The Logic of Rewarding: Pounds vs Points

The end of another year always represents a good opportunity to reflect on everything that has happened. The good, the bad, and the headlines from the world of customer loyalty. Reflecting on brands’ successes and failures in building loyalty customer bases is as traditional as the yule log, the mince pie, the decked halls and all the trimmings. Just ask the man in red.

There is plenty to think about, even as we prepare for a successful finale and look forward to a whole new year of big moments for B2B and B2C businesses. But before we move on, lets take this moment to reflect on something huge this year that took on the loyalty world by storm. 

This year, big-name supermarket Asda unveiled their maiden rewards scheme 'ASDA Rewards'. The basic premise is pretty unique compared with other, already ‘successful’ supermarket loyalty schemes, but the key feature – the one that really interested us – was the offer of money in exchange for loyalty, rather than points.


Why is this such a big deal? Because being able to nab attention by offering money as a reward comes with certain downsides – and not just for the supermarket’s piggybank. Offering pounds has a direct impact on loyalty, which really casts the whole scheme into question for any businesses looking to emulate Asda’s success.

If you haven’t already, you can brush up on the particulars of Asda’s rewards scheme with our guide. Here, however, we take a closer look at the pounds vs points debate.

Points Pro: Simplicity is simply the best

Some of the most successful creations of all time are incredibly simple. Annoyingly simple, even.

Simplicity is user-friendly. It’s also incredibly easy to remember; the what, how, and why of simple ideas and products stay with us for years, if not forever. You don’t need a refresher on the rules of charades, even if it’s been twenty years since you last took the floor to show off your acting skills . Sure, there are plenty of games more exciting and novel, but how many twenty-first century games are quite as memorable? Candy Crush? You mean that grid-based game with the super simple premise? We rest our case.

The analogy doesn’t take us all the way to the finish line of B2B loyalty. As businesses, we don’t want our customers to look at the loyalty programme we’re offering like they’d look upon the prospect of playing a few rounds of charades.

All we’re really saying is points are constructed around a very simple framework. Or they can be – and should be. Can they still be exciting? Absolutely. In fact, we’d argue they’re more exciting than money.

If your points programme is easy to access, if your points structure is simple, and your customers are clear on how and when they get those points, you should have an engaged audience and therefore, a successful programme.

Woman shopping online

Pounds Pro: Short term manipulation

Its true to say that money sells, and it is true that money gets our attention – and for good reason. The chance to get a little back as we spend is a great incentive, and it has definitely worked for companies in the past. Like a bold headline, it turns heads, but does it really translate into something memorable?

Remember that your loyalty programme isn’t primarily focussed on getting new interest through the doors. It’s about maintaining a loyal customer base for the long-haul, and reaping the benefits of committed customers.

Achieving loyalty is more than a quick one flash in the pan show. It’s about consistency and changing behaviours to create rewarding relationships. It’s about encouraging repeat visits, enabling each touch point to have meaning and delivering a value exchange; cash can only ever do this in that moment.

Points Pro: Exciting things ahead

How often do you spend your money on really exciting stuff? Wait – we have a better question. What was the last genuinely exciting purchase you made? What got you sprinting home like Charlie Bucket, or yelling Ronaldo’s ‘Siuu!’ at the top of your lungs?

Okay, maybe no shopping spree is that exciting, but the point is that, most of the time, we spend our money on things that are, at best, “Pretty okay”. Filter that list down to the things we’ll actively remember buying two weeks, two months, two years down the line, and you’ve got slim pickings. At the top of the list is probably a car, maybe a house, maybe a flashy watch or ring – big purchases that require a lot of cash and may feel painful when you hand over your bundles of notes.

Cash-based loyalty programmes give a little bit here, and a little bit there which is soon forgotten. Points are purposely created for you to save – because the reward comes in the form of many touch points throughout your purchasing journey and being able to save for something that’s right for you. You’ve got to save if you want them to pay-off for you – and, with the right rewards on offer, that period of saving-up is more than worth it.


How common do you think it is for customers to squirrel away those little cash rewards from their favourite companies, for one very specific purchase that they can one day look at and say, ‘I’ve got this because of their loyalty programme’?

We'd say uncommon. Chances are, that extra bit of cash is appreciated, but added to the wallet or bank account and spent on something pretty unmemorable and easily forgotten. And so, the cycle continues – a cycle that won’t be ideal for maximising your loyalty programme’s impact on customers.

Pounds Pro: Money feels endless

True, money can’t buy true happiness – or so we’ve heard – but it can buy a lot of things, whereas points will only ever be redeemable against a finite list of perks. But those perks will only be limited by what the scheme provider can create, so choose your loyalty programme provider with considerable care to ensure the rewards on offer benefit the audience, appeal to the demographics, are consistently updated and mini collections support seasonal events and activities to keep engagement on point. Money will only buy you what you have in your radar. A great curated catalogue of reward items will open your mind. The great gift of the human imagination is that it has no limits or ending.

Asda has clearly chosen to do something different. Is this to try to stand out from the pack; to be controversial; will it deliver for them? Time will tell, but in our opinion – and of course our years of experience – we know the value long term loyalty brings to businesses and their customers - and there's nothing quite like that feeling that truly long term rewarding relationships deliver.



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