The loyalty landscape is in the midst of a profound transformation, propelled by rapid technological strides and evolving consumer behaviours. The traditional concept of brand allegiance is undergoing a significant makeover as newer generations, equipped with digital fluency and a preference for authenticity, reshape the very essence of loyalty programs.

To provide a comprehensive understanding of this dynamic terrain, we turned to the voices shaping the future of loyalty. In candid conversations, both seasoned Australian Loyalty Association (ALA) experts and up-and-coming talents from the ALA Young Members Group share their unique insights and experiences.

Technology and the shift to one-to-one

According to Aziz Kastoun, junior account executive APAC at Eagle Eye, the future of loyalty in retail is one-to-one, which means treating a customer like how an independent shopkeeper would.

“That means knowing my name and the things that are important to me and rewarding me for every dollar I spend,” he explains. “The shift is happening now, technology is allowing for it. And loyalty leaders know how important it is to put the effort in. So I’m looking forward to seeing how ideas, innovations and technology are going to be adopted by Australia’s most loved brands and their programs moving into the future.”

Aziz highlights he is a big fan of both the Perks by CottonOn & Co program and the Woolworths Everyday Rewards program.

“It gives me birthday and seasonal offers and allows me to exchange for dollars off my shop. I will, however, give a special shout-out to the Woolworths Everyday Rewards program as it’s the one I use the most. It makes me feel savvy and rewarded and the offers feel truly personalised to me.”

Loyalty and changes in data and privacy

There are some legal and regulatory changes in Australia and New Zealand, in particular, that will come into effect over the next few years that Richard Segar, platform architect at Simplicity Loyalty finds particularly exciting.

This combined with the rapid changes and adoption of certain technologies creates potential concern around trust, making now an interesting time to be in any role relating to brand and customer,” he says. “With particular interest in the changes coming for third-party data and privacy, I’m excited to see how brands develop and leverage loyalty programs and emerging technologies over the next few years to encourage engagement with their brand and build trust as well as stronger relationships not just with customers, but staff and business partners too.”

AI and emerging opportunities

Jaimi Farrey, senior loyalty and personalisation manager at Grill’d looks forward to the possibilities that will be unlocked due to new and emerging technologies like AI.

“Instead of loyalty professionals spending time manually performing tasks like segmenting customers and data, technology will allow us to be more agile, use AI and machine learning to identify key segments and unlock 1:1 personalisation faster than ever before,” Jaimi says. “This will free up our time to focus more on the human element of loyalty, driving emotional connections and building customer-centric experiences.”

“I’m also excited to build experiences for upcoming generations from Gen Z to Gen Alpha. These generations are digital natives and care more about the environment than ever before. CSR initiatives will no longer be the exception but will be expected. Loyalty providers will have to adapt to a changing landscape that rewards members for engaging with brands in a more ethical way and allows brands to tell their stories to an engaged audience.”

When it comes to advice for retail professionals, Jaimi insists on making learning a priority, especially as the loyalty and technology industries will continue to evolve at a rapid pace.

“Staying on top of key trends, new technologies and consumer interests is so important so you don’t fall behind, Jaimi adds. “Even if you are at a company that isn’t innovative and takes longer to implement change, you won’t be there forever and it’s key you have that wider industry knowledge for when it’s time to move on.”

“Connect with other loyalty professionals and follow key thought leaders not only in the loyalty industry but across different technologies and in different industries and verticals to where you’re currently working. But remember, at the heart of it all, is the customer and providing a great experience for them.”

Loyalty redefined

As we look forward, the future of loyalty is not confined to buzzwords or futuristic ideals – it’s a real-time collaboration between brands and consumers, leveraging technology, innovation and a keen understanding of evolving consumer expectations.

The practical advice and experiences shared by these industry leaders guide us not toward an uncertain future but toward a loyalty landscape defined by authenticity, responsiveness and meaningful engagement.

Launched in August 2022 for ALA members aged 18–30 years old, the ALA Young Members Group is the first loyalty group of its kind in Australia. It has been designed to foster and mentor the next generation of loyalty marketers, providing access to education courses, events and senior members of the community.

Jonathan Reeve is vice president for Asia Pacific at Eagle Eye.