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Advertising Age reports that Walmart is expected to announce later today "a full-fledged loyalty program with the launch of Walmart Rewards, which gives customers cash back via supplier-funded deals that could help the retailer capture data from tens of millions of additional people."

According to the story, the program is "an outgrowth of Walmart's previous collaboration with Ibotta," and is "already being used by some marketers such as Procter & Gamble Co. and could fuel more brand spending via the Walmart Connect media business. That's because it will give brands something new to advertise - the rebates they’re offering - and generate more targeting opportunities through better data.

"Ibotta is an online promotions program that lets people accumulate rebate offers from brands based on purchases across multiple retailers."

Walmart has not yet commented on the Ad Age report.

Burt Flickinger, managing director of consultancy Strategic Resource Group, tells Ad Age, "It’s an important strategic initiative for Walmart, which was seeing itself get farther and farther behind CVS and Target, which have the best loyalty programs in mainstream food, drug and discount store retail."

KC's View:

The only thing I would add to Burt Flickinger's analysis is this:

What the hell took Walmart so long?

It has been decades since loyalty marketing programs first were introduced into the retailing environment, and Walmart seemed to take an almost perverse pride in not giving better treatment or prices to customers identified as being loyal.

Now, let's be fair about this.  Just because you are a member of a loyalty program doesn't mean you are loyal to that retailer.  It used to mean you had a key fob;  now it means you downloaded an app.

But, a loyalty program does allow a retailer to analyze data and then act on it.  It'll be interesting to see the degree to which Walmart does this, how it segments its customers, and if it actually does offer better deals to its best shoppers.  For example, will it give best shoppers a break on what their Walmart+ membership costs, or whether they can get a Paramount+ subscription at a lower cost?

And, as always in these cases, I pose the following question:  How will Walmart demonstrate to its shoppers that it is loyal to them, as opposed to just offering deals designed to essentially bribe shoppers to be loyal to it?