Partnering with brand clients around the world, Engage People is a technology supplier that connects loyalty programs with payment systems and online retailers by allowing program members to pay with points directly at checkout. The technology supplier provides both loyalty management software — Podium — and its payments network — Access Plus.
Mark Johnson, CEO of Loyalty360, spoke with Jonathan Silver, CEO of Engage People, about current and upcoming trends in customer loyalty and which trends Engage People expects brands to focus on throughout 2023.
Bringing Emotional Connection and Engagement to Financial Loyalty
Within the financial world, customer loyalty is about keeping branded payment cards at the front of the wallet. For brands, the question is how to stand out from numerous other options consumers may have. To stand out from the card, brands can offer unique benefits and rewards to cardholders. To Engage People, one of the best ways to build this loyalty is through building an emotional connection.
“If you have a travel credit card, you tap your card on a $10 bottle of water, and the payment asks if you want to use your rewards points on the transaction, you’re suddenly surprised and delighted,” says Silver. “It enhances that memory in a way you didn’t expect. That drives a higher emotional engagement and a higher connection back to the program.”
Through the Access Plus network, Engage People has a wealth of data on customer point redemption, due to the network’s ability to allow users to redeem points directly through their cards. Through this data, the supplier measures the impact of those rewards for its clients and has seen how this kind of emotional connection through the transactions results in higher point redemption and spend for members.
“We’re seeing about six times engagement from members who have redeemed in store with us versus those who haven’t, with a 15–20% increase in spend,” says Silver.
Within the financial space, especially with infrequently used services like travel cards, driving customer loyalty is all about increasing the frequency and ease of redeeming points. By increasing frequency and ease, the brand is able to increase the emotional connection to the card which will ultimately increase engagement and spending.
“The ability for people to engage with the program more frequently results in better engagement, high retention rates, and high spends,” says Silver. “When we talk about loyalty strategies now, it’s about how we draw that connection and emotional engagement to increase frequency.”
Building Meaningful Partnerships with Brands and Technology Providers
With the influx of new technologies and new trends in customer loyalty, many brands are looking to revamp their programs in 2023. For some brands, a relaunch is a vital step to update their infrastructure to become more agile and flexible. However, this kind of overhaul is expensive and not every brand will have the resources to simply relaunch.
“We’re enabling a lower cost member acquisition without moving or taking away from the value creation they put into creating their own loyalty program,” says Silver. “It’s incredibly beneficial, especially for brands who cannot move away from that infrastructure.”
Infrastructure does not have to create a barrier for brands looking to integrate new technologies or trends. Instead of a complete overhaul, brands find strategic partnerships that can both provide innovative technologies and work within the established infrastructures.
“One of the values we bring to a brand on the partnership side is providing access to all of our clients with one piece of tech integration,” says Silver. “You now have access to run promotions and campaigns without any IT infrastructure costs, which increases the value proposition of those partnerships.”
Contemporary technology allows brands to enter partnerships without having to overhaul their infrastructures. This allows non-competitive brands with similar customer bases to cross-sell and drive loyalty for both brands involved without building a full coalition.
Using New Trends to Stand Out in the Loyalty Space
Because many loyalty programs function similarly, brands face the opportunity to differentiate themselves to stand out in this sea of sameness. This does not mean the brand needs to completely leave their current format behind.
“It’s about what I can do to make your life more interesting,” says Silver. “So, we see different forms of payment, digital enhancements to customer contact and experience, and getting people hooked into your ecosystem.”
As brands seek to differentiate their programs, Engage People expects to see an increase in forms of payment. When digital wallets — Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, etc. — first emerged, people were skeptical. Now, it’s completely normal to see customers pay with their phones.
“Different forms of payment are about making it easier for the member to engage,” says Silver. “Whether it’s inside the mobile app or integrating BNPL into checkout.”
Additionally, brands should be collecting and acting on customer data to personalize the customer experience. Especially in times of economic uncertainty, loyalty members are looking for meaningful value. Brands need to be able to provide relevant promotions to keep customers returning, which only come through data.
Through understanding this data, brands need to increase the customer experience beyond just promotions. Every interaction the brand has with the customer should be about increasing value for that customer.
“If you’re asking a consumer to make a commitment, whether it’s time, energy, or data, make sure the value proposition coming back is equal or greater,” says Silver.
When it comes to engaging with new technologies or trends within the loyalty space, brands need to make sure their strategies are about reducing friction for the customer and increasing the value they receive from the brand.
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