Overseas shoppers may not have the sheer number of program options that Americans do, but they are increasingly enthusiastic about them—especially those that reward with special service and recognition. Here at home, Americans have more choice among many established programs, and today’s best options focus on value, utility and personalization. That’s according to the 2011 CrossCultural Loyalty Study done by COLLOQUY, the leading publication of the global loyalty marketing industry.

It examined attitudes about loyalty and program participation in several countries including the US, Brazil, Australia, Canada, India and China.

Loyalty landscape

Shoppers in emerging markets are engaging on many levels in their new programs. In developed countries, the mature loyalty landscape is filled with program options, offering consumers more choice. Only 33 percent of consumers in Brazil, 48 percent in India and 60 percent in China belong to loyalty programs, but in the US, our membership tops out at 74 percent (90 percent in Canada).

"Living in countries with more programs means that members tend to become less selective when it comes to signing up for them— the average American belongs to an overwhelming 18 programs."

Living in countries with more programs means that members tend to become less selective when it comes to signing up for them— the average American belongs to an overwhelming 18 programs, according to the 2011 COLLOQUY Loyalty Census. Instead of haphazardly joining (and then not using) too many programs, Americans have the opportunity to choose just a few that maximize earning, fit their spending patterns and offer relevant rewards.

For example, program members worldwide rate themselves as being the most loyal to their financial service companies, which makes practical sense.

A growing trend

The potent combination of earning both credit card points and with retailer rewards makes shopping with the right card a double-earn opportunity. Loyalty in emerging countries focuses not only on earning rewards but also on luxury shopping and special treatment. For example, shoppers in China and India are more willing than Americans to pay higher prices for namebrand products. They rate themselves as very loyal to their clothing retailers and travel providers.

About 25 percent of wealthier shoppers in both Asian countries are “extremely loyal” to those brands, and said that they expect special service from the places where they shop. When it comes to disposable income, shoppers in emerging nations are also more likely to view money as way to improve social status or enjoy life. Shoppers in India and China scored higher on the view that money should be used for spending and enjoyment. Indian shoppers in particular tended to equate money with power. Americans, Canadians and Australians rated much lower on these views, and instead were more likely to equate money with security, and list it as a tool for reaching goals and dreams.

Whether earning points and rewards help us enjoy life or reach our dreams, the loyalty trend is certainly growing both overseas and at home.Not only do we have more programs than in emerging countries, but our participation is rising—American involvement in programs is up by 10 percent from 2009. It seems that our loyalty to loyalty is getting even stronger, regardless of geography.