Australian consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment and how they can make a positive difference through their purchases. Data shows that almost half (46 per cent) of Australian shoppers are opting to buy from eco-friendly and socially responsible brands, with 18 per cent having boycotted a business because of its values [1].  

To keep pace in a changing market landscape and remain relevant to customers, organisations need to focus on sustainability and innovation to differentiate themselves from their competition and drive business objectives. In addition, merchants must take steps to understand their consumers current and emerging values and expectations to tailor offerings that resonate. Retailers and other organisations can achieve this by providing more personalised, innovative, and sustainable loyalty and rewards programs.

The changing world of card-linked offers

More than 60 per cent of Australian consumers regularly use a loyalty program, with grocery reporting the highest usage among shoppers [2].  Despite their popularity, loyalty and rewards programs can be an often overlooked opportunity for businesses wanting to demonstrate their continued commitment to sustainability. For example, relying on plastic or paper cards in a more environmentally conscious society is counterintuitive, especially given only 20 per cent of customers reportedly use physical loyalty cards at the point of sale [3].

Instead, pivoting towards digital, card-linked loyalty and rewards programs can ensure an organisation makes the process as seamless as possible for its consumers, driving greater levels of sustainability across its operations and appealing to more socially conscious customers.

Fundamentally, transitioning to a digital loyalty and rewards program empowers consumers to reduce the amount of plastic and paper cards they own and carry. It also eliminates the need to send physical cards to customers via the post. This is a critical step for businesses wanting to demonstrate their commitment to more sustainable practices. It is equally important to mitigate the cyber security risk whilst embracing the digital, by ensuring the card link technology partner is PCI-DSS Level 1 compliant.  

However, eliminating plastic or paper rewards cards is just one-way digital loyalty programs can help organisations deliver more sustainable options to shoppers.

Driving sustainability with consumer data

One of the biggest benefits that digital loyalty programs provide to businesses are access to real-time data and insights that can be used to tailor increasingly personalised offers and experiences to consumers. Hyper-personalisation can help organisations build stronger customer relationships and loyalty by customising offers to shoppers that best meet their needs based on buying behaviours.

Offering personalised rewards based on a consumer’s preferences, purchase history, or location can help businesses stand out from the competition and attract new customers. That includes providing more sustainable shopping experiences for environmentally conscious consumers.

For example, empowering customers with loyalty rewards such as discounts or promotions on eco-friendly products lets consumers shop more sustainably while fostering greater brand loyalty. Additionally, encouraging customers to automatically donate to environmental causes through their loyalty program can help to align the brand with consumers’ values and expectations.

Additionally, organisations may consider rewarding eco-friendly shipping or promotions that don’t require physical delivery within their loyalty scheme. This can help all stakeholders to reduce their carbon footprint while also saving on packaging and shipping. Furthermore, leveraging digital promotions through an online rewards platform or application can help to reduce the amount of paper and plastic-based marketing in stores or distributed via mail.

Sustainable practices lead to more sustainable customer loyalty

Sustainability is critical aspect that businesses need to consider as part of their rewards program. By offering more sustainable options, organisations can demonstrate their commitment to protecting the environment while helping to attract more conscious customers who prioritise sustainability.

Companies need to adapt to the changing values and expectations of their consumers to stay relevant and drive business objectives and sales. Digital loyalty programs are an environmentally friendly way for organisations to engage with their customers without sacrificing opportunities for personalisation and innovation.

Investing in a more sustainable rewards program lets businesses differentiate themselves from their competition and improve customer experiences, which can lead to an increasingly meaningful, long-lasting relationships with conscious consumers.

Anurag Vasisth is group CEO of Loyalty Now.