Flash mob! Someone starts zombie-dancing to “Thriller.” People wonder what that weirdo is up to until others begin dancing as well. Once a group gets going, onlookers may even join in.

We’re seeing a shopping version of the flash mob pop up with loyalty programs. Stand-alone programs aren’t keeping members completely interested, so some companies are responding by working in groups to better appeal to customers. The ultimate version of this type of group loyalty is the coalition program—popular in other countries, but just catching on here. Soon you’ll see more companies teaming up to provide better value, enhanced shopping experiences and a wider variety of reward choices.

"The new generation of programs offers a chance to take advantage of the earning and redemption options of coalition loyalty."

Today’s consumers want loyalty programs with high-performing value propositions. In the U.S., coalition-type partnerships aren’t offering quite as many razzle-dazzle shopping options as their European or Canadian counterparts. But they’re still drawing niche audiences. For example:


Eat Local offers a rewards card that pulls together a national organization of local, independently owned restaurants. Cardholders earn rewards they can redeem at any restaurant in participating cities.

Over the past five years, Eat Local has signed more than 600 restaurants in 10 cities, with plans to launch in three new markets in coming months. More than 1 million cardholders rack up about $8 million a month in spending.


LoboPerks, a discount program at the University of New Mexico, started in 2011 with students earning points at 19 different merchants. Now there are more than 100 merchants in the program. Among the available discounts is half off the deposit on an apartment.

The University of Alabama introduced Crimson Spirit Loyalty Points to boost attendance at cultural, academic and lower-profile sports events. Students can go online to see their points. Prizes will include scholarship money.


When Frequent Buyer Rewards Card members visit participating Seattle-area retailers, they earn points they can spend at any other area business in the program. Credits don’t expire, the card doubles as a gift card, and Frequent Buyer Rewards Card plans to take the coalition national. The company has seen a huge increase in consumer interest and activity.

Response to these smaller “coalition-ish” programs signals that consumers want to join the dance. But the movement hasn’t grown quite large enough yet to offer the power of a traditional coalition. Reaching that level will be the next step for American programs.

The new generation of programs offers a chance to take advantage of the earning and redemption options of coalition loyalty. Cue the background music. Step to this quickening beat.