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As the economy continues a slow recovery and brand competition heightens, loyalty marketing has become more important than ever. According to market research firm Technomic, loyalty marketing and rewards programs are diverse, but they all share one objective: to recognize heavy-use customers and keep them coming back.

New Technomic data shows that about one-third of consumers (36 percent) participate in a restaurant-based loyalty program. However, 80 percent said they would sign up if the restaurant they visit most often offered a program. This indicates opportunities for restaurants to offer incentives — or to build awareness of existing loyalty programs.

"We've come a long way since the 10th-meal-is-free punch cards," said Darren Tristano, Technomic executive vice president. "Consumers are now receiving rewards via email, apps, social media and on their smartphones. As mobile marketing continues to evolve, so will loyalty marketing. Its direction may be unclear, but the need to recognize and thank loyal customers will always be there."

Technomic has issued a new Market Intelligence Report that defines loyalty marketing, identifies trends and more. Some highlights include:

  • 58 percent of loyalty-club members say they are likely to base their where-to-dine decision on whether they have a membership at that brand;
  • Of the consumers who say they currently participate in loyalty marketing programs, membership is higher among casual-dining brands (57 percent) than fast casual brands (44 percent);
  • 77 percent of loyalty members say e-mail is the preferred method for receiving rewards communications;
  • A vast majority (96 percent) of participants in rewards programs say they have visited a restaurant associated with their membership within the past six months; and
  • Consumers are concerned about privacy: 70 percent say they would be more inclined to sign up for a rewards program if they could be guaranteed that the restaurant would not pass along their information.

Read more about restaurant trends.

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