Satisfaction is a rating… Loyalty is a brand.’

Quoted Shep Hyken, a noted Customer Service public speaker and Chief Amazement Officer (CAO) at Shepard Presentations. He focusses on the significance on how a loyal customer base makes companies transform into world-class brands. Undoubtedly, credible loyalty programs form a major part of this ideology as it promises a devoted set of customers.

A study backed by McKinsey group claims 87% of shoppers in Middle East and Africa are inclined to shop with a retailer that offers retail loyalty programs. It therefore, comes as a no-brainer that the Middle Eastern market’s upgraded promotional schemes like visual merchandising, advertising and loyalty programs are an inspiration to the global retail industry to catapult customers that are driven by innovative loyalty programs. An equally telling research by iVend Retail Worldwide revealed that 53% of shoppers in the Middle East shop exclusively to earn loyalty rewards and points. As we embark on the evolution of retail loyalty programs in the Middles East, let’s begin by understanding what makes a retail loyalty program so worthy. Before we move ahead, take a look at the figures below drawn from the iVend Retail research focusing on why shoppers vouch for a loyalty program in the Middle East retail market.

Statistics around Middle East shopping trends

As per iVend Retail Research 2019 report

As we dive deeper into the retail segment of the Middle East, let’s take a cue from some of the lauded retail loyalty programs that have been there and continue to churn profitable wallets, rooted by a loyal customer base.

1. Amber

A premium rewards program by Al Tayer Group, Amber has partnered with more than 80 brands including automotive brands like Ferrari and Jaguar thereby bolstering its premium presence across the world. Amber offers memberships categorised as Classic, Select and Plus offering a wider gamut of rewards and privileges. However, Amber‘s  major evolution begin in 2016 with the launch of the new Amber App in  UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. A highly rated App, it is available in English and Arabic languages. Amber’s digital evolution has not only impacted its current customer base which rose 13x than before, but the conversion rate too which has scaled up to 2.5 times.

2. Shukran Rewards

Translated as ‘thank you’ in Arabic, Shukran Rewards is owned by the renowned Landmark Group in Dubai offering almost 57 global brands. This award-winning loyalty program in the Middle East boasts of over 10 million members spread out over 9 countries owing to its decade-long presence in the market. While the company started its innings by offering a physical card and but in 2016, owing to the digital evolution, the company announced its virtual card which could be downloaded from the Shukran App available on both iOS and Android.

3. Club Apparel

Offering a range of over 75 brands currently, Club Apparel started with a cardless, App-based loyalty program and is helmed by the Apparel Group across entire GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region. It was also the first entity to offer a digital retail experience in the retail loyalty program segment. The group has enjoyed a massive customer base and to further strengthen their subscribers, it was in 2016 when the Cardless maverick introduced a three-tier membership program offering more privileges, rewards and access to VIP events at every tier to their subscribers. This move was aimed at offering exceptional services to its shoppers.

4. MyClub

World’s second largest retailer Carrefour partnered with Majid Al Futtaim Group to launch this loyalty program in UAE. While all the other loyalty programs focus on Lifestyle and Fashion brands, Carrefour is the only loyalty program catering to the quintessential commodity – groceries. A lifetime free card, it is available at 17 Carrefour Hypermarket and 19 Carrefour Supermarket in the region. With the foray of digitization in the retail segment, Al Futtaim Group launched a loyalty program namely SHARE in 2019 under which Carrefour points can also be clubbed now. This move was aimed at customer convenience by allowing shoppers the flexibility to earn and redeem points with other partners by downloading the SHARE App.

5. SHARE Rewards

Spearheaded by the Majid Al-Futtaim Retail Group, this is the Group’s first centralized customer loyalty program offering lucrative rewards when shopping with the Group brands and partners across 17 malls in the GCC & Egypt regions. A recent entrant in the retail loyalty program bandwagon, SHARE Rewards is rated 4.5 on the Google Play Store and is a popular choice for shoppers in UAE. SHARE Rewards redemption is also applicable on other Al Futtaim brands including Carrefour, VOX Cinemas, Magic Planet, Ski Dubai, Little Explorers, iFly Dubai, Crate & Barrel, American Girl and Lego making it an irresistible deal for shoppers.

The tabular representation shows how Loyalty programs have digitally evolved over time

Transition from loyalty cards to loyalty apps

The above tabular representation signifies the digital evolution that surged in the Middle East Retail market around 2016. The ubiquity of retail loyalty Apps in the Middle East largely reflect how digitalization wave has gripped the region. Indeed, the recent Pandemic times has exhibited a major shift in the shopping behaviour across the globe with Middle East not being an exception. This statement is further quantified by a consumer incentive study by Wirecard which highlights the fact that 70% of shoppers are accessing App for a fuller control of their retail choices and experiences. With the tipping scale pointing more towards the consumers now, App-based loyalty programs can be a game-changer. The recent move by Al Futtaim Group also stands as a testimony to a forthcoming evolution in the retail industry. Given the facts, figures and the current industry moves by many stalwarts; it can be said that…

… the evolution in retail has begun; the revolution is not far behind.

Aditi Jindal
Writer, traveler, and a cold coffee addict, precisely in that order, Aditi Jindal is a storyteller. Whether it is slicing brands and their content marketing strategies or dabbling different genres of book writing; her keen interest in finding the unique idea for brands to deliver compelling stories keeps her on her toes.