What is loyalty anyway? The word loyal entered the English language in the 16th century. It originally meant faithfulness or allegiance to the monarch. Like most words its meaning has gradually inflated to cover any sort of preferential attachment to a person or thing. Our ancestors would have been surprised to discover that we would use the word in connection with a shop or business. But that’s where we are.

Nevertheless, it helps to ask what loyalty is involved in holding a conventional store card. I have a Nectar card, but I avoid shopping in Sainsburys because I find it depressing. It’s not worth it, even if I do eventually get a few quid off the bill. As Colin Shaw points out, for loyalty to have any practical meaning, it must involve some sort of emotional attachment. I doubt that people have much feeling for the various outlets that use the Nectar card. The same goes for big brand loyalty apps which simply dispense with the card in favour of the smartphone. Again, it’s something you pick up if a particular outlet of that brand is close to you and you have little option but to shop there. These sorts of cards or apps would be more accurately described as reward, rather than loyalty schemes.

A loyalty app for independents is different. People use local businesses because there is something a bit special about them. They serve a particular rather than a general need. There may be other shops selling similar products but the customer chooses one in particular because something about the shop appeals to their taste. In all likelihood, there will be a few local shops they like to visit. So an app that gives people the wherewithal to bundle together the shops which they like makes good sense and can be justly described as a loyalty scheme.

So too, the store-card reward scheme is a zero-sum game: you tend to use the one to the exclusion of the others, which is why if you want to use two schemes you must have two cards, or two apps. The Loyalzoo app on the other hand works to the benefit of all the shops using the scheme and the more shops that use it the better it works for each one that’s listed. Users will have all shops listed on their app, but the ones with whom they have a loyalty scheme will show their rewards. It is a graphic translation of the bricks and mortar reality of the shops themselves – they lean on each other.

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