So we have a plethora of loyalty programs today – with various combinations of points, rewards, benefits, recognition, privileges etc. A recent loyalty census showed an aggregate of 279.9 million program memberships in India – across 70 programs studied (log on to to register and download the whitepaper Loyalty in India – Today and Tomorrow).

How many of these programs have an overt and explicit social cause attached ? I struggle to count the numbers.

Which brings me to the next question – How important is it for a loyalty program to have a social cause? Isn’t that the organisation’s responsibility via the CSR route?

Let’s take any recent loyalty study across the globe and we will find members saying that there are areas important to them beyond the transaction and rewards that most programs offer. Millennials are growing more and more conscious of issues like – sustainability, environment, giving back to society. And these are not platitudes. Associating with such causes makes them feel responsible and committed – and a program that facilitates this is seen a different light from a program that just has a self-serving set of rewards and benefits so to speak. They are concerned about whether brands are giving back to society and fulfilling their corporate responsibility. Brands that share their world-view and position themselves correctly capture their loyalty at a younger age and secure it for life.

For a loyalty program to take on a social cause means more than having a charity as a redemption option in a catalogue. It means that the program is seen as visibly doing stuff that promotes a cause/s. This becomes a key long-term differentiating edge for the program and ensures that like-minded members of the program are bonded for life. Opting out of such a program for members will then really mean also opting out of a cause that they believe in – not such a palatable situation!

So how does a loyalty program build the social angle? Some pointers:

  1. Empowerment, Choice and Personal Relevance are key
  2. Any successful strategy involves DONATIONS as well as opportunity to VOLUNTEER
  3. Diversity of offerings increases participation
  4. Adding matching donations (from the program) increases credibility and reaffirms commitment to the cause
  5. Pillars to build communities and dialogue – can be Social (a specific cause or sectoral focus) or Geographic (a country/district/village) – or a combination of both. Psychographic /segmentation data that emerges as a result of this will almost certainly improve program results.
  6. Stakeholders today are well-informed and well connected socially. Less than credible angles run the risk of disrepute

CSR linked to loyalty is going to become more and more a growing need. Programs that step up and take a stance are going to define the winners of tomorrow.