The lipstick effect and loyalty programs - Tomasz Makaruk

The lipstick effect and loyalty programs

This text is a comment included in the introduction to the report from the study “Monitor of Loyalty Programs” – 2021 edition, prepared by the Institute ARC Rynek i Opinia.

During the last 12 months, loyalty program organisers had to deal with the effects of changes in purchasing behaviour caused by COVID and the related lockdowns of the economy.

The Polish market of loyalty programs has entered the maturity phase, and the main events are the result of long-term activities under which loyalty programs have played a strictly defined role, supporting business strategies.

You should pay particular attention to:

– the development of the functionality of mobile applications. On the following pages of the “Monitor of Loyalty Programs”, you will read that the phase of the dynamic growth in the use of mobile applications stopped at 74% of all program participants and fluctuates at last year’s level of this indicator. What is visible at the quality level is the development of the scope of functionalities that are embedded in the applications. Interesting examples are, for example, the development of click&collect services in the POLOmarket application or the implementation of Payback GO based on geolocation, thanks to which the application adapts to the visualisation of the partner in whose store the customer is, giving access to coupons, offers and promotions currently available in the store of the program partner;

the popularisation of the “pay” feature in mobile applications – an example of this is, for example, self check-out in the Empik Premium Pay & GO application or Rossmann GO – a feature that allows you to do shopping in drugstores by scanning barcodes with your smartphone, which offers two payment methods: directly in your smartphone or at the checkout by scanning the collective QR code for the purchased products, as well as Pay&Go at the Lotos petrol stations or the new payment method at Circle K stations;

the changes to the rules and rebrandings resulting from the strategy of developing services based on subscription models, e.g. replacing the My Empik program by Empik Premium Free with a simultaneous increase in the range of privileges for those using the Empik Go application. This trend has continued since 2019, when the Marriott International hotel chain introduced the Marriott Bonvoy brand, combining Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs, and then Extra Club operating at Circle K changed its name to Circle K Extra and prides itself on being the first to offer fuel discounts for individual customers;

closing of the Tesco Clubcard program is preceded by the prior termination of the issue of points. On its website, Tesco would like to thank “for the joint adventure with Clubcard”, providing information that has so far been closely protected, including the number and value of the issued coupons and vouchers. From the “Monitor of Loyalty Programs”, we learn that the beneficiaries of the liquidation of the Tesco Clubcard are Moja Biedronka, which has strengthened its position of the market leader in terms of the declared level of participation in the program at the indicated level of 40%, Lidl Plus, whose satisfactory participation in the program is declared by as many as 80% of members, and also Żappka with the highest (27%) level of indications as a favorite program among its participants;

the popularity of “hidden” loyalty programs – this applies mainly to e-commerce, where access to benefits, commonly recognised on the market as part of the loyalty program regulations, is offered to buyers automatically for the mere fact of registering in the store. The rules are written on the website in a few short points without a separate set of regulations;

launching of new premium programs as a supplement to the mass market offer combined with the migration of a part of the base from the actions carried out so far, e.g. the introduction of the Visa Benefit Program, a program offering benefits related to Visa premium cards (offers, discounts or additional offers), with simultaneous conversion of currently conducted loyalty projects in the direction of the white label model, in which the program is organised by banks, and card operators act as co-organisers, e.g. Visa offers at ING Bank or Bezcenne Chwile in the application of Alior Bank. These activities are also in line with the trend of changing the model of financing the cooperation of banks, card operators and loyalty program organisers cooperating with them, which is reflected, for example, in the termination of cooperation of Miles&More GmbH and PLL LOT S.A. by mBank regarding the possibility of collecting bonus miles for purchases with cards issued by mBank;

offering benefits that increase the positive experience of ultimate buyers during their visit in a point of sale. Żabka is the leader in this category thanks to the introduction of the Żappka Store, in which all you need in order to buy something is a smartphone with the Żappka application installed and the activation of the Żappka Pay service. The camera system, using AI algorithms, recognises products taken off the shelves, calculates the amount to pay and finalises the payment with Żappka Pay. A more down-to-earth example was also the “Park with Lidl Plus” campaign, in which the users of the Lidl Plus application, who in the application settings in the “My store” tab chose a Lidl store with a paid parking lot for its customers, obtained access to a coupon authorising them to receive a card allowing them to park their vehicles free of charge (some of you probably still remember the parking spots in the first Makro hall in Warsaw, offered to “golden customers” over a dozen years ago);

The lipstick effect and loyalty programs - Tomasz Makaruk

an increase in the use of gamification techniques to increase the value of the shopping cart, e.g. the introduction of progressive discounts in the Lidl Plus – Coupon Plus application, where the user receives specific rewards after making purchases for a specific amount of money in a given period. The achievement of subsequent goals is marked on the progress bar. Another example is the mobile game “Summer Krusher” suggested by Circle K;

common copying of “what works – what else should we call the craze of mascots in Biedronka (Gang Swojaków), Lidl (Disney toys), Tesco (Mickey and friends), Lewiatan (Lewiatanki), etc.;

point inflation and changes in the online shopping bonus rules as a result of the rapid increase in the popularity of this channel due to the pandemic, e.g. repealing the rule that for purchases made in an online store, the Participant receives 20% more points than for purchases in stationary stores in the FeelGood program! GO Sport;

finally, several new programs were created, mainly point-discount programs, e.g. MORE in the Dobry Hotel hotel chain, the Collection Club program for customers of Top Secret&Friends, Top Secret, Troll and BIG STAR PREMIUM CARD II online store operating in the Big Star chain store, THE MEN’S WORLD CLUB operating in Vistula and Wólczanka shops and online stores, the UNIQA Go application, the task of which is to assess a driver’s driving style, monitoring acceleration, braking, compliance with speed limits, not using the phone while driving, etc., which offers points that you can exchange for rewards and discounts on your insurance, or I❤️Biznes operating in the iSpot Sales Point network, but beyond the eCommerce store.

Although the abovementioned list is not exhaustive, you have to admit that this is a lot of events for 12 months.

Based on customer expectations, the authors of “Monitor of Loyalty Programs”, which you have started to read, have prepared a decalogue of good practices, which is a valuable set of recommendations on how to effectively implement and develop relationships with program participants.

As for the results, I would like to draw your attention to the increase in participation in loyalty programs by women aged 18-25 (by as much as 21 percentage points!). The lipstick effect observed during previous economic crises (consisting in an increase in the consumption of relatively low-value luxury goods) limited by the need to wear masks and work remotely was replaced by the effect of a loyalty program.

Wishing you many successes in building the loyalty of your buyers, I invite you to read “Monitor of Loyalty Programs 2021” and watch an interview with a representative of ARC Rynek i Opinia on the channel O programach lojalnościowych nocą” (“About loyalty programs at night”).

The lipstick effect and loyalty programs - Tomasz Makaruk

Comments containing a discussion of the market situation of loyalty programs in Poland on the previous versions of the reports of the “Monitor of Loyalty Programs” study are available at these links:



2018 and 




2014 comment-do-wynikow-iv-fali-monitora-programow-lojalnosciowych/ 

2013 comment-do-wynikow-iii-fali-monitora-programow-lojalnosciowych/ 

2012 comment-do-wynikow-ii-fali-monitora-programow-lojalnosciowych/ 


i360 is an entity specialised in the organisation of B2B and B2C loyalty programs ( as well as a supplier of software for managing such actions, implemented on 16 CEE and Eastern European markets (, running the only YT channel dedicated to loyalty programs “O programach lojalnościowych nocą” (“About loyalty programs at night”).



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