21 Dec 2020

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Want a career in the loyalty industry? Here’s what you need to know

The loyalty marketing industry is incredibly well patronised (the average Australian belongs to 4.1 loyalty programs) and extremely lucrative (hundreds of billions of points/miles are earned and redeemed each year).

It is also becoming increasingly sophisticated, with specialised roles required to operate larger programs.

For those thinking of entering the industry, this article provides guidance on recommended areas where loyalty program expertise should be developed.


It is important to understand the overall objectives of a loyalty program, as well as the many benefits and challenges they provide for consumers, loyalty program operators and merchant partners.

Academic research

There is a large body of academic research which both proves and disproves the claim that loyalty programs work to effectively generate genuine customer loyalty. Few people in the loyalty industry acquaint themselves with this research, therefore taking the time to do so will provide valuable insight to build a loyalty marketing career.

Loyalty psychology

Loyalty marketing programs are designed to stimulate specific consumer behaviours. Psychology is ‘the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context’. Loyalty psychology can be directly applied to loyalty program design in an effort to drive desired behavioural changes among consumers, and anyone working in the industry should be well acquainted with the major relevant studies.


Loyalty marketing industry professionals need to understand the critical importance of desirable rewards in the overall success of a loyalty program, and the types of rewards available. Different rewards which are best suited to influencing specific behaviours in a variety of circumstances should also be understood.

Design frameworks

There are many different types of loyalty program design framework used around the world, including points, tiers, discounts, credits, member benefits, surprise and delight, and gamification. Some programs combine multiple frameworks into a hybrid design. Those working in the loyalty industry should join as many programs as they can and study the many program designs to understand what is possible and what is most effective for different industries.

Data capture, analysis and usage

It is critical to comprehend the value of member data, including how loyalty programs collect and use data, as well as consumer awareness about the data being collected and traded.


Technology plays an essential role in the operational execution of a loyalty marketing program. Tech is also powering emerging trends including machine learning and AI, in-store personalisation, subscription memberships, card and bank account linking, digital wallets and payments, third party aggregators, geolocation tracking, affiliate marketing and blockchain. Understanding technology options and the major trends is very important.

Marketing and lifecycle management

Best-practise loyalty programs deliver personalised member communications across each different stage of the member lifecycle including Acquisition, Onboarding, Growth, Advocacy, Retention and Winback. Comprehending the important role loyalty programs can play in driving member engagement via personalised communication is an advanced but essential skill.


Both games and gamification can be used as a mechanic to drive deeper member engagement and stimulate desired member behaviours. Researching different applications and appropriate strategies will expand the ability loyalty professionals to deliver genuine value when considering the evolution of their company’s loyalty program.

Commercial modelling

To be effective, loyalty programs need to deliver a positive return on investment. Understanding how to build a commercial model, as well as measure the financial impact of a loyalty program, will help ensure the program is genuinely beneficial.


While loyalty industry professionals should not need to have a legal degree, it is useful to have a general understanding about legal considerations for the jurisdictions in which the program will be operated.

Security and fraud risks

There are an extensive range of loyalty specific security and fraud risks which can negatively impact loyalty programs. It is critical to understand these risks, as well as have general insight on how each risk can best be mitigated.


It is useful to understand the teams, roles and responsibilities involved in operating a loyalty program including all business functions impacted by a loyalty program. It is also helpful to comprehend options for outsourcing some functions to platform providers, reward suppliers and agencies.

The loyalty marketing industry is highly specialised, and it takes many years to develop into a true professional. Gaining understand and expertise in these key areas will help those working in the industry to turbo-charge their career progression by building essential knowledge which can be immediately applied to the loyalty program they are managing.

Philip Shelper, CEO of Loyalty & Reward Co, has many experience within the loyalty industry, including roles at Qantas Frequent Flyer and Vodafone. Loyalty & Reward have consulted to over 50 major brands in the past seven years.

Phil is a member of several hundred loyalty programs, and a researcher of loyalty psychology and loyalty history, all of which he uses to understand the essential dynamics of what makes a successful loyalty program.

Phil is the author of ‘Loyalty Programs: The Complete Guide’ the most comprehensive book on loyalty programs available.  Receive a free copy of this book when you complete the ADMA Loyalty Masterclass.

Connect with Phil
LinkedIn: https://au.linkedin.com/in/philipshelper
Twitter: @phil_shelper

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