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DALLAS — Loyalty program rewards that help consumers save on the cost of gasoline ranked No. 1 as the most popular program currency in 2016, according to Excentus' second annual "Road to Rewards Revisited" survey and report. Thirty-seven percent of consumers prefer fuel discounts over credit cards, coupons, retailer points and instant discounts at the cash register.
The report, which is based on a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, shows that certain types of rewards are powerful enough to influence where, when and how frequently consumers shop, and highlights the underlying power of rewards that deliver everyday consumer value and their impact on consumer behaviors.
The findings are particularly crucial for U.S. retailers and merchants as they face multiple challenges, such as increased competition for customers and waning consumer activity in existing loyalty programs, according to Excentus President and CEO Brandon Logsdon.
Survey respondents listed fuel discounts as their favorite loyalty program reward because they prefer fuel-saving rewards because they like saving money any way they can (39 percent) and they like earning rewards from everyday purchases made (23 percent) among a variety of retailers.
Other survey findings show the power loyalty programs have to influence consumer behaviors and brand preferences, as 26 percent of consumer say they shop more frequently at stores where they can earn rewards; 17 percent plan ahead to take advantage of rewards and promotions; and 14 percent shop only where they can earn rewards. Additionally, 13 percent said the ability to earn more rewards or save more money would prompt them to switch brands or shop at a different store.
The 2016 report also reinforces the influence of millennials and the mobile environment on loyalty program activities, as nearly 40 percent of "digital native" millennials rely on mobile apps to track and redeem their rewards, while across all age groups, the use of plastic membership cards dropped by 4 percent in 2016, the survey found.
"For merchants and retailers, the findings are clear: Loyalty programs that skimp on delivering everyday value are missing critical opportunities to attract new customers and retain existing ones, increase foot traffic, and turn loyal shoppers into higher-value customers," Logsdon said. "Mobile technology has and will continue to make it much easier, faster and cheaper to leverage loyalty programs, particularly for the growing segment of consumers who rely on their mobile devices for life's daily activities."
Membership in Excentus' Fuel Rewards program grew by more than 9 percent during 2016, and consumer interest in saving on gasoline at the pump increased by 2 percent even as average gas prices fell from $2.79 to $2.25 per gallon nationwide during the survey period.
The report also found that consumers are moving beyond grocery store and credit card programs to earn fuel savings, with shoppers saying they would like to earn rewards from a broader range of retailers, including restaurants, convenience stores, pharmacies, shared-economy services and online marketplaces.
The full "Road to Rewards Report Revisited" report is available here.