According to a recently conducted survey, South African consumers have saved themselves billions by taking advantage of loyalty rewards programs. With the country’s waning economy making itself felt, ever growing numbers are using the points awarded to offset the cost of goods like fuel, food, and even electricity.  

This means loyalty programs are doing exceptionally well, helping to not only entice customers but also build mutually beneficial relationships between retailers and consumers.

The cult of cashback

According to Heloise Janse Van Rensburg, the head of customer marketing at Clicks, loyalty programs like theirs are doing better now than ever before. The retailer, which introduced its rewards scheme all the way back in 1995, has found the tough economic climate hasn’t made even a dent in its ClubCard uptake – in fact, its program is going from strength-to-strength.    

Janse Van Rensburg says this is a sign of how deeply the store’s ClubCard customers value and appreciate their cashback rewards. She shared that the scheme has 7.5 million active members, and that its simple, easy rewards are tailored to be both convenient for and accessible to the store's customers. She added that R320 million had been paid out to members in 2017 alone.

Ms. Janse Van Rensburg further explained that this cashback could be used for an array of purchases, not only in Clicks, but also in stores operated by The Body Shop and Claire’s, as well as a number of partner retailers across different sectors. These include everyone from Shell to Sorbet, Specsavers, Musica, and even the City Lodge Hotel Group.  

A similar scheme is run by Pick n Pay. According to John Bradshaw, the company’s head of marketing, their Smart Shopper rewards program launched in 2011, as a way for the retailer to thank its customers for their ongoing support and loyalty.

Like Clicks’ scheme, it has enjoyed a similarly positive reception, massively exceeding the company’s expectations. It now has over seven million active customers, with more signing up every day.  

Mr. Bradshaw attributes much of its success to the retailer’s ongoing personalization and modernization efforts, saying that accessibility is vital and that the company is always on the lookout for ways to make it simpler for their customers across as many platforms as they can. He explained that the launch of their mobile app was a part of these efforts - one that has proved incredibly popular.

Helping customers to save  

As much as these efforts have undoubtedly contributed to the success of such schemes, one must not ignore the most essential causative factor of all: the savviness of South African shoppers.

There is a real drive to save money and shop smart in an increasingly challenging economic environment, and it’s not only rewards programs that are benefitting from this.

In fact, economical retailers across all sectors are finding themselves very popular with consumers, and this is something we can note as much in the casino sector, for example, as in the world of grocery shopping. Indeed, to see it in evidence, one only has to look to directory sites such as Oddschecker, which focuses on casino bonuses and reviews. These sites are experiencing a huge influx of people on the hunt for special offers and bonuses to help minimise their spending. In other words, it's not that customers want to stop spending, they just want to make sure that once they know what type of product or service they want, they are choosing the brand that gives them more for less.      

Little wonder, then, that schemes such as Smart Shopper, which can save its customers up to R500 per year, are being heartily embraced. As Mr. Bradshaw shares: “These personalized discounts have been well received with customers, [with] over a million [using them]."

Woolworths, too, has had a rewards program in place since September 2010, helping its customers to save an astonishing R538 million between June 2017 and June 2018.    

Given the phenomenal savings that can be made and the surging popularity of such programs, we think the only surprise left is that there are still a small number of consumers and retailers not taking advantage. How long will it be before this trend spreads even further afield, to the entirety of Africa and perhaps even beyond?

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