At the counter of a major department store yesterday I was offered one of their new loyalty cards. “But I already have xxx” I said. “You can use this too.” was the answer.

This national chain is introducing another loyalty card but this one is branded specifically to their brand of stores as opposed to the other card which operates across the group.

The employees behind the counter overly excited about the benefits of joining – especially the financial rewards.

Always a sucker for a new loyalty scheme I eagerly signed up.

At home I pulled out the card and the paperwork it came with and set abut reading the fine print. Boy is there some fine print.

This is a department store remember. Fashion is a key product category. The best they are offering is a 1% rebate for purchases. That is the best. At worst it is as low as .3%.

Having felt that they were not really rewarding me for loyalty I’ve done a quick comparison to smaller stores in the fashion space. The best I can do in terms of a loyalty scheme is 10% off and that’s without too much effort.

So if a smaller group of stores can offer 10% and this monolithic group can only offer 1% I no longer feel that valued.

All of this is on my mind because we’re enhancing the loyalty facilities in our software and I wanted to ensure I better understood how retailers use the schemes and how they work and don’t work for consumers.

It seems there are three games at play here: real wards for loyalty; smoke and mirrors rewards to keep the punters happy; and, enough rewards to get punters in so that we can see what they buy. Cynical? Yes! Accutate? Yes!

Of course from a consumer perspective it’s the real rewards offering which works the best. While we will not be dictating how users of our software implement, we will certainly provide the opportunity to deliver real rewards if that is what they wish to do.