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Are you truly loyal to your favorite stores and brands? Or does your loyalty depend on what’s in it for you?

A new survey finds that loyalty programs don’t necessarily mean what their name suggests.

Loyalty marketing agency Maritz Motivation Solutions surveyed 2,000 people, and found that “loyal” customers tend to go wherever the deals and rewards are. Only 5% said they join a brand’s loyalty program because they share the brand’s values. Just 17% said it’s because they love the brand’s products. But fully 43% said they join to get rewards – and if they don’t, they’ll seek out rewards from a different brand altogether.

“Consumers have been trained for decades to expect brands to pay them for their repeat business,” the researchers write.

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Survey respondents are somewhat cynical about what their loyalty means to brands, anyway. Some 60% believed that companies offer loyalty programs not to build a relationship with them, but just to get them to buy more stuff. Only a quarter of respondents strongly agreed that their loyalty program “treats me like an individual” and is “personally meaningful to me.”

The findings support the results of a similar survey conducted last year. Market Track’s “Grocery Shopper Insight Survey” found that most shoppers are loyal to savings, above all. If they can get a better price on a similar product, or from a different store, a vast majority have no problem with transfering their loyalties to the competition.

That said, it takes more than just cash to buy most consumers’ loyalty. At least two separate surveys suggest that people prefer deferred perks to immediate cash-back gratification. An Excentus survey conducted last summer found that most respondents would rather earn points redeemable for fuel savings, than straight discounts off their purchases. And a recent Cognizant study, which focused on shoppers in the UK, found that 80% would rather earn points or rewards tied to their spending levels, than automatic discounts or personalized special offers.

So for brands to truly earn your loyalty, the Maritz study says it will take more than just discounts, points and perks. “By creating engaging experiences and emotional connections, you can forge deeper relationships with your customers,” researchers advised brands.

As long as they keep the discounts coming in the meantime. Fuel perks and personalized offers may be all the rage these days. But saving money never goes out of style.

Photo by joelogon

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