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Rat: Press on the bar, get some food.
Human: Buy or service your car at a dealership with a rewards program, earn some points.
One of the most influential behavioral psychologists of all time, B.F. Skinner, discovered in his groundbreaking radical behaviorism experiments that the rate with which the rat pressed the bar depended not on any preceding stimulus (as Pavlov had insisted), but on what followed the bar presses.
This was new indeed. Unlike the reflexes that Pavlov had studied, this kind of behavior was controlled by conditioning.
A behavior followed by a reinforcing stimulus results in an increased probability of that behavior occurring in the future.
So the rats in Skinner's trials pulled the lever and got a reward, and they did it over and over. That's just like the shopper who gets reward points; they come back again and again. Stop the reward, the attraction goes away.
More recent studies show that price cuts alone don't breed loyalty, but that rewards programs do. They also provide something almost as valuable as a steady, increased income stream.
Rewards programs provide information. For a customer enrolled in one of your dealership's rewards programs they have to keep their contact info current so they can continue to receive rewards. And you can also track which customers are buying what services, and reward your best customers even more.