Back in 1997 when I began to lead a loyalty project for Shoppers Drug Mart with the code name “ASA” (an acronym for Acetylsalicylic acid), little did I know that 20 years later we would be witnessing the evolution of Canada’s favorite and most successful loyalty program. This past week’s announcement of the merger of these two iconic loyalty programs makes great business sense for the brands and their customers. The Shoppers Optimum program was originally tested in Kingston, Halifax and Calgary over a 16-month period. Towards the end of the pilot in 1999, approval was granted to launch the Shoppers Optimum Program nationally.
Almost all currency-based consumer loyalty Program designs inherently house a financial liability, which in many cases has a material impact on a brand’s balance sheet. Generally speaking, a brand incurs liability for a future loyalty Program reward as soon as it issues the Program’s currency (e.g., points, miles, credits, stars, etc.) to a Program Member. From an income statement perspective, there is a reduction in revenue as soon as the currency is issued to a Program Member. As such, the brand cannot account for the full sale, since a percentage will need to be remunerated in the form of a reward (or dividend) back to the Program Member upon redemption. The accounting principles which govern financial liability management are not for the faint of heart, and they more than often create an ongoing level of tension between a brand’s CFO and CMO. CFOs wish to minimize their currency liability and resulting financial exposure, while CMOs wish to issue currency to incent incremental transactional behaviors with the aspiration of maximizing Member redemptions.