If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you might remember a little something I wrote about the Red River Co-Op program last year. Long story short (although, you can read the piece again here)…I’ve been a member of Red River’s Loyalty Program for a long, long time, regularly purchasing my gas and groceries there so I can receive an annual check that gives me something back for my continued business.
But I’m not engaged by the program’s tactics anymore. Actually, I don’t think I ever was!
In 2017, I found myself questioning the value I get from this loyalty program – and I use that word loosely – with its lack of communication, updates, and digital engagement options. Guess what’s changed since then? Nothing! Despite these ongoing contemplation’s, I purchased my gas and groceries there just this week!
This one-year-on milestone has offered me the chance to once again reflect on my choice. I’m left wondering, “Am I still just a loyal dummy?”
I started to think it was all in my head…maybe I was over critical or expected too much? That was until I spoke with a group of students.
I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker at the University of Manitoba for two integrated marketing communications lectures. As I begin all of these presentations, I ask the audience, “What loyalty programs are you members of?”. Within the first three answers, I heard ‘Red River Co-Op’.
That’s when it happened. I heard my thoughts being echoed to me, with comments like:
- ‘I just don’t know what I get out of it’
- ‘Not sure if I should stay with it’,
- ‘I thought my check should have been more’.
Who says there’s a generational gap?!
Some students would drive out of their way to utilize the Co-Op program…and some said it was just part of their routine. No matter the reason for their business, they all expressed that the program was lacking some key features that would help keep them engaged all year round.
Bear in mind, this was asked approximately a week after the annual check had arrived, making the most positive experience of the program a recent event!
Some people may disregard this testimony due to the small sample size and demographic…but these students are the next generation of loyal gas and grocery customers. If there are issues being expressed by these 20-something-year-olds, I would advise a program to cooperate.
I’ve complained before about the lack of communication I’ve received from this program, with little more than an annual check. They have never asked for my email, phone number, or sent any printed material to my home address. This is a missed opportunity for both marketing and engagement, resulting in a disconnected audience. If I feel disconnected, I imagine the students’ experience is considerably worse…because if it’s not on their phones, it doesn’t exist (as the stereotypes go).
One of the best features of a loyalty program is being able to track your reward earnings as you spend. This program offers no tracking throughout the year, so it’s no wonder the amount on the check is a total surprise to all members. As part of your final amount is dependent on the company’s financial performance that year, it does make it challenging to provide insights to members, but some kind of projection would help to motivate.
Many programs give you savings right away; as you can spend on groceries to save on gas, and vice versa. With Co-Op, you wait a WHOLE YEAR to get gratification. Just imagine a relationship as one-sided as this; taking them on dates every week, checking in to see how they are doing, supporting their dreams, and then you get a ‘Thank You’ once a year. Would you stay in that relationship? Probably not. This lack of inertia is making members feel disengaged and thus questioning their loyalty… just like I’m doing here.
Collect & Win.
Around the time of the checks, for at least the second year in a row, Co-Op ran a Collect & Win program where they hand out small game pieces to collect Canadian cities.
Think McDonald’s Monopoly, but a very simplified and less engaging version of it. It’s still a great idea, but guess what, it is entirely separate from the loyalty program. If there was integration between the two, it would encourage members to engage more with the Collect & Win, if it meant they would be rewarded for their loyalty. Smart brands leverage their always-on loyalty programs as a foundational element of their marketing through which key drive period activations are launched.
Each ‘program’ could help support the other, and because these don’t, I have to say their attempt missed the mark.
As you’ve reached this point in the article, you may be thinking ‘What is the appeal?”. This series has not intended to brutally attack Co-Op and everything it stands for, but to merely encourage readers to question the programs they are members of and ask for better.
Evaluate what you want out of your loyalty program and determine if you would be able to get greater value elsewhere.
If you feel somewhat undervalued but don’t leave because old habits die hard, well then you may too be a loyal dummy!
Want to join the club? We also have a loyalty program.
I’m Director of Client Success at IC Group and a loyalty program strategist.