May The Most Loyal Sex Win

In the battle of the sexes, see how this gender war affects loyalty program strategies

Lauren Dowdle
January 27 2018

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that women and men see and respond to things differently — hence the book, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” Or just ask any man if he and his wife/partner/any woman in his life share the same thought processes, and you’ll quickly get a better idea of how different the genders really are. While the two sexes definitely have some contrasting opinions and characteristics, do those differences also carry over to other areas? Do they affect how they view loyalty programs? Let’s answer these questions and break down how the two sexes differ with what they want from a loyalty program, so you can better tailor your retention strategies to please them.

Conflicting Views on Loyalty

Most customers would agree that loyalty programs are a good thing. They can mean accessing discounts, exclusive deals or other benefits on purchases, and who wouldn’t want that? While using a loyalty program seems to be universally accepted by both of the sexes, men and women differ on what they think the program is and what it should provide. Men view “loyalty” as meaning a “contractual commitment,” “doing the right thing” and “honor,” according to Smile.io. The concept is based more on character and out of obligation. On the other hand, women associate “loyalty” with concepts like “devotion,” “commitment” and “trust” — taking a more emotional approach with how they define the term. The findings also show that women generally prefer storytelling and personalization when it comes to their shopping experiences, while men tend to want quick, easy solutions. You see this every day at stores: A woman might take her time looking at different items, whereas a man is in and out to get just what he came to buy. That stereotype isn’t always the case, of course, but it’s common enough to hold some truth.

Women also identify more with groups, whereas men prefer to be more independent with their loyalty programs and have their status visible to others. Another difference with the two is which gender participates more often in these types of programs. Women join loyalty programs more often than men, leading them at 62 percent to men’s 54 percent. (The majority of loyalty program members are younger, as well.) But with the numbers fairly close between the two, you want to make sure you’re focusing your efforts on both genders — not just women.

Companies are taking note and using these gender characteristics to mold their loyalty programs. Klova — a brand focused on improving people’s sleep experiences — clearly explains how its program works, what users can earn and what rewards it offers, which are things women can appreciate. Users can also refer others and share the program on social media for points, another bonus for women. And for men, they make the process short and simple by giving points for every dollar spent: There’s no going back and recording purchases other unnecessarily complicated steps.

Buffalo Wild Wings is another good example of a loyalty program, especially for their mostly male audience. Users can earn points for food and drink purchases, game picks and simply checking in at the location. When it comes time to cash in the points, users can write their phone number on their receipt during checkout to redeem their reward. If they forget to share their rewards number during their visit, they can scan their receipt with their phone later to earn points, making the process pretty straightforward. The chain found a way to extend their brand’s footprint with a program that fits their audience.

Give Them What They Want

According to CrowdTwist, men and women also differ on how and what they want to earn from the programs:

  • 76 percent of women are interested in earning loyalty points for engagement (compared to 58 percent in 2015), and men are 68 percent interested (compared to 50 percent in 2015)
  • Women are 22 percent more likely than men to always buy the product or service regardless of price, convenience, brand promise or quality
  • Women are 40 percent more likely to share a post on social media to earn points compared to men
  • Discounts and coupons are the top-picked rewards for both, with 45 percent of women and 39 percent of men rating them as highly important
  • 61 percent of men and 59 percent of women say they are loyal to one to five brands

The survey also breaks down the highest participation rates for men and women for each industry and their loyalty programs, giving further insight into what each values. For example, the grocery category is top for both, with 79 percent of women and 66 percent of men saying they are likely to participate in the program. Women also have a higher percentage in retail, restaurants, beauty (by a large margin) and household supplies than men. And for men, they are more likely to join programs for financial services, media/entertainment and automotive companies than women. So, your program may be tilted more toward one gender, depending on your industry.

Start Speaking His or Her Language

As the saying goes, “If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one.” For a loyalty program to be successful, you need to give both men and women what they want and expect from a loyalty program. They might both be your customers, but they like to go about their buying experiences in different ways. It really doesn’t have to be that difficult if you consider what each gender values and figure out ways to implement those features. For example, women want information, and men prefer more of a one-click approach. To please both, you could have a clear, simple CTA for people to sign up for your loyalty program (getting the thumbs up from guys). Then, include other links that women can visit to learn more about the program — like how to earn/spend rewards and how long the rewards last.

Another way to please both groups is by continuing to meet their needs once they are loyalty members. Since men want to show their status with the program, allow them to share badges or rankings based on their spending history (or whatever metrics you use in your program). You could include a share button that will post on social media or even update their rewards card to highlight their level.

Since having a group culture is higher up on the list for women, show them how they can interact with other program members —through social media pages, hashtags or company events near them. The sense of community could go a long way in promoting trust between your customers and your brand.

How to Win the Battle of the Sexes

Start by knowing your customers. Are they mainly women, men or an even mix? You need to know who your customer base is so you can tailor your loyalty programs and other retention strategies to them. (Beyond their gender, it also helps to know their ages because there are key differences between younger and older generations — although that’s another blog entirely.) Remember: Company traits like valuing the customer, showing them you care, providing fast and reliable service, being transparent and following honest business practices will make you a winner, whether it’s with male or female consumers. Good ol’ customer service never goes out of style.


Lauren Dowdle

Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer and magazine editor based in Nashville, Tenn. Her nearly decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing — plus being interviewed by Jay Leno and winning a backhoe-operating contest. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her spoiling her four furry babies and exploring the city with her husband.

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