SCHAUMBURG, Ill. - Loyalty programs have reached their saturation point, with the percentage of U.S. households belonging to programs remaining steady at around 82% for the past four years, an ACNielsen survey showed.
At the same time, few retailers take full advantage of the data available through the programs.
"Frequent shopper programs are fairly well distributed in the grocery industry," said Todd Hale, senior vice president for consumer and shopper insights at ACNielsen. "The bigger question is, when are retailers going to mine them to the degree that they should?"
The 10th Annual Frequent Shopper Survey Update also found that 71% of households belong to more than one card program - suggesting such programs haven't created much loyalty. More than 33,000 households participated in the survey last fall.
The survey also found such programs are less important to consumers.
Asked why they shopped the store where they use their card most often, frequent shopper programs or store deals remained the No. 2 reason for respondents vs. a year ago, after convenient location.
But the percentage of shoppers who listed card and deals as their key criterion dropped three points.
Notably, the percentage of households listing everyday low prices as a key factor in their store choice grew five points. Assortment, meanwhile, gained three points.
The growing importance of EDLP comes as retailers low-price programs to compete with value retailers.
While card program participation is at least 80% in most major markets, there are exceptions, based on the retailer makeup of certain markets. In Minneapolis and San Antonio, for example, which are home to strong independents without card programs, penetration is 15% and 33%, respectively.
"You've got some very strong regional players who are doing very well without the extra expense," Hale said. "It may not be worth it for them."