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This year’s Loyalty Barometer Report showed steady trends in consumer thoughts on rewards and benefits. Dive into the four key insights surfaced from the data.

With change as the true constant of the last year, we wanted to understand what (if anything) had changed within the consumer mindset when it comes to loyalty programs and rewards.

Here are four key learnings we identified in our 2021 Loyalty Barometer Report.

1. Discounts and free products remain top rewards

Free products, discounts, and offers remain the benefits most desired by consumers from a loyalty program. Free samples and free services also continue to be highly popular. This is likely due to the increased financial uncertainty that many consumers are feeling from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

70% of consumers prefer discounts and offers

Consumers desire tangible and reliable savings offered through discounts and free items. While still appealing to some, the desire for both chance-to-win prizes and receiving surprises from the brand has decreased with the financial impact of the pandemic.

2. Consumers want a relationship with a brand

What consumers want most from a brand relationship is appreciation for being loyal and supporting the brand via purchase. Rewarding consumers through a loyalty program is a foundational way to show appreciation.

Integrating additional appreciative gestures (such as weaving in well-planned and well-executed surprises or simply saying “thank you”) can go a long way in fortifying a consumer-brand relationship that feels a little more human.

81% of consumers want a relationship with a brand

It is important to note that the relationship extends to every interaction between the consumer and the brand. The loyalty program is just one of many touchpoints that must be considered within the entirety of the consumer’s brand experience.

3. Surprises and convenience drive emotional connections

Similar to last year, consumers indicated that the most impactful ways a brand can interact with them is through surprise and delight and by making shopping more convenient. These elements are even more important in 2021 with both the economic and physical challenges resulting from COVID-19.

Many consumers have changed the way they shop, including shifting to ecommerce channels, switching retailers due to limited inventory, and adjusting their spending habits. Surprise offers and gifts help alleviate some of the financial strain, while convenient shopping experiences reduce the stress and anxiety around access to goods and potential exposure to the virus.

58% of consumers indicated that the most important way a brand can interact with them is through surprise offers and gifts

In addition, providing consistent convenience to a consumer fosters trust and dependency within the consumer-brand relationship, resulting in the brand becoming a staple in the consumer’s way of life.

4. Loyalty can sustain brands through disruption

While the events of 2020 impacted consumer shopping behaviors in multiple ways, those who were emotionally bonded to a brand remained loyal despite the challenges of 2020.

57% of consumers indicated that they did not change brands due to the events of 2020

In addition, if circumstances (such as items being out of stock) did require them to switch brands, consumers are willing to return to purchasing from those brands when they become available.

Download the full Loyalty Barometer Report for more detailed insights.

Build your brand loyalty moment by moment

Knowing loyal consumers are your company’s greatest asset, Merkle Promotion & Loyalty Solutions can help you lower the cost of acquisition, foster more active members, increase advocacy, and sustain sales velocity.

Ready to adopt a more human loyalty philosophy? Let’s schedule a chat.