Perspective - Challenging the sameness: a fresh perspective on loyalty trends in 2023 and provocations for 2024 

By Julie Fitzpatrick | 14 December 2023
Julie Fitzpatrick.

The AdNews end of year Perspectives, looking back at 2023 and forward to next year.

As I delve into the landscape of customer experience (CX) and loyalty, one word looms large: sameness. It's a term that encapsulates the challenges brands are grappling with as they strive to stand out in a sea of loyalty programs. But let's be clear: sameness is the enemy of growth and innovation. 

The era of Sameness

In recent years, the loyalty landscape has become increasingly homogeneous. Everyone's doing the same thing, following the same playbook, and expecting different results. We've lost sight of what loyalty truly means. It's not just about rewards cards and points; it's about building deep, meaningful connections with customers. 

The 'earn points and redeem' model in loyalty programs, ubiquitous in retail, hotel, banking, and telecom sectors, is mired in sameness. Retailers with basic point systems, hotel chains offering undifferentiated tiered benefits, and credit card rewards that mirror each other in accrual and redemption typify this trend. Similarly, telecom loyalty schemes often replicate the retail model, focusing on points for billing rather than customer engagement. This pervasive uniformity, neglecting to leverage predictive customer behaviours or preferences, underscores a critical need for innovative, personalised loyalty strategies. 

The economic downturn in Australia, coupled with the rising cost of living, has had a profound impact on consumer behaviour. People are tightening their belts, making every dollar count. In this challenging environment, brands must recognise that consumers are making decisions based on reduced disposable income. Loyalty programs that fail to address this reality risk becoming irrelevant. 

Maintaining market share in these times requires a laser focus on unlocking incremental profit. Brands can no longer afford to tread water with loyalty initiatives that yield mediocre results. They must adapt, evolve, and find new ways to deliver value to their customers. 

So, what's my perspective for 2024? It's time to challenge the status quo, break free from the shackles of sameness, and embark on a journey of true loyalty transformation. 

  1. Ditch the cookie-cutter loyalty programs: It's time to shed the one-size-fits-all mentality and create loyalty programs that resonate with individual customers. Leverage data, AI, and advanced analytics to tailor offerings dynamically and provide unique experiences.
  2. Value-centric loyalty: Shift your focus from short-term gains to long-term value. Identify high-value customers who have the potential for substantial spending and nurture their loyalty over time.
  3. Prove ROI or perish: In this era of accountability, loyalty investments must deliver measurable ROI. Brands that can't demonstrate the financial impact of their CX initiatives will find themselves on the losing side.
  4. Innovation beyond rewards: Loyalty goes beyond rewards cards and discounts. Innovate in how you engage with customers, whether it's through exclusive experiences, personalised content, or unexpected surprises.
  5. Human-centric approach: Remember that customers are people, not just data points. Connect with them on a human level, addressing their real needs and concerns.

The path forward involves unlocking incremental profit, and that requires a shift in perspective. It means challenging the sameness, embracing innovation, and acknowledging the economic realities that shape consumer behaviour. 

In conclusion, the loyalty landscape is ripe for disruption in 2024. Brands that dare to be different, break free from the confines of sameness, and deliver true value to their customers will thrive. It's a time for provocative thinking, innovative strategies, and a renewed commitment to building lasting loyalty. 

Julie Fitzpatrick is CEO & Founder of Gravitas Co

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