Marketing Letters

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 545-559

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Make me special: Gender differences in consumers’ responses to loyalty programs

  • Valentyna MelnykAffiliated withWaikato Management School, The University of Waikato Email author 
  • , Stijn M. J. van OsselaerAffiliated withRotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University


Current literature on loyalty programs emphasizes the importance of psychological rewards and special treatment. However, it is not clear if male and female customers respond to these incentives in a similar way. We explore the differential effect for female versus male consumers of two psychological rewards that are provided through a loyalty program (a) high status (e.g., Gold membership), and (b) personalization, at different levels of visibility to other consumers. Across three experiments and a field study, we find a coherent pattern of gender differences in the way customers respond to different types of psychological rewards in the context of loyalty programs. The results show that men respond more positively than women to loyalty programs that emphasize status, but only when their higher status is highly visible to others. In contrast, women respond more positively than men to loyalty programs that emphasize personalization, but only for personalization in private settings. We discuss managerial implications for the design of loyalty programs.


Gender differences Loyalty Loyalty programs Personalization Status