How loyalty points conquer the world

People are paying more and more often with loyalty points and bonus miles: on average, every German has four to five discount cards in their wallets. But there is a problem.

Have you already secured a discount today?

We are a race of overzealous bargain hunters and merciless bargain hunters. This can be seen not only in the traditionally high savings rate in this country by international comparison and the sell-off battles in the shopping miles. This can also be clearly seen in the fact that the Germans have fallen into pretty much every type of payback and bonus point system that the companies in contact with the consumer have to offer.

That could be the family card from Ikea or the discount card from the café around the corner, Lufthansa, the train or a large grocery chain. You can have your loyalty paid anywhere – in a wide variety of ways. You can even collect loyalty points at the discounter, even though everything is available at cheap prices anyway. On average, every German has four to five Payback or bonus cards in their wallets. And there is hardly a cash register where you are not asked again whether you are a regular customer when paying. The same applies to online orders. Here, too, you can “score” sales and have collected points offset.

Those who paid immediately were rewarded

None of this is new. Because the discount has a long history. Allegedly, the first discount stamps were issued in Hanover in 1901 – but by no means as an innovative idea to retain customers. Rather, the bad habit of leaving a cover letter should be gently driven out of the customer. Those who paid immediately were rewarded – a kind of discount for resourceful corner shop owners. Later, during the World Wars, the Great Depression and hyperinflation, the reward instrument of trade faded into the background. In times of extreme scarcity or rapid inflation, discounts made no sense. After the currency reform, the Budnikowsky drugstore in Hamburg was one of the first to reintroduce discount stamps. With many imitators.

Until the end of the 1990s, the colorful booklets in which the stamps were collected were called discount savings books, and they suggested one thing above all: collecting stamps is worth real money. It didn’t get more unconventional until the late 1970s in the United States. In 1979, Texas International Airlines was the first to start a frequent flyer program, and American Airlines followed suit a little later. Lufthansa followed in 1993 in order to expand its mile system and to offer its passengers not only discounted flights, but also awards. You can also go shopping in Lufthansa shops – with miles. Today, no airline will enter the market without its own “Miles and More” program.

In order to organize the uncontrolled growth, there was even a discount law in which it was regulated pretty precisely which benefits were to be granted when and to whom. However, that fell in 2001. Just six months after the disagreeable law, of which only fixed book prices remained, the companies let their creativity run free in terms of customer loyalty. A real loyalty card hysteria rolled over the retail trade, with which you could be rewarded for your loyalty.