All of today’s loyalty programs are coercive, and meant to hold customers captive.

Genuine loyalty goes the other way. It’s what a customer feels about the companies she deals with.

We have many examples of genuine loyalty in the offline world. You have it with your favorite bookstore, coffee shop, and every other place they know your name or you like to go for whatever reason. True loyalty is up to you, because it’s your loyalty. Not their program.

The richness of ties between customers and companies can be far bigger than it is today in the digital world if there were standard instruments in customers’ hands for expressing loyalty, and and if those standard instruments to operate at scale across multiple companies.

This is hardly unthinkable. We already have standard tools for dealing with companies online, starting with browsers and email.

And, as it happens, we’ve considered many approaches to this. One plan under discussion is for Customer Commons to issue a CuCo ID on the (nonprofit) Sovrin network in the form of a virtual (or, should we wish, physical) My Loyalty Card. This ID will come with a CuCo specific trust framework on the model of Sovrin’s, which is already endorsed by a large number of commercial, noncommercial and government entities.

This is an ID that carries as expression of autonomy, and can provide a kind of single sign-on with companies. As it scales up and becomes standard, it will also help make clear the value of customers as first parties, and express aggregate power as well, and scaffold up genuine ways for loyalty to develop. For example, with market intelligence that flows both ways.

The main challenge is to anchor loyalty where it truly belongs: on the customer’s side.