Timeless: A little extra, with a smile
Family-run stores and market stall holders have always known how to create loyalty in a very personal way. By putting a small amount extra into the bag after weighing it, or by giving a sweet or piece of fruit to the customer’s children, they made her feel special and appreciated. An approach that still works today.
1800s: Thanks for paying cash
The reward stamps system was the first method used to build customer loyalty and was very popular during the 19th century. Stamps were initially awarded to customers who paid with cash instead of credit, but evolved into something given out when shoppers purchased enough goods.
1896: The first point-based loyalty initiatives arrive
The earliest cross-sector attempt at developing customer loyalty was when Sperry & Hutchinson began offering US retailers green paper stamps that could be redeemed for rewards. The intention was to increase expenditure and the frequency of visits by providing customers with an incentive to keep coming back. The retail organisations that distributed the stamps (primarily supermarkets, other shops, and petrol stations) bought the stamps from S&H and gave them away at a rate determined by the merchant. Some shoppers would choose one merchant over another because
it gave out more stamps per dollar spent. Collectors could exchange completed books of stamps for rewards, including housewares and other items, from the local Green Stamps store or catalogue.
Whatever happened to them?
The programme had its greatest popularity during the mid-1960s, when the S&H ‘Idea book’ contained 178 pages of items ranging from dish towels and ashtrays to fishing poles, bicycles, furniture, appliances and a complete set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. A series of recessions during the 1970s decreased sales of S&H stamps, together with those of their competitors. The value of the rewards declined substantially during the same period too, requiring either far more stamps to get a worthwhile item or the need to spend money for an item that was barely discounted from the regular price, creating a general downward spiral as fewer and fewer people saw them as worth the trouble.
1921: Betty Crocker is born (as an attractive American adult)
Now a brand name and trademark of American Fortune 500 corporation General Mills, the name Betty Crocker was chosen as a way to give a personalised response to consumer product questions. By 1924, the all-American Betty had gained a voice (via an actress who portrayed her in radio shows), and in 1929 Betty Crocker coupons were introduced in bags of flour (for discounts on cookware). Over the years, Betty Crocker’s image became so strong that many people thought she was a real person. Betty Crocker’s success led to a large part of the Consumer Packaged Goods industry adopting the coupon model. After all, by the 1960s, food retailing had become so impersonal that the grocery assistant no longer had the time or opportunity to influence brand selection. Statistics of that decade reveal that of 20 leading manufacturers in the food industry, 14 were among the top 20 coupon producers.