Wharton Customer Analytics

Research Paper Series

Market Positioning Using Cross-Reward Effects in a Coalition Loyalty Program

While single-brand reward programs encourage customers to remain loyal to that one brand, coalition programs encourage customers to be “promiscuous” by offering points redeemable across partner stores. Despite the benefits of this “open relationship” with customers, store managers face uncertainty as to how rewards offered by partners influence transactions at their own stores. We use a model of multi-store purchase incidence to show how the value of points shared among partner stores can explain patterns in customer-level purchases across them. The model is used to empirically test hypotheses on how reward spillovers among partners are driven by: (1) differences in policies on reward redemption, (2) the overlap in product categories between stores, and (3) geographic distance between stores within a city. In addition, we leverage variation generated by a natural experiment, i.e., a devaluation of the program’s points, to demonstrate how the value of points influences the positioning of partner stores within the coalition and the purchasing patterns across them. We conclude by delineating some managerial implications for the design of a coalition’s reward policies, including a simulation showing that customer-centric targeted rewards can be an effective strategy to compensate for the devaluation.

Keywords: loyalty programs, rewards, retailing, Bayesian estimation