Ever since they first appeared in the United States in 1987 at a Ukrop's store in Richmond, Va., loyalty cards have largely been designed to issue "electronic" coupons at the checkout, enabling shoppers who signed up for the card to avoid the tedious task of clipping coupons from their Sunday paper. That was such a good strategy that in 2001 78% of U.S. households participated in at least one card-based loyalty program, according to ACNielsen Homescan data. Many retailers like collecting ...

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