It’s hard to ignore the evolving landscape of the loyalty industry. Clearly technology is helping to shape it.  Big Data, mobile and social media, all contributors, but the dominant theme for those paying close attention is the continuing march towards points as a true currency.

Savvy and experienced

We have all heard the stats. In the U.S. consumers are members of more than 20 loyalty programs on average. They are savvy and experienced. There is a wealth of information readily available to help them understand and evaluate the value proposition of those loyalty programs.

"Companies that embrace and evolve will be squarely meeting the needs and desires of their members, and stand poised to reap the rewards of greater engagement, retention, and of course results."

Ultimately what this means is that loyalty programs are competing for the hearts and minds of members in the most competitive marketplace in the world. In order to remain relevant they must adapt and evolve.

One of the outcomes of this new paradigm is that loyalty program owners are truly listening to members in an effort to meet their needs and differentiate their programs with tailored offers. Not surprising, high on members’ wish lists is greater flexibility and choices for how they can use their points. They want more redemption options, more utility, more value and greater transparency into the value of those points—and they want it instantly.

A look at some of the major changes in the industry supports that this shift is well underway: mobile delivery, the expansion of new reward categories, special offers, digital rewards, transparency into the value of a point and the ability to pay with points at online merchants.

A new paradigm

If we consider these enhancements in the aggregate we see the emergence of a key trend, members simply want to use their points like any other true currency, wherever and whenever they choose. For a variety of reasons, program owners and reward providers have been slow to embrace this shift.

However we are now seeing real momentum as more and more programs move beyond the historically fenced in loyalty structure. Companies that embrace and evolve will be squarely meeting the needs and desires of their members, and stand poised to reap the rewards of greater engagement, retention, and of course results.