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The 2009 Colloquy Loyalty Census is out, showing that membership in U.S. loyalty rewards programs has reached 1.808 billion, up 24 percent from the 1.3 billion total reported in the last census in 2007.

However, much of the growth is attributable to the inclusion of three business segments – car rentals, cruise lines and mass merchandisers – not included in the 2007 report. According to the survey, “If these new industries are removed, the adjusted 2009 U.S. census total stands at 1.673 billion.”

The report goes on: “Colloquy pegs the number of active memberships in U.S. loyalty programs at 792.8 million … Definitions of active memberships vary from company to company; but a typical example is a member that has at least one instance of activity, such as earning points on a purchase or redeeming for a reward, within a 12-month period. The 792.8 million number means the rate of active membership is relatively flat at 43.8%, compared to 39.5% in 2007.”

KC's View:
Here’s one interesting line from the new survey:

“Updated measurement of the scope of U.S. loyalty marketing shows the average U.S. household has signed up for 14.1 loyalty programs but actively participates in only 6.2 of them. The corresponding numbers in 2007 were 12 and 4.7.”

My question is whether someone can actually be loyal to 14.1 different loyalty programs…and if indeed these are “loyalty programs,’ or just glorified discount programs that ought not be classified as anything more.

I’d guess that it is the latter. The best kind of loyalty program is the one that consistently demonstrates to shoppers that the retailer is loyal to them; discounts can be a factor, of course, but there has to be a broader strategic relationship being created.