Loyalty marketing is an approach to marketing, based on strategic management, in which a company focuses on growing and retaining existing customers through incentives. Branding, product marketing and loyalty marketing all form part of the customer proposition – the subjective assessment by the customer of whether to purchase a brand or not based on the integrated combination of the value they receive from each of these marketing disciplines.
The discipline of customer loyalty marketing has been around for many years, but expansions from it merely being a model for conducting business to becoming a vehicle for marketing and advertising have made it omnipresent in consumer marketing organizations since the mid- to late-1990s. Some of the newer loyalty marketing industry insiders, such as Fred Reichheld, have claimed a strong link between customer loyalty marketing and customer referral. In recent years, a new marketing discipline called "customer advocacy marketing" has been combined with or replaced "customer loyalty marketing." To the general public, many airline miles programs, hotel frequent guest programs and credit card incentive programs are the most visible customer loyalty marketing programs.
Premiums are items that a retail customer can receive by redeeming proofs of purchase from a specific product or store. This was one of the first loyalty marketing programs.
Beginning in 1793, a U.S. merchant started giving out copper tokens which could be collected by the consumer and exchanged for items in the store. This practice caught on and was used by many merchants throughout the 19th century. Sweet Home laundry soap, a product of the B. A. Babbit Company, came with certificates that could be collected and redeemed for color lithographs. Beginning in 1872, the Grand Union Tea Company gave tickets to customers that could be exchanged for merchandise in the company catalog of Grand Union stores.
The first trading stamps were introduced in 1891, the Blue Stamp Trading System, where stamps affixed to booklets could be redeemed for store products. The Sperry and Hutchinson Company, started in 1896 in Jackson, Michigan, was the first third-party provider of trading stamps for various companies, including dry goods dealers, gas stations and later supermarkets. S&H Green Stamps, as the company was commonly called, opened its first redemption center in 1897. Customers could take their filled booklets of "green stamps" and redeem them for household products, kitchen items, and personal items. When the G.I.s returned from World War II the trading stamps business took off when numerous third-party companies created their own trading stamp programs to offer to supermarkets and other retailers.