Pitfall for Long-Running Loyalty Programs
27 June 2023
Susan Walsh

Loyalty programs have become an integral part of modern marketing strategies, allowing businesses to foster customer engagement and loyalty. However, as time passes, even the most successful loyalty programs can encounter pitfalls that hinder their effectiveness. This blog will explore the biggest challenges faced by established loyalty programs. Relevant examples of both success and failure will be explored, shedding light on how businesses can navigate these pitfalls to ensure long-term loyalty program success.

Success: Starbucks Rewards

Starbucks Rewards has become a gold standard in loyalty programs, boasting over 20 million active members worldwide. Their success lies in offering personalised rewards, such as free drinks on birthdays, targeted promotions, and the convenience of mobile ordering. By constantly innovating and adapting to changing consumer preferences, Starbucks has managed to maintain a strong and loyal customer base.

Success: Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime’s loyalty program is a prime example of how a subscription-based model can drive customer loyalty. With benefits like free two-day shipping, access to streaming services, and exclusive deals, Amazon has successfully transformed its customers into loyal members who consistently choose Amazon for their shopping needs.

Success: Sephora Beauty Insider

Sephora’s Beauty Insider program has achieved remarkable success by providing a tiered system that rewards customers with various perks, including early access to new products, exclusive events, and personalised product recommendations. By catering to their customers’ passion for beauty, Sephora has fostered a sense of community and built a loyal customer base.

Success: Woolworths Rewards

Woolworths, one of Australia’s leading supermarket chains, revamped its existing loyalty program and introduced Woolworths Rewards. By shifting the focus from points to personalised discounts on products that customers frequently purchase, Woolworths effectively incentivised repeat purchases. This strategic approach resulted in increased customer engagement and satisfaction.

Success: Qantas Frequent Flyer

Qantas Frequent Flyer program has been a long-standing success, primarily due to its strong partnerships and wide range of redemption options. By collaborating with various airlines, credit card providers, and retail partners, Qantas has created a loyalty ecosystem that offers customers multiple avenues to earn and redeem points, enhancing the program’s value.

Failure: Blockbuster Rewards

Blockbuster’s loyalty program, despite its initial success, failed to adapt to changing consumer behaviour and the rise of online streaming services. The company underestimated the impact of digital disruption, leading to a decline in customer engagement and ultimately contributing to Blockbuster’s downfall.

Failure: Myer One

Myer One, a department store loyalty program in Australia, faced challenges in maintaining relevance and exclusivity. As the retail landscape evolved, Myer struggled to differentiate itself from competitors and failed to provide compelling incentives for customers to remain loyal, resulting in a decline in program participation. However, Myer has turned this around over the past year with personalisation and innovative partnerships with Commbank and Virgin Velocity.

Failure: American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines’ AAdvantage program faced criticism for its complex redemption rules and limited availability of rewards seats. These factors diminished the perceived value of the program, frustrating loyal customers and leading to a decline in overall satisfaction.

Failure: Best Buy Reward Zone

Best Buy’s Reward Zone program suffered from an overly complicated points structure and a lack of meaningful rewards. Customers found it challenging to accumulate and redeem points, which undermined the program’s effectiveness and failed to motivate customer loyalty.

Failure: HMV Pure

HMV Pure, a loyalty program in the music retail industry, struggled to adapt to the digital age. Despite a strong initial following, the program failed to leverage emerging technologies and trends, ultimately losing relevance.

Key themes to avoid pitfalls

The longevity and success of loyalty programs are heavily dependent on the ability of businesses to adapt, innovate, and meet evolving consumer expectations. While many loyalty programs have thrived over the years, there are important lessons to be learned from those that have faced challenges and ultimately failed.

One of the biggest pitfalls for long-running loyalty programs is the failure to anticipate and adapt to changing consumer behaviours and market dynamics. Blockbuster Rewards serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the importance of recognising digital disruption and adjusting strategies accordingly. American Airlines AAdvantage, Best Buy Reward Zone, and HMV Pure also encountered failure due to various shortcomings, including a lack of differentiation, complex redemption rules, and failure to leverage emerging technologies.

On the other hand, success stories such as Starbucks Rewards, Amazon Prime, Sephora Beauty Insider, Woolworths Rewards, and Qantas Frequent Flyer demonstrate that loyalty programs can thrive when they prioritise personalisation, convenience, value, and collaboration with partners. These programs have successfully adapted to changing consumer needs, delivering relevant rewards, exclusive perks, and seamless experiences that resonate with their target audiences.


Businesses must prioritise continuous innovation, stay attuned to consumer trends, and regularly evaluate their programs’ effectiveness. By investing in personalised experiences, simplifying reward structures, and embracing emerging technologies, companies can create loyalty programs that not only survive but thrive in the ever-evolving marketplace.

Ultimately, loyalty programs should aim to create genuine connections with customers, foster a sense of community, and deliver tangible value. By doing so, businesses can build enduring customer loyalty that transcends the test of time and propels their success in the competitive landscape of the future.

<a href="https://loyaltyrewardco.com/author/susan/" target="_self">Susan Walsh</a>

Susan Walsh

Susan is a Loyalty Director at Loyalty & Reward Co, the leading loyalty consulting firm. Loyalty & Reward Co design, implement, and operate the world’s best loyalty programs for the world’s best brands. Susan has previously worked in product, marketing and business roles at Optus and Virgin Mobile, Catch Connect Mobile, Coles Mobile, Proactiv Skincare and ABC Shops. Susan applies her skills across all aspects of the business, including implementation and operations, loyalty program design, member engagement and digital marketing.

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