I was never a big sports fan, but for some reason collecting Panini football stickers was a big part of my childhood. I couldn't really care less about the teams or the players - most of whom I'd never have recognised - it was just the collecting itself which was exciting. Being able to swap with friends and if you were really lucky, getting the silver ones with the club badges on.
It seems nothing has changed - Panini are still pushing out sticker books and kids are still collecting them.
It's not just kids though - many people like to collect - whether it's shoes or stamps.
I'm not talking about pathological collectors -those who feel a need to collect things so that it affects their ordinary life. Like the guy from California (why is it always California) who just had to recently sell his banana themed collection.
I'm also not talking about those who's desire to collect something first drives them to extraordinary lengths. For example, the 15 year old Parker Liautaud who was first to collect the FourSquare Last Degree Badge by checking in at the North Pole.
What I'm talking about is those more normal people who just feel compelled to make that next purchase or seek out that next item.
Given that collecting is such as powerful force within frequency marketing programmes - whether its people collecting points or the sales promotions at the local petrol station where you collect glasses - understanding how people start collecting is important to get a loyalty programme up and running.
At a simple level the act of collecting is essentially one behaviour that is linked to a previous one - to be a collector you must by definition have started.
In the famous article on The Endowed Progress Effect by Nunes & Drèze, they showed how you can kick start people into collecting by simply making them feel they have already started. By awarding people with points upfront, the members were more likely to continue collecting and would actually collect faster - showing increased engagement or desire to collect. They described the reasons for this saying:-
[Previous research] demonstrated that interrupted or uncompleted actions engender a strong motivation to complete the action and psychologists agree that once a person accepts a task, for whatever reason, he or she tends to stay on that course until the goal is achieved
So part of getting people to collect is to get them to feel their collection is both incomplete - so there is more to do - and that they have already started collecting and so feel compelled to continue.
It's one thing to get people started however, but how do you keep the behaviour going. How do you get them from one behaviour to the next, and more importantly, how do you get them making increasingly larger commitments - giving you a greater share of wallet or opening up a new category they haven't purchased in before.
In the book Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasionthey discussed ways of getting one large behaviour change by essentially "softening" people up in the first instance. Linking one action to another by starting with something small and seemingly insignificant to then get them to do something bigger which they wouldn't ordinarily have accepted.
The example given was an experiment that asked home owners in a posh neighbourhood to display a large sign on their lawn (6' x 3') saying "DRIVE CAREFULLLY". When asked first off for this, only 17% complied. However when they were asked two weeks before to display a small sign in their window saying "BE A CAREFUL DRIVER", the compliance rate shot up to 76% for the larger sign.
The book goes on to explain why this happened saying:-
"The evidence suggests that after agreeing to the request, the residents came to see themselves as committed to worthy causes such as safe driving. When [..] approached a couple of weeks later, they were motivated to act consistently with this perception of themselves."
This softening or "Priming" as it's described in the book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happinessworks by aligning peoples thinking - for example, simply asking people who they might vote for makes them more likely to actually go out and vote.
This becomes key within loyalty through ongoing communications. We know for example that communications sent across multiple channels increase overall response rates within a campaign and this is probably in part because the first communication "primes" for the subsequent one. Combining this with some form of low risk call to action suggests that subsequent messages for a larger commitment would get a far greater response rate.
Members of a loyalty programme have traditionally been called collectors. To get the best out of a programme though it is probably also worth treating them as collectors and building in specific mechanisms which encourage both the initial behaviour to get them started in their collection as well as helping to direct them ongoing to maximise it.