South African's love their loyalty cards with one of the highest user rates in the world and far outstripping other African and emerging markets.

And shoppers were pretty clear that monetary rewards are more highly valued in South Africa than in any other country in the region with around seven in 10 South African loyalty-programme participants say rebates or cash back (69%) or product discounts (67%) are among their top three rewards. Free products also score highly amongst South African respondents (43%).

Nielsen's latest Global Retail Loyalty Survey in 63 countries and the report's Head of Emerging Markets Thought Leadership Ailsa Wingfield (pictured) said: “In Africa and the Middle East, participation in retail loyalty programmes is closely tied to the strength of modern trade. Modern trade is still in a growth phase in many countries in the region, however, the high membership rate in South Africa speaks to the relatively long history of loyalty programmes and high penetration in the market.”

The report said 62 per cent of South African respondents belong to between two and five schemes and six per cent said they belonged to more than six. It said 82 per cent scan their card in-store, which represents one of highest usage rates of physical loyalty cards in the world. Thirty-two percent enter information or log into their account on a retailer website and 28 per cent use the retailer’s app.

Wingfield said: “Retailers can’t think of the online browsing and in-store buying experience as disparate activities. Loyalty programmes and the engagement with members should occur holistically across brick-and-mortar and digital channels during the entire path to purchase, not just at check out.”

For the future Wingfield adds that as adoption of non-traditional payment methods rises, loyalty programmes also need to be flexible in terms of payment type. “Mobile payment platforms will increasingly deliver an opportunity for loyalty-programme engagement with consumers, providing a convenient and personalised way for programme members and retailers to engage with one another all along the path to purchase.”

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