US Passes 3 Billion Customer Loyalty Member Mark

Americans just can’t get enough of loyalty programs — they now hold 3.3 billion memberships, retail-loyalty research company Colloquy reported. That’s 10.3 loyalty memberships for every man, woman and child in the U.S.

It’s also an average of 29 loyalty program memberships per household, though only 12 are actively used, according to Colloquy’s 2015 Loyalty Census. The total number of memberships was up 25.5 percent in the two years since Colloquy’s last count, and has passed 3 billion for the first time.

As in the past, credit card rewards, specialty retail and airlines accounted for the biggest pieces of the loyalty membership pie. But the fastest growth came in restaurants (up 107 percent in two years) and drugstores (up 88 percent), the report said. Drugstore programs have also pumped up their actual usage — active memberships have grown from 50 percent two years ago to 66 percent today. But overall, only 42 percent of loyalty members use their accounts, down from 44 percent two years ago.

Retailers represent 39 percent of U.S. loyalty memberships, followed by travel and hospitality (27 percent) and credit-card rewards (17 percent).

Then there’s what Colloquy calls the “emerging platforms” group, which Colloquy has just begun to track — everything from Amazon Prime to daily deals and mobile rewards (13 percent). Those programs, largely Internet-based, cross-brand and rapidly growing, are likely to increasingly muddy the waters for measuring loyalty programs.

Not all loyalty programs have fared equally well, though. While airline programs are still huge at 355.9 million members, that’s down 4 percent from two years ago. Grocery programs, with 169.7 million members, are down 2 percent because of the elimination of programs by chains such as Albertsons (although Wal-Mart added its own loyalty program late in 2014). And fuel and convenience stores, already a small segment at 24.5 million members, dropped 3 percent.

Specialty store memberships gained 20 percent to total 433.5 million — that’s second only to credit card rewards, which were up 5 percent to 578 million memberships.

The program categories by size, not including the new “emerging” group:

  • Credit card rewards: 577.9 million, up 5 percent
  • Specialty retail: 433.5 million, up 20 percent
  • Airlines: 355.9 million, down 4 percent
  • Hotels: 288.7 million, up 29 percent
  • Drugstores: 267.6 million, up 88 percent
  • Department stores: 229.6 million, up 18 percent
  • Grocery: 169.7 million, down 2 percent
  • Mass merchants: 164.3 million, up 17 percent
  • Gaming: 156.5 million, up 4 percent
  • Restaurants: 54.8 million, up 107 percent
  • Car rental and cruise: 44.9 million, up 14 percent
  • Fuel and convenience stores: 24.5 million, down 3 percent