What Millennials Want From Loyalty Programs

CINCINNATI – Girls just want to have fun, and apparently so do millennials when it comes to loyalty marketing and customer rewards programs.

When asked to define the word that best describes their participation in a customer rewards program, "fun" was deemed to be most important for 34 percent of 18- to 34-year-old millennials in a nationwide survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted by Cincinnati-based Colloquy, a provider of loyalty marketing, research, publishing and education.

By comparison, 26 percent of the general population (aged 18 to 65 and older) chose the word "fun." Sixty-six percent of the general population cited “economical” as best describing their loyalty program participation vs. 56 percent of millennials.

According to Colloquy, the fun vs. economical results are just two highlights from a larger set of survey findings that demonstrate to marketers that millennials are a different breed when it comes to their engagement with a brand via a rewards program.

“Millennials aren’t simply you in a time warp," said Colloquy Research Director Jeff Berry. “Yes, you were once their age, but that doesn’t mean you understand their needs. Millennials have dramatically different ideas about consumerism and loyalty than other demographics.”

Berry’s tip for loyalty marketers: “Prioritize experiences over economic gains, because millennials love to try new things. And gamify everything.”

Other highlights from the Colloquy survey results include:

  • 63 percent of millennials said they had joined a program within the past year, vs. 55 percent of the general population, a 13-percent difference.
  • 25 percent of millennials said they joined a program in the past year because it offered access to members-only events, vs. 16 percent of the general population, a 36-percent difference.
  • 40 percent of millennials said they joined a program for access to members-only sales, products and services, vs. 33 percent of the general population, an 18-percent difference.
  • 63 percent of millennials said it’s important their loyalty program participation supports lifestyle preferences such as wellness programs, sustainability efforts or a charity, vs. 53 percent of gen Xers (aged 35-50) and 46 percent of baby boomers (aged 51 and over).

The research also revealed that 49 percent of millennials stopped using a loyalty program after receiving irrelevant communications, compared to 37 percent of the general population, a 24-percent difference; and 18 percent of millennials stopped participating in a program because it lacked a smartphone app, compared to 13 percent of the general population, a 33-percent difference.

Moreover, a little more than one-quarter of millennials (27 percent) continued their participation in a loyalty program because it featured a competitive game or a social element such as badges, leaderboards or communities. By comparison, just 7 percent of baby boomers stayed with a program for these reasons, representing a gap of 74 percent.

Finally, 42 percent of millennials said they continue to participate in a program because it has a mobile payment option, while just 15 percent of baby boomers said the same, a 64-percent difference. 

These survey-based revelations about U.S. millennial attitudes and preferences are part of a larger Colloquy report on loyalty program effectiveness. That report, "Customer Loyalty in 2015 & Beyond: Are You Wasting Your Money?," is available for free download.

Colloquy is an independently operated division of LoyaltyOne.

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