It’s time for a more open and flexible approach to loyalty – How AIR MILES is answering the call.

Jason Beales

By Jason Beales, Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer, AIR MILES Reward Program, for Western Grocer

As inflation continues to take a bite out of household budgets, Canadians are changing how frequently they shop, where they shop, and what they choose to buy; culminating in greater interest in seeking out deals and leaning into loyalty programs. As a result, brands and loyalty programs have begun to respond, reacting to the shift with solutions that empower consumers.

Nowhere is this more evident than within the grocery category, where single-banner dedication and weekly shops, have given way to smaller more frequent baskets at multiple locations, parlayed with larger shops at warehouse clubs or superstores. According to a recent survey, two-thirds of Canadians have switched their primary grocery store in the past year to pursue better deals, with 30% of this group exclusively choosing a banner based on the magnitude of in-store discounts and promotions.

Alarmingly, this could mean that any one grocer is only as good as its last promotion – not the strongest foundation for building lasting loyalty. We know that Canadians are members of more than 13 loyalty programs and active in seven. Instead of fighting against that reality, we’re redesigning AIR MILES as a flexible, brand-agnostic program, creating solutions that can layer on top of existing retailer programs, giving Canadians more places and opportunities to earn and maximize their rewards.

This includes retailers not traditionally included in the conventional “grocer” set, like dollar stores, digitally enabled delivery entities, and the constantly expanding and evolving segments of pharmacy and convenience. Acknowledging that consumer food trends are ever-changing, AIR MILES appreciates that offering a myriad of options and diversity of choice is paramount, thus, one can now earn on grocery purchases at a slew of brands: Metro, Dollarama, Hello Fresh, Walmart, Uber Eats, (and many more in the coming months).

One of our bigger innovations in response to this enduring shift in Canadian shopping habits; AIR MILES launched a national receipt-scanning program last November called AIR MILES Receipts, which offers a fresh way for Canadians to earn Bonus Miles on everyday items purchased in-store (at over 94% of major grocers across Canada). Collectors check the AIR MILES app for available offers, shop for eligible products, and scan a photo of their receipts using Optical Recognition Technology within the app, earning Bonus Miles on qualifying purchases.

For collectors, the best part is that you can shop at most major Canadian grocers, enjoy your retailer-specific loyalty programs to earn rewards on your purchases, and then layer AIR MILES Receipts on top to earn Bonus Miles, effectively reaping rewards twice on a single basket. Atop of this, pay with your BMO AIR MILES credit card, and thanks to its embedded grocery multiplier, one can earn even more miles at these eligible grocers; exactly the kind of flexibility and savings maximization Canadians are seeking.

It’s noteworthy that the rewards stacking and saving possibilities don’t end at the grocery check-out aisle: AIR MILES also offers collectors opportunities to shop, where they can use their brand and retailer loyalty cards to earn through those programs, while earning AIR MILES Reward Miles at over 250 online retailers.

As the concept of loyalty evolves in an era where deals trump brand preference, there is a role for coalition programs to play as an industry-wide, brand-agnostic overlay to existing retailer programs. AIR MILES is committed to helping Canadians get more from every dollar they spend and is working on more novel solutions and partnerships still to be announced. In 2023, AIR MILES gave back over $76 million in value in gas and food to collectors – a remarkable stat amongst inflationary pressures nationally.

Our promise to Canadians, especially in this tough economy, is to provide the most flexible and expansive ways to earn on everyday purchases. These recent innovations are the first of many in the coming months that are expected to refresh the AIR MILES Reward Program and empower Canadians to optimize stretching their dollars.


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