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Can you imagine your favorite brands not having a form of loyalty or reward program? In today’s society, these programs have become a staple for both traditional brick-and-mortar retailers and ecommerce sites to increase retention and reduce acquisition costs.

But when we talk about loyalty programs, we often forget when and how they actually began. It’s time we give you a quick refresher on the history of loyalty programs!

Birth of loyalty programs in the 1700s

Back in 1792, a merchant in the USA came up with the idea of giving copper coins to customers which could be exchanged for items in the store at a later stage.

Source: A Brief History of Loyalty Program

Rise of loyalty programs in the 1800s

Customer retention through coins gained popularity among merchants but it proved to be an expensive means of building loyalty. Retailers immediately realized they needed to replace coins with a less expensive material. In the late nineteenth century (1891), stamps were introduced instead of coins making loyalty programs more popular as ever.

The first company to introduce the stamp system as a loyalty program was The Grand Union Tea. Customers needed to collect 4 of these stamps or tickets and exchange them for one pound of tea.

Source: A Brief History of Loyalty Program

Introduction of modern loyalty programs in the 1900s

Stamp collection programs would continue to lead loyalty programs throughout the early 1900s.

Individual brands and retailers began to create their own methods of engaging customers after this time, with “box tops” being one of the first brand-specific programs. Box tops were coupons that could be redeemed for premiums or rewards after being printed directly on product packages. Betty Crocker launched their box top program in 1929, setting the groundwork for today’s loyalty programs.

Another milestone for loyalty programs happened during that time. You have surely heard of frequent-flier loyalty programs. This was made popular by Western Direct Marketing, which launched the first modern frequent-flier program for United Airlines. It was a very popular one, the beginning of all frequent-flier programs we are familiar with today.

In the 1990s, Card-based store loyalty programs became popular as well.

How Related is propelling loyalty programs forward

With today’s rise of ecommerce and digital payment, loyalty programs’ objective has developed to cover a range of customer behaviors. Customer rewards options are now limitless.

At Related, we create and manage personalized loyalty rewards programs using the best of what technology has to offer to help your company make the most of its customer base. We are able to design worlds around your clients’ demands and create unforgettable experiences that encourage lifelong loyalty.

Recently we launched our newest rewards solution UPP,  to catalyze small businesses and restaurants to succeed in the digital realm. If you want to build your own low-cost rewards program, UPP is a web app with pre-built features, like a loyalty wallet, digital stamps, offers catalog, e-vouchers, and much more. These can be fully modified to your brand’s needs and deployed in no time.


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