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Why organizational loyalty programs cannot prevent switching

Frauke Mattison Thompson (Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Sven Tuzovic (Department of Marketing and Public Relations, School of Advertising, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 12 February 2020

Issue publication date: 15 April 2020



The purpose of this study is to investigate the extent to which loyalty programs can prevent switching, and how individual level cultural values impact this. Loyalty programs are designed to create switching costs, which reduce customers’ desire to leave. However, in practice, these programs are often misapplied; that is, most companies inadvertently treat all customers as equal. While ample research has examined the role of loyalty reward programs in facilitating customer loyalty, little is known about the extent to which individual-level cultural values moderate customer loyalty measures of trust and affective commitment and how this impacts the effectiveness of loyalty programs; that is, consumers’ intentions to “stick” with the program or to switch.


This study uses a quasi-experiment combined with an extensive survey to collect the data.


Based on data collected from one industrial country and four emerging countries, the results show that loyalty programs do not universally prevent switching behavior. Instead, this study finds that individual-level uncertainty avoidance and collectivist values significantly moderate the effects.


This study helps advance the understanding of how international retailers can increase their loyalty program effectiveness and reduce customer switching to competitors.



The authors would like to thank Prof T. Chmura for his involvement in the experimental design and data collection.


Mattison Thompson, F. and Tuzovic, S. (2020), "Why organizational loyalty programs cannot prevent switching", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 207-222.



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