The Evolution of Loyalty Programs: From Points to Personalisation
28 March 2024
Vincent Ward

Loyalty programs have long been a staple of customer engagement strategies, providing a way for businesses to reward customers for their repeated purchases and brand loyalty. Historically, these programs predominantly operated on a points-based system, where customers accumulated points with each purchase, which could later be redeemed for discounts or products. However, due to an increasingly saturated market and consumer expectations evolving, loyalty programs have undergone a significant transformation. Today, we are witnessing a shift towards more personalised and experience-driven rewards, a change led by companies leveraging the latest in data analytics and AI to redefine what it means to be loyal.

The shift towards personalisation

The traditional points system, rewarding customers based on spending alone, has gradually lost its effectiveness in engaging and retaining a diverse customer base. Recognising this, companies have pivoted towards a more personalised approach, tailoring rewards to each customer’s unique profile. This shift is not only a trend but a strategic move to deepen customer relationships and transform them into brand advocates.

Personalisation in loyalty programs is achieved through data-driven insights, allowing businesses to cater to individual behaviours and preferences. This level of customisation delivers a more meaningful experience, enhances the program’s relevance, and maximises conversion success rates.

Embracing experience-driven rewards

Alongside personalisation, there’s a growing emphasis on providing experience-driven rewards. These are not just tangible gifts, but unique, memorable experiences closely tied to the brand’s essence – exclusive events, VIP treatments, or personalised consultations. Such experiences forge a strong emotional bond between the customer and the brand, elevating loyalty to new heights.

Furthermore, integrating social responsibility into loyalty programs has also proven effective. By aligning with meaningful causes or supporting charities, brands can connect with customers on shared values, further enhancing loyalty.

Case Studies

Several companies are successfully providing a more personalised experience to their customers:

Tesco Clubcard: Tesco have leveraged the power of machine learning/AI technology to target their campaigns in an efficient and effective way, positively influencing purchase intervals and spend. The technology is used to automatically construct and send individualised communications with product promotions and specials to each member. They track member responses and evolve future communications to optimise engagement potential to continually keep members within the growth phase.

Spotify: Hundreds of millions of Spotify users receive new playlists tailored to their own tastes every single week, all generated by AI and machine learning. The brand uses a recommendation engine, a system which processes data to help subscribers find what they want and identify things they might be interested in based on preferences and previous behaviours.

Features like Discover Weekly and the Daily Mix lend to the popularity of Spotify, as they provide more personalised experiences and unexpected delights. These engage the member and encourage repeat usage of the platform, leading to the formation of habitual behaviour.

Kroger: Supermarket chain Kroger partnered with Microsoft to create a personalised shopping experience with smart shelves.

With the Kroger app open on their phone, members can walk down the aisle and sensors will highlight products the member might be interested in buying based on account information and previous shopping history.

It also provides dynamic personalised pricing and will display relevant ads, making the shopping experience efficient and convenient.

These examples highlight how leveraging data analytics and AI for personalised and experience-driven rewards not only enhances customer engagement but also fosters a deeper connection between brands and their customers.

Data collection

In the realm of personalisation, the foundation lies in the collection of diverse data types. Businesses gather information ranging from behavioural patterns, such as purchase history and website interactions, to demographic details like age, gender, and location. Advanced data collection extends to capturing insights such as lifestyle preferences and values, enabling a deeper understanding of the customer’s psyche.

Technological integrations, such as CRM systems and social media analytics, play a crucial role in data collection. They provide a holistic view of the customer’s journey across various touchpoints, ensuring a rich dataset from which to draw insights. This comprehensive approach to data collection is crucial for tailoring loyalty programs to individual customer needs and preferences, setting the stage for highly personalised experiences.

Insights generation

Once a robust dataset is established, the focus shifts to generating actionable insights. Data analytics and AI tools sift through the collected information to uncover patterns and trends that might not be immediately noticeable. Machine learning algorithms can predict future buying behaviours based on past purchases, identify high-value customers, and even forecast potential churn.

This involves techniques like predictive analytics and customer segmentation. Predictive analytics can anticipate a customer’s next move, enabling businesses to be proactive in their engagement strategies. Customer segmentation divides the audience into distinct groups with similar traits or behaviours, allowing for more targeted communications.

Personalisation efforts

Armed with deep insights, businesses can then embark on personalisation efforts that resonate on an individual level. This could mean customising email campaigns to reflect the recipient’s recent browsing behaviour or offering rewards that align with their purchase history. Loyalty programs become more than just transactional relationships – they evolve into dynamic, personalised experiences that anticipate and meet the customer’s needs.

Personalisation also extends to reward segmentation, where offers are not only relevant but also timed perfectly to coincide with the customer’s life events or milestones. Furthermore, personalisation efforts are continuously refined through A/B testing, ensuring that strategies remain effective and responsive to changing customer preferences.

AI-driven marketing communications

AI plays a pivotal role in elevating marketing communications within loyalty programs. Beyond tailoring rewards, AI algorithms can predict optimal communication times, recommend content formats, and even generate personalised messaging. Natural language processing (NLP) enables chatbots and virtual assistants to provide instant, contextually relevant customer support, enhancing the loyalty experience.

Predictive insights from AI also guide strategic decisions, from inventory management to new product development, ensuring that offerings remain aligned with customer desires. This proactive approach not only increases customer satisfaction but also drives efficiency and innovation within the business.

Omnichannel integration

A seamless omnichannel experience is non-negotiable when creating a loyalty program strategy. AI facilitates the integration of loyalty programs across various platforms and devices, ensuring a consistent and personalised experience whether the customer is online, in-app, or in-store. Real-time data allows businesses to recognise and reward customers actions immediately, reinforcing positive behaviour and fostering loyalty.

This omnichannel approach also supports a combined customer view, enabling businesses to track interactions across touchpoints and tailor engagements accordingly. By maintaining consistency in personalised experiences, companies can enhance customer satisfaction and deepen the emotional connection with their brand.

In-store personalisation and virtual try-ons

Finally, AI transforms the in-store experience through personalisation and innovative features like virtual try-ons. Customers can receive personalised recommendations based on their loyalty program data as soon as they enter the store, facilitated by technologies like beacons and mobile apps. Virtual try-on technology, powered by augmented reality (AR), allows customers to visualise products on themselves or in their homes, providing a fun and interactive element to the shopping experience.

These in-store personalisation tactics not only enhance the customer journey but also bridge the gap between online and offline worlds, creating a cohesive and engaging brand experience across all channels.


The evolution from points-based loyalty programs to those centred on personalisation and experiential rewards marks a significant shift in how businesses approach customer loyalty. By harnessing the power of data analytics and AI, companies can offer more personalised, relevant, and engaging experiences, deepening customer relationships and fostering brand loyalty.

Looking to launch a best-practice loyalty program? Want to know how your existing program measures up?

Our customer loyalty consultants can design an award-winning loyalty program strategy or enhance your existing one to make sure you are leveraging as many of the Essential Eight™ principles of best-practice loyalty programs as possible. Explore our wide range of comprehensive loyalty services or get in touch to talk with our loyalty experts to uncover your loyalty program X-factor.

<a href="" target="_self">Vincent Ward</a>

Vincent Ward

Vincent is a Program Manager 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. Vincent has previously worked in account management and client success roles across various industries including financial services, salary packaging and fleet. Vincent applies his skills across all aspects of the business, including program and stakeholder management, member engagement, and loyalty program design.

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