TORONTO  — Participation in supermarket loyalty programs has declined slightly in the last two years, according to a new report examining loyalty programs across a range of industries.

The total number of grocery-store loyalty-program memberships totaled about 172.4 million in 2012, down about 1% from 173.7 million in 2010, the 2013 Colloquy Loyalty Census from LoyaltyOne here reported. That diverges from the double-digit expansion of loyalty program membership in other industries, including financial services, specialty stores, airlines and hotels.

Despite the recent flattening of grocery loyalty growth, however, membership has increased 27% over the last six years in supermarket programs.

The supermarket channel, Colloquy reported, “is already well-penetrated and highly competitive” when it comes to loyalty programs. “The focus on fuel rewards as a core component of the value proposition is increasing. The overall focus must shift from acquiring new memberships to better engaging the customer base and driving repeat purchase behaviors. The addition of soft benefits (for example, general manager meet-and greets, member-only events, etc.) will drive engagement and differentiation.”

Retail overall, including supermarkets, drug stores and other channels, remains the largest sector for loyalty program membership, with 39% of the total, and grocery remains the largest sub-segment of retail.

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