Let’s talk about loyalty: the evolution of customer rewards schemes

By Tara Honeywell, Managing Director

Mediator Ltd


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March 25, 2015 | 3 min read

In recent months I have had a number of conversations around the continued (or not) success of points based rewards systems like Nectar, Boots and Clubcard. These schemes work largely because brands such as Tesco enjoy regular contact with consumers, allowing small rewards to add up to a meaningful number. Brands with less consumer touch points have tried to employ this strategy, however on the whole have struggled to engage consumers.

Mediator's managing director Tara Honeywell.

We’ve see this with the points schemes of low engagement categories being significantly out performed by high frequency categories such as Boots /Superdrug. Though there have also been examples of low engagement brands successfully using point schemes, British Gas for example work with Nectar and in the first six weeks of the partnership were able to reduce churn by 5%.

However British Gas and Nectar’s initial success was asterisked by millions of pounds being ploughed into ATL; it would be interesting to see how results have performed as the partnership has matured. For other brands, signing up to Nectar can be expensive and in a market saturated with points schemes there are questions around how tired programmes like this are becoming.

Take myself for example. As an e-on customer I’m regularly sent emails and DM about how many points I’ve collected, however I’ve never had any inclination to open them, especially as my points value is only £15 p/a. I’d prefer it if they just took the money off my bills! E-on, if you’re listening…

A far more cost efficient and effective way for a brand to engender loyalty is to distinguish their loyalty offering from a ‘me too’ mentality. A good example of this is Sky, who stripped back their Sky Rewards loyalty scheme to focus on providing money can’t buy experiences through their partnership with The O2 and other big-ticket suppliers.

In itself the change is impressive as it shows a flexible marketing strategy, something which is essential in a market where consumer demand is constantly evolving and digital has allowed loyalty schemes to be quickly copied and oversupplied.

Supplying high value rewards is also intelligent as there’s less competition from rival loyalty schemes, making it easier to communicate Sky’s message and more likely consumers will take up the offer. Additionally, Sky’s offer is relevant to its consumers who trust Sky to provide quality entertainment and therefore appreciate the loyalty programme providing it for free.

In our opinion, low engagement categories and loyalty have a complex relationship and it’s important to create a differentiated experience that is consistent with the brand for it to actually work, keeping it simple, accessible yet valuable to the customer.

Tara Honeywell is managing director of Mediator.

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