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Everyone's a winner - The benefits of loyalty rewards

Companies across an array of industries, whether they be hospitality, retail or financial services, offer loyalty rewards to their consumers. When one thinks about loyalty schemes, the idea of retail outlets offering bonus points to their customers is the first thing that comes to mind, especially with the likes of Starbucks and Nando's recently re-invigorating their reward schemes. However, financial institutions can also use such programmes to keep their customers coming back for more. For the provider, generally speaking the initial cash injection needed is relatively small, and if it means both attracting and keeping customers, the benefits can be significant.

Traditionally, loyalty schemes in financial services have been most closely associated with credit cards, where there is more money from charges and interest, to cover the cost of such schemes – take British Airways co-branded credit cards that offer Avios points as a reward for spend. We also see some premium bank accounts include incentives such as insurance or break-down cover – but at a monthly cost to the consumer.

What I haven’t really seen is banks providing “loyalty points” for having and using their bank account and their debit cards in the same way as the likes of Tesco’s Clubcard. Targeting customers with loyalty or reward schemes that they feel are relevant and valuable to them could help drive customer acquisition, engagement and retention.

The retention element is key for banks – it has perhaps never been easier than it is right now for customers to swap bank accounts, but getting a customer to swap to you is expensive. It is much better to keep your current customers happy so that they stay with you, rather than to lose them to an offer from a competitor, so you then have to replace them.

The best way to ensure that rewards are relevant and valuable is by adopting big data techniques. Whether it is the acquirer selling the data to merchants, or companies looking at customer behaviour to see how they could tailor their rewards to an individual, big data offers limitless opportunities. For example, if someone travels a lot, a perk added to a new card product could be free travel insurance or favourable rates on currency exchange. This will ensure that the reward offered is one that the customer would actually use and appreciate. It is this tailoring to individuals that has the potential to offer the greatest rewards.

Personally, if there was a bank out there that offered me a scheme that gave me three of four free cinema visits, a few nice meals out or a theatre show or two during the course of the year – I’d see a lot more value in that than being offered £100 for switching. It gives me longer-term benefits and keeps me happy all the time – rather than rewarding me simply for switching.

If they get it right, such schemes have great potential for banks – they keep their customers and in turn customers get rewarded for their loyalty. Essentially, everyone is a winner. So where can I sign…?

Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 02 September, 2013, 17:50Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Loyalty is a funny thing... If you have to "bribe" or reward your customers to provide repeat business, that's not loyalty as such. If you provide post-factum reward, that's largerly a waste of money as the customer already made the decision in your favour.

For example, I am "loyal" to Waitrose (for many reasons) even if they don't offer me anything (and other supermarkets do). Likewise, when EasyJet offers a lower priced ticket at suitable time, my loyalty to BA is zero.

Loyalty work well in small-value repeat-use scenarios - that's why Starbucks card is so successful.