NEW YORK: Traditional loyalty programs are evolving in a new direction as schemes from SavingStar and Walmart seek to persuade shoppers to use their smartphones to scan receipts.

SavingStar, a digital coupon and promotion program that operates by linking to retailers' loyalty databases and scanners to track purchases, is doubling its coverage to 58,000 stores, including many retail outlets currently without loyalty cards, Advertising Age reported.

The magazine explained how SavingStar works "like a syndicated loyalty program" that can track individual shopper purchases across multiple retailers. Adding in more stores means that people are likely to hit offer thresholds – buying various brand products at different outlets – more quickly, as long as they scan their receipts to verify that they have bought those products targeted by promotions.

Walmart recently rolled out Savings Catcher, a scheme which also relies on shoppers scanning their receipts. In this case, however, they are given automatic refunds if an independent tracking firm finds comparable items advertised elsewhere locally at a lower price, in a development of a long-standing price-match guarantee.

Savings Catcher will capture all the data that conventional loyalty programs do, but, according to Stephen Quinn, Walmart CMO, "we're unencumbered by an existing CRM system that's really a coupon distribution system with a lot of direct mail."

Since Walmart is also one of the stores that SavingStar is linking up with, customers could have to scan their receipts twice, one for each scheme, if they are to gain the fullest advantage. And not everyone is convinced that will happen – one observer noted that market researcher Nielsen pays panellists to scan receipts but even that did not guarantee compliance.

Brendan O'Marra, director-digital and promotion at Sun Products Corp, a maker of household care products, was more optimistic: "I don't think it will be as long of a ramp up as some previously launched technologies," he said.

And he was also enthusiastic about how SavingStar fed back data on how his promotions affected shopper behaviour across retailers.

Data sourced from Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff