Monday, 22 October 2012

The Evolution of Loyalty Cards

Whether you call them loyalty cards, points cards or reward cards, one thing remains constant, they haven’t changed a great deal in our lifetime. 
According to Wikipedia, the first loyalty reward program was the Blue Stamp Trading System, introduced in 1891 . This incredible inovation was adopted by hundreds of thousands of companies across the world in the following century. What they offered was simple, a reason to return to a store and shop again. Both parties won, the retailers saw repeat business and customers received money off or free goods by returning. 
For another 90 years, form and function barely changed. Gary Wilson created “Passkey” in 1981, a model that was later adopted by the likes of Tescos, Sainsburys and Boots. A points based loyalty reward program moved to rewarding customers based on their level of spending rather than individual purchases. Large retailers suddenly had even more data on which to plan their stock cycles and promotional activity. Very few small retailers were able to gain access to this type of information and many stuck to the traditional paper ‘stamp card’.
Something needed to be done to address the imbalance between large and independent retailers.
Enter the Smartphone
Smartphones and tablets offer an incredible platform on which to build applications to replace or simplify everyday tasks. Pockets are becoming emptier and handbags lighter. It was only natural that on discovering this, replacing or lightening wallets was high up the agenda for developers. 
Loyalty card apps offer value to both retailers and their customers.
Customers no longer have to carry around bulging wallets in order to take advantage of great offers at their favourite retailers.
Small to medium sized retailers can begin to get insight into customer behaviour in a way that was previously reserved for nationional and international retailers.
With the rise of smartphone penetration set to hit 60% in the UK, what better time to look into how Smartphone loyalty card apps can help add value to your independent business. 
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