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Head North in Bulk-Buying Frenzy: How Loyalty Card Programs Bring Success to Brands like Sam's Club and Costco - Motherapp

Head North in Bulk-Buying Frenzy: How Loyalty Card Programs Bring Success to Brands like Sam’s Club and Costco


How Loyalty Card Programs Bring Success to Brands like Sam’s Club and Costco


Since the reopening post-pandemic, Hong Kong residents heading north to shop has gradually become the new norm. Among the popular destinations are large membership-based supermarkets in Shenzhen, such as Sam’s Club and Costco. Many citizens take advantage of holidays to travel north for shopping. This shopping frenzy not only reflects the demand of Hong Kong residents for high-value products but also highlights the powerful impact of loyalty card programs in attracting customers and enhancing brand loyalty. This article will delve into the operations, objectives, and successful strategies of membership card programs, using Sam’s Club and Costco as examples to analyze how these programs bring success to their brands.



What is a Loyalty Card? Why Do Loyalty Cards Exist?

A loyalty card is a tool used by brands to establish and maintain customer loyalty. Initially, membership cards were designed to help brands identify loyal customers and offer them rewards. Examples include presenting a membership card at checkout to receive a certain discount. As the concept of customer membership cards has evolved, they have become part of comprehensive membership programs. Brands can use these programs to offer shopping points, discounts, or other exclusive rewards, encouraging customers to continue purchasing and engaging with the brand’s activities. Membership cards are not only vouchers for customers to obtain discounts but also a crucial means for brands to collect customer data and understand their needs.

Customer loyalty card, Sam's Club, Costco, 會員卡, 山姆, 好市多

Membership cards also foster a sense of belonging among customers, making them feel like part of the brand community. This sense of membership enhances customer loyalty, engagement, and integration within the community.

Depending on different industries and consumer needs, customer loyalty card programs are designed differently for various brands to achieve optimal economic benefits and customer satisfaction. However, their essence lies in encouraging repeat purchases. Common types of loyalty card programs include:

Points-based Membership Cards

The primary function of this type is to allow customers to accumulate points through purchases and then redeem these points for gifts or discounts. Characteristics of this type of customer loyalty card include:

Points Accumulation: Customers earn points with each purchase, and points accumulate based on the spending amount.
Rewards Redemption: Once points reach a certain amount, customers can redeem them for gifts, discounts, or free services.
Promotional Activities: Brands regularly launch activities such as double points or special product point promotions to attract customer participation.

Paid Membership Cards

Represented by Sam’s Club and Costco, this type of loyalty card requires customers to pay a membership fee to enjoy exclusive discounts and services. Characteristics of this type of loyalty card include:

Membership Fee: Customers must pay a fee to become members, typically charged annually.
Exclusive Discounts: Members can enjoy prices lower than those available to non-members and below market rates, as well as exclusive discounts and special promotions.
Value-added Services: These include services such as early store openings, extended business hours, and VIP hotlines, increasing the perceived value for members.

Customer loyalty card, Sam's Club, Costco


What is the purpose of loyalty or loyalty cards?

Customer loyalty card programs have become an indispensable part of modern retail, offering a win-win situation where both consumers and businesses benefit:

For Businesses:

Building Customer Loyalty

The primary goal of loyalty card programs is to build customer loyalty through rewards. When customers feel recognized and rewarded for their loyalty, they are more likely to return. This not only increases repeat purchase rates but also strengthens brand retention. For example, local malls offer exclusive coupons, shopping rewards, and other value-added services to make members feel appreciated, thereby enhancing customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Read More: What Makes The Point by SHKP a Successful Loyalty Program?

Increasing Sales

Loyalty card programs encourage customers to spend more through ongoing discounts and reward mechanisms. Knowing that each purchase earns points or discounts, customers are more inclined to shop with brands that have loyalty card programs. This mechanism not only increases the frequency of purchases but also boosts the average spending per visit. For instance, Costco attracts customers to purchase memberships by offering exclusive low-priced products, leading to substantial in-store spending.

Brand Promotion

Loyal customers often become brand ambassadors, attracting new customers through word-of-mouth. Satisfied with the loyalty card program, customers are likely to recommend it to friends and family. This way, brands can expand their customer base and gain new customers through existing customer referrals. Members of Sam’s Club sharing their shopping experiences on social media have drawn more Hong Kong residents to shop in the north, further expanding the brand’s influence.

For Customers:

Special Treatment and Exclusive Services

Loyalty card programs can enhance customer satisfaction by offering special treatment and exclusive services. For example, Sam’s Club’s premium members enjoy a 10% discount and monthly free shipping vouchers, making them feel special. These exclusive services not only improve the shopping experience but also strengthen brand loyalty.

Obtaining Tangible Benefits

The biggest attraction of loyalty card programs for customers is the tangible benefits they can receive. Through points, discounts, or free products, customers gain extra value with each purchase. These rewards not only make shopping more cost-effective but also increase customer satisfaction. For example, members of Sam’s Club and Costco enjoy in-store prices lower than market rates, making customers more willing to continue shopping.

Enhancing Consumption Motivation

Discounts and reward mechanisms make customers more willing to participate in brand activities, thereby enhancing their consumption motivation. When customers know their purchasing behavior is recognized and rewarded, they feel valued and are more likely to actively engage in various brand activities and promotions.


How Sam’s Club Uses Customer Membership Card Programs to Capture Consumer Loyalty

Online and Offline Omnichannel Integration

Sam’s Club integrates online and offline data to achieve omnichannel membership lifecycle management. The supermarket actively encourages members to download the Sam’s Club app, where they can purchase memberships or log into existing accounts for online shopping. This means that whether customers shop in-store or online, Sam’s Club can track and analyze their purchasing behavior, enabling multichannel interaction tracking. This data integration not only enhances marketing efficiency but also enriches marketing activities, allowing the brand to engage more precisely with customers. Sam’s Club also uses automated tools to create smart user tags based on customers’ purchase histories and preferences, pushing personalized offers and product information, thus increasing customer stickiness and engagement.

Customer loyalty card, Sam's Club, Costco

Applying Analytical Models for Effective Interaction

To effectively manage and enhance customer engagement, Sam’s Club has established user activity models to predict key points in the user lifecycle and interact appropriately. This includes regular promotional activities for existing members and automated retention processes for less active users. These measures help Sam’s Club reduce customer churn and significantly increase each member’s Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Moreover, through automated promotions and intelligent recommendations, Sam’s Club has seen a notable increase in repurchase rates across all channels, demonstrating the strong impact of membership programs in driving repeat purchases. For example, when a member’s activity level drops, the system automatically sends promotional offers or reminders to encourage them to shop again.

Read more: [Integrate Brand Data] Quantify Customer Activity Using the RFM Model to Identify the True Value of Customers

Valuing Membership

Sam’s Club understands the core reasons why customers are attracted to becoming members, which is by offering high-quality, reasonably priced products that make members feel they are getting great value. In an environment where cost-effectiveness is key, Sam’s Club members can enjoy exclusive discounts and products that many other retailers cannot provide. This price advantage not only enhances members’ willingness to spend but also greatly increases their satisfaction and loyalty to the brand, boosting repurchase rates and the likelihood of membership renewals.

Membership Fee Revenue and Profitability

Operating on a membership basis, Sam’s Club requires customers to pay an annual fee of RMB 260 (ordinary members) or RMB 680 (premium members). This ensures revenue even before customers make their first purchase. This prepaid membership fee provides a stable cash flow and allows Sam’s Club to offer products to members at nearly cost price. This balance between membership fees and product costs maximizes economic benefits. By subsidizing product prices with membership fee income, Sam’s Club can offer more competitive prices, attracting more customers to join as members and creating a positive cycle.


Successful Strategies for Customer Membership Loyalty Card Programs

Loyalty Points and Reward Mechanisms

Brands encourage continuous customer spending through points and reward mechanisms. For instance, malls allow consumers to earn and use points via membership apps, redeeming them for shopping rewards and other value-added services. When customers know they can receive tangible rewards for each purchase, they are more likely to choose brands with such reward programs. This not only enhances customer satisfaction but also increases brand stickiness. Additionally, these points and reward mechanisms promote repeat purchasing behavior, thereby boosting the brand’s sales.

Data-Driven Personalized Marketing

Membership loyalty card programs collect data on customers’ purchasing behaviors and preferences to achieve personalized marketing. Sam’s Club utilizes big data analysis to understand customer needs and offers targeted discounts and promotions. For example, when a customer frequently buys a particular type of product, the system automatically recommends related offers, improving the shopping experience and increasing sales opportunities. This data-driven marketing strategy allows brands to more accurately reach their target customers, providing them with the products and services they truly need. Moreover, personalized marketing campaigns enhance customer engagement and loyalty because customers feel that the brand truly understands and values their needs. For example, Sam’s Club can precisely push personalized offers by analyzing members’ purchasing data, thereby improving the shopping experience and satisfaction.

Read More: Stop Guessing Preferences: Data-Driven Marketing

High-Quality Products and Services

Providing high-quality products and services is key to the success of customer loyalty card programs and the overall success of the brand. Sam’s Club and Costco attract customers with low-priced, high-quality products by carefully selecting supplier brands and offering private label products to ensure product quality and differentiation. These high-value products and services not only attract many new customers but also increase the loyalty of existing members. When customers believe they are receiving the best value at these supermarkets, they are more likely to renew their memberships and become long-term members. For example, Sam’s Club’s private label products not only meet customer needs but also enhance the brand’s competitiveness, making customers feel the value of their membership fees.


Bonus: How Customer Membership Loyalty Card Programs Operate

Issuance and Registration

Customers can apply to become members either in-store or through the brand’s app. During the registration process, brands collect basic demographic information such as age group and purchasing preferences. This information is stored in a customer database, providing data support for subsequent personalized marketing strategies. For example, both Sam’s Club and Costco offer online and offline membership registration channels, allowing customers to choose the most convenient method. This not only increases customer participation but also helps the brand build a comprehensive customer database, facilitating future data analysis and marketing strategy development.

Points Accumulation and Rewards

Points accumulation is one of the core mechanisms of customer loyalty card programs. Customers earn points with each purchase, which can then be redeemed for cash discounts on future purchases or various rewards, increasing their shopping enthusiasm. There are also tiered loyalty programs where customers unlock more benefits as they accumulate more points or spend more money. This multi-tier reward system effectively encourages customers to shop more frequently and spend more.

Customer loyalty card, tiered, Sam's Club, Costco

Data Collection and Personalization

Loyalty card programs collect data on customers’ purchasing behaviors and preferences to achieve personalized marketing. This data includes the types of products purchased, purchase frequency, spending amounts, and more. Brands can analyze this data to understand customer needs and preferences, providing customized offers and promotional activities. For instance, Sam’s Club uses big data technology to analyze shopping data and launch targeted promotions and personalized recommendations. This not only enhances the shopping experience but also increases customer satisfaction and loyalty. Such data-driven personalized marketing strategies allow brands to more precisely reach target customers and improve marketing effectiveness.

Communication and Member Benefits

Brands need to maintain communication with members through various channels such as email newsletters, brand apps, and social media. These channels can be used to deliver time-limited offers and promotional information, as well as to provide exclusive member event invitations and early sale access. For example, Sam’s Club regularly sends the latest promotional information and exclusive offers to members via email and uses mobile apps to provide personalized shopping suggestions and reminders. These communication methods not only enhance customer engagement but also increase brand exposure and influence. Through these channels, brands can promptly understand members’ needs and feedback, continuously optimizing the customer loyalty card program.

Read More: What is Omnichannel Engagement? Learn from CASETiFY’s Strategies

Customer Retention and Engagement

Loyalty card programs encourage repeat purchases and enhance brand loyalty through continuous reward mechanisms. Brands can improve membership programs based on customer feedback to increase satisfaction. For example, Sam’s Club sets up automated engagement processes that push relevant promotional information and offers based on customers’ purchasing behaviors and activity levels, motivating them to shop again. Additionally, brands can conduct member surveys and collect feedback to understand customers’ needs and expectations, continuously optimizing the content and services of the membership program to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.



The success of Sam’s Club and Costco shows that loyalty card programs can effectively enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty through strategies like points rewards, data-driven personalized marketing, and providing high-quality products and services. These programs not only boost brand sales and growth but also strengthen brand market competitiveness and influence. As more brands adopt loyalty card programs, they will be better positioned to meet customer needs and stand out in a highly competitive market.

If your brand is considering implementing a membership program and wishes to enhance customer experience and loyalty through a professional loyalty management system, we offer comprehensive loyalty management consulting and one-stop customer loyalty platform solutions. These services can help your brand build a strong customer base and maintain a leading position in a competitive market. Visit our website to learn more, or contact our professional team directly for a consultation. We will provide you with a customized loyalty program strategy to help your business achieve long-term development.




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