk reduction. The monetization opportunities are not only large but actually meaningfully larger than the original opportunity.”Matt Harris of Bain Capital Ventures
Fintech: Enabling a Complete Brand Experience
Embedded finance can bring sports brands to life and unlock a range of commercial opportunities. From cross-selling to new revenue streams, targeted upselling increased brand loyalty, and merchandise sales, your fan base can be effectively monetized to the benefit of both said fans and their team.
Partnering with a platform provider allows brands to choose the right tools in which to best meet their goals - whether that’s frictionless payment methods, innovative loyalty programs, or transactional insights that give visibility of the entire fan journey.