DALLAS -- For the third consecutive year, U.S. consumers have ranked fuel savings as their preferred loyalty currency as opposed to cash-back rewards.
The findings are from a study by loyalty marketing firm Excentus, which shows that 39% of consumers prefer fuel savings, whereas only 35% prefer cash back on credit cards.
“This report illustrates—among other findings—that consumers place immense value on savings at the pump, perceiving those savings as equivalent to cash,” said Brandon Logsdon, CEO of Dallas-based Excentus. “For brands and retailers, this means that cents-per-gallon fuel savings are the currency most likely to increase frequency, customer interactions and new revenue opportunities.”
The study also found that the ability for loyalty programs to influence customer behavior is on the rise, with 36% of consumers—compared to 26% in 2016—shopping more frequently at stores where they can earn fuel savings.
Furthermore, the data shows that programs with a fuel savings currency have been steadily increasing. Memberships in fuel loyalty programs have risen 10% in the past two years, with 64% of Americans participating in a program that helps them save on the cost of gas. Up from 54% in 2015 and 59% in 2016, no other specialty loyalty program or reward type in the United States has enjoyed comparable growth in this time span.
Other notable data points include:
- Twenty percent of consumers reported shopping specifically at stores where they can earn rewards that help them save on the cost of fuel, and 22% will shop exclusively at a convenience store where they are a loyalty program member;
- Fuel savings (30%) have also surpassed cash back (29%) as the rewards currency with the highest consumer engagement, with consumers earning and redeeming fuel savings every few weeks or monthly;
- Thirty-one percent of consumers (up 20% from last year) are using their loyalty program’s mobile app to manage their rewards, including redemption—by far the largest jump of any channel.
The data also found that consumers want to save on fuel regardless of gas prices: Seventy-three percent said it is important to earn rewards that save on fuel when the price of gas rises, and 58% echoed the identical sentiment when the price of gas falls. This demonstrates that gas prices remain important to consumers even in a stable economy, and shoppers look to their loyalty programs to save money and add value to their everyday transactions.
“Fuel is a predictable, consistent and repeated expense, and discounts at the pump have a direct impact on consumers’ wallets,” said Logsdon. “The unique relationship consumers have with this commodity makes fuel savings a near universal and highly relevant reward currency.”
The 2017 Road to Rewards survey is the third consecutive independent consumer loyalty survey of 1,086 U.S. consumers by Excentus and Ipsos, conducted in November 2017. The majority of questions asked in the survey have been consistent over the past three waves to compare consumer behavior trends emerging over the three-year period like for like. In the past two years, the survey has included additional questions to extract insights specifically pertaining to the effect of loyalty programs on shopper behavior and the c-store shopper profile.