Less than 24 percent of surveyed loyalty rewards members said they’d stick with fuel rewards if given the choice by their grocery store, according to a recent survey of 1,000 consumers by COLLOQUY's publisher. More than 76 percent of those respondents said they’d rather get discounts on groceries, travel or other rewards.

Put another way, the power of the pump, as a reward, is deflating.

Turning point?

This places fuel reward programs, those loyalty initiatives that are often tied to supermarkets, at a critical juncture. And it puts consumers in a desirable position, as they can guide where those reward points should be steered.

"Even if grub beats gas, fuel rewards will remain, though their model may change."

The reason for the dip in fuel appeal has as much to do with declining prices as it does with availability. Almost half of those surveyed said many grocers in their areas already offer fuel reward programs, and many look the same.

While this pervasiveness means fuel programs are increasingly taken for granted, they are not passé. Seven in 10 of those surveyed agreed that fuel perks offer a lot of value, while 63 percent said the discounts make them more loyal to the grocers that offer them.

The journey ahead

So even if grub beats gas, fuel rewards will remain, though their model may change. Grocers can mix in-store offers with fuel points (get $2 off Oreos right now and earn double fuel points). This strategy would not only provide customer perks on two fronts, we’ve found that in-lane cash redemptions result in a sustained sales lift even 12 months after the promotion.

That’s the kind of transaction customers and retailers can get pumped about.