Of the many stereotypes borne by the Millennial generation, the myth of “Millennial disloyalty” is perhaps the most enduring, so a brand’s rewards program has to be well worth the effort.

Brands that have been struggling to understand Millennial consumers for almost a decade, and too often, incorrectly stereotype them for their skepticism of both marketing and brand loyalty. In reality, these young consumers are not less loyal. They are simply differently loyal.

A 2016 consumer study by Maritz Motivation Solutions found that 76% of Millennials go out of their way to purchase a brand to which they are loyal. They are also 55% more likely than Boomers to attribute their spending behaviors to “love of the brand.” This is good news for companies trying to tailor their loyalty strategy to reach 18 to 33 year olds, but what about the needs of the Millennials in those programs?

The standard for most modern rewards programs is still the one established in the 1980’s by marketers of the Boomer generation. They designed that standard specifically for Boomer consumers who embraced a points-and-rewards model that was based on a simplistic “do this, get that” psychology that predated social media, mobile devices and an explosion of marketing noise. Still, Millennials do join these programs, but they view them from a different lens than older consumers. The study Maritz conducted found that:

  • Millennials are 40% more likely than Boomers to spend their points as soon as possible, rather than save them.
  • Millennials are more likely than Boomers to show a preference for “experiences” as a reward option.
  • 67% of Millennials are willing to pay a fee to join a program, versus only 26% of Boomers.
  • When deciding whether to stay with a program, 54% of Millennials quit a program within just three months of joining, versus only 30% of Boomers.
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So, in a market where loyalty programs have been designed mostly for your father or grandmother, how do you know which programs are most worthy of your time? If you think of your attention as a priceless but limited form of personal currency, which programs should you be spending that currency on? Here are five key questions to help you make that decision:

What does the loyalty program give back to me?

Examining a program’s financial value proposition is the first step in evaluating it. The value proposition is what the program will give back to you in exchange for your time and money. As a rule of thumb, it should offer a return of 5% or more of your spend in the form of rewards, points or miles. Programs with weak returns, ranging from 1-3%, usually are not worth your effort.

How quickly can I earn a benefit or reward from the loyalty program?

Prior to signing up, one important factor to evaluate is the program’s “earn velocity.” The velocity is how quickly you can reach a reward or benefit for your participation in the program. If you’re a frequent customer it takes more than three months to earn a reward, you need to decide if you have the patience to play that game.

Can I easily track my progress?

Knowing where you stand in the program should be simple. Good programs are not challenging to understand and clearly show the progress you’ve made since enrolling. For example, Starbucks Rewards members can use the program’s mobile app to easily see how many stars they have accumulated and how many stars they need to earn their next reward. It’s important to understand how close you are to your next reward, since Millennials are 38% more likely to disengage from a program if the benefits are too hard to understand.

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Am I interested in the rewards offered?

Even if a program has been designed more for Boomers, it can still be attractive to you if the right rewards are offered. If a program offers you airline miles but you aren’t into traveling, is it right for you? Also, look at whether the rewards are tangible or experiential. Millennials often prefer experiences – spa days, trips or activities — over stuff. Experiential rewards are usually offered at higher levels, so you’ll need to decide whether you prefer to be rewarded more frequently or wait longer for a better payoff.

Does the rewards program look like its any fun?

If a brand wants your attention, they have an obligation to design their interactions with you to be interesting and engaging. Loyalty programs should be no exception. Yet some 20% of consumers who quit programs cite “boredom” as their primary reason.

You’re more likely to find value in a program that connects with you through intriguing offers, exciting rewards, interesting challenges and even a degree of playfulness. Look at the messaging a program uses to entice you to join. If their approach seems tedious or unimaginative, its not likely to get much better after you’ve enrolled. If you look for programs that promise to be both fun and interesting, you’re much more likely to stick with it over time.

In the end, it may be your dad’s rewards program, but marketers are looking to connect with you and give you a reason to be loyal. Before making that commitment, do your research and decide for yourself if that brand or company’s offering shows their willingness to be equally as loyal to you.

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