- Savings on fuel is the most preferred currency for loyalty programs, according to a study from Excentus-Ipsos. By a close margin, consumers participating in the survey prefer fuel savings. The study found that 39% value fuel savings while 35% prefer cash back on credit cards.
- Excentus, which provides loyalty programs to retailers, has funded the survey for three years. This is the third year fuel savings topped the list of loyalty preferences.
- While the growth of loyalty programs in general is declining, membership in fuel loyalty programs has risen 10% in the last two years. Sixty-four percent of consumers are now in a program that saves on gasoline, up from 54% in 2015 and 59% in 2016. According the report, no other specialty loyalty program or reward type has enjoyed comparable growth in this period of time.
The success of these programs could be impacted greatly when Amazon starts offering its Prime program at Whole Foods Markets, or if shoppers move toward the 25% to 50% savings on equivalent grocery products at Aldi — and Lidl is coming soon to more markets. The limits of loyalty programs will soon be tested as retailers are updating and promoting their loyalty programs to try and poach shoppers away from their competition.
Among the retail banners now offering the Excentus program are Hy-Vee, Giant, Stop & Shop, Albertsons, Safeway and Schnucks. Many others offer discounts on gas as part of their loyalty programs, such as Kroger and Hannaford Bros., and warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam's and BJ's discount gas for members.
Giant Eagle was a pioneer of the program in the early 2000s, but about 10 years later got in a legal dispute — resolved in 2013 — with Excentus over patent infringement. Giant Eagle continues to offer a gas-based loyalty program, recently adding points for gas purchases that can be used on food. The Giant Eagle fuelperks+ program tends to be more generous than competitors, offering 10 cents per $50 spent in the supermarket, versus $100 at other retailers. The grocer also ties in pharmacy and gift card sales, and frequently advertises the program. That has helped Giant Eagle maintain market share as competition has ramped up.
Many retailers, like Giant Eagle, have found that the cost of the program in terms of profits at its GetGo convenience stores is made up by customer loyalty, just as the Excentus-Ipsos study shows. Gas prices at GetGo are usually competitive with other gas retailers, although Giant Eagle offers 3 cents off per gallon for just swiping its Advantage card. Prices of food and snack items inside GetGo are a bit higher than the supermarket, as is typical of convenience stores.
Among the other findings of the study: 20% of consumers will shop specifically at stores where they can earn fuel rewards, and 31% of consumers — up 20% from last year — use their loyalty program's mobile app to manage rewards. However, consumers want to save on fuel regardless of whether gas prices go up or down, the study said. Seventy-three percent indicated that is important to them to earn fuel rewards when the price of gas rises, while 58% said the same thing, except when it pertains to the price of gas falling.