From Stamps to Apps: The Remarkable Journey of Loyalty Programmes Through the Ages 

Loyalty programmes can be traced back to at least the 1920’s and were designed to retain customers by rewarding repeat business. Since the days of the simple stamp cards, they have evolved significantly with the journey to sophisticated apps demonstrating a fascinating evolution in marketing, technology, and consumer behaviour. 


The Early Days: Stamps and Tokens 

The inception of loyalty programmes can be traced back to the early 20th century. One of the earliest examples was the trading stamp system, where customers collected stamps for purchases that could later be exchanged for products. This system was a tangible representation of customer loyalty, rewarding repeat purchases with a direct, physical token of appreciation. Similarly, tokens, coupons, and other physical items served as early loyalty incentives, fostering a direct relationship between businesses and their customers. 

Mid-20th Century: The Rise of the Loyalty Card 

As the 20th century progressed, the concept of loyalty programmes evolved with the introduction of the loyalty card. This innovation allowed for a more streamlined and efficient way to track purchases and reward customers. Supermarkets, airlines, and petrol stations were among the first to adopt loyalty cards, offering discounts, points, or miles as rewards. This era marked a significant shift towards formalised programmes that required registration, thereby allowing companies to gather valuable data on customer preferences and buying habits. 

The Digital Revolution: Points, Miles, and Online Platforms 

The introduction of online shopping and digital platforms meant that loyalty programmes could become more sophisticated, personalised, and accessible. Airline miles programmes expanded, and hotel chains, retailers, and other businesses followed suit, offering points systems that could be managed through online accounts. This period also saw the rise of coalition programmes, where multiple businesses joined forces to offer cross-brand rewards, further enhancing the value proposition for consumers. 

The Mobile Era: Apps and Personalisation 

The proliferation of smartphones has ushered in the latest evolution of loyalty programmes. Mobile apps now offer the ultimate convenience in managing loyalty rewards, receiving personalised offers, and even making payments. These apps enable a level of personalisation previously unimaginable, with algorithms tailoring rewards and promotions to individual user preferences. Moreover, the integration of social media and gamification elements has made loyalty programmes more engaging and interactive, transforming them into a key component of the customer experience. 

The Future: Integration and Innovation 

Looking forward, loyalty programmes are likely to become even more integrated into the fabric of daily life. Technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence have the potential to revolutionise the way loyalty is tracked, rewarded, and managed. The focus is increasingly on creating seamless, omnichannel experiences that reward customers not just for purchases but for engagement across multiple platforms. 


The journey of loyalty programmes from simple stamps to sophisticated apps reflects broader trends in commerce, technology, and society. As these programmes continue to evolve, they offer a window into changing consumer expectations and the innovative ways businesses respond to them. Loyalty programmes have come a long way, but their core purpose remains unchanged: to build and maintain a loyal customer base by rewarding repeated engagement. In this light, the future of loyalty programmes promises to be as dynamic and exciting as its past. 

Keeping these developments in mind, LoyaltyStream® has been created, to be the ultimate B2B loyalty offering. It provides everything from simple bonus promotions (like stamps) to campaigns designed to reward emotional and transactional loyalty and gamification campaigns to engage all the way up to fully integrated API offerings to create your omni channel experience. Request a demo now to see how LoyaltyStream® could empower your offering. 

To find out how LoyaltyStream® can transform your business, request a demo today! Click here

About the Author

Melanie Parker

Melanie Parker

Stream’s co-founder, Melanie, became the first British woman to become accredited with the CLMP from The Loyalty Academy. Passionate about all things loyalty, Melanie cuts through the technical jargon and gets to the real business issue. Melanie loves to develop engaging digital solutions that appear simple whilst creating long lasting partnerships that add value to all.


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LoyaltyStream Key Features

  • 21 loyalty campaign types to suit every business
  • Options to deploy gamification campaigns such as Spin-To-Win and Prize Draws as well as Badges
  • Ability to track and reward all behaviours from transactions to actions
  • In-depth visual analytics and insights on Campaigns, Members, actions and transactions
  • Customisable CRM and segmentation options to suit your Member profile
  • Scalable modular SaaS platform that can grow with your business


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