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Leveraging Loyalty Programs Using Competitor Based Targeting

Hollenbeck, Brett and Taylor, Wayne (2020): Leveraging Loyalty Programs Using Competitor Based Targeting.

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Loyalty programs are widely used by firms but their effectiveness is not well understood. These programs provide discounts and perks to loyal customers and are costly to administer, and with uncertain effects on spending or stealing business from rivals. We use a large and detailed dataset on customer shopping behavior at one of the largest U.S. retailers before and after joining a loyalty program to evaluate how behavior changes. We combine this with detailed spatial data on customer and store locations, including the locations of competing firms. We find significant changes in behavior associated with joining the LP with a large amount of heterogeneity across customers. We find that location relative to competitors is the factor most strongly associated with increases in spending following joining the LP, suggesting that the LP's quantity discounts work primarily through business stealing and not through other demand expansion. We next estimate a set of predictive models to test what variables best predict LP effectiveness using high-dimensional data on spatial relationships between customers, the focal firm's stores, and competing stores as well as customers' historical spending patterns. These models are used to test whether past sales data reflecting customer's vertical value to the firm or spatial data reflecting customer's horizontal vulnerability are more predictive of LP effects. We show how LASSO regularization estimated on complex spatial relationships are more predictive of LP effects than are models using past sales data or other spatial models including gravity models. Finally, we show how firms can use this type of model to leverage customer and competitor location data to substantially increase the performance of their LP through spatially driven targeting rules.

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