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  • USA Today

Getting the Most from Your Rewards: A Q&A with Bryan Pearson

With more than two decades of experience developing successful customer relationship programs for some of the world’s leading companies, LoyaltyOne President Bryan Pearson is a recognized authority on loyalty marketing in the United States, Canada and the international marketplace.

One proof point that consumers place value in LoyaltyOne’s AIR MILES Reward Program is in the numbers—it’s North America’s most successful loyalty program with two thirds of Canadian households participating. What’s his secret? Pearson took some time from his busy schedule to discuss the importance of consumer data, the opportunities for mobile in customer engagement and tips for making the most of your rewards program.

Q: Can you share some tips for getting the most from our reward programs?

A: There are a number of ways. What comes first to mind is consolidation—focusing your spend on a few cards. The average U.S. household holds memberships in 14 loyalty programs. Consumers will get further faster by focusing their efforts and  spending on  just a few. Then with your program of choice, take advantage of double-dipping—most loyalty programs also include a credit card component. It is one of the fastest ways to increase your points—using a rewards credit card at merchants that also have their own loyalty programs. You get twice as many points. Also, don’t forget about the “soft” benefits. Oftentimes members have access to extended shopping hours, reduced shipping costs and other benefits not available to non-members.

Q: What do loyalty companies do with the information they gather about me?

A: Customers have an expectation of reciprocity—they provide their data to organizations with the expectation those organizations will use it to create more relevant and meaningful relationships with customers. Purchase data, which can include what a shopper buys, where she buys it and how she pays for it, really creates a complete picture of that consumer. It also helps us understand where she is in life—is she a time-starved single or a health-conscious mom for instance. This helps retailers feature the right merchandise at the right price. It also helps us tailor rewards and recognition that are most meaningful to individual members, from today’s hottest merchandise options like iPads to exclusive concert tickets and of course, travel.

Q: How should I expect to be treated by the rewards programs I join ?

A: Consumers are rightfully concerned about sharing personal information, and they don’t want unsolicited emails or to be flooded with promotional messages. Consumers will trust a loyalty program that protects their privacy, makes sure all the content they receive is relevant and fresh, provides rewards that are meaningful and reasonably attainable, and engages in a dialogue with them. If there was such a thing as a set of Golden Rules that protect the rights of rewards program participants, these are the rights that would be protected.

Q: What are the hottest trends in loyalty programs today?

A: Partnerships are taking off as organizations realize there is power in aligning with other brands with similar values and customers so they can enhance the offering to the consumer. And of course, there is technology.  Fundamentally, loyalty programs are about creating relationships with your customers—and the biggest trend in relationships is the technologies that enable them, especially social media, communities and mobile applications. For loyalty marketers, mobile devices present new opportunities to more meaningfully connect with on-the-go consumers, one-to-one. This in turn presents some exciting options for mobile rewards, payments and commerce. The trick is being nimble, flexible and on target.

Q: Are loyalty programs as popular in other parts of the world as in the US?

A: Very much so. In fact, LoyaltyOne operates in Latin America through our partnership in dotz, Brazil’s leading coalition program. But loyalty programs operate successfully around the globe, from the UK to Italy and even in Asia. We plan to be a part of this expansion, so stay tuned.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between US and international loyalty programs?

A: Traditional U.S. loyalty programs involve one vendor, say a retailer, and the dollars spent with that vendor are recognized with rewards that can be redeemed with that merchant. Overseas, the more typical loyalty program structure includes partners—or coalition models.  But the fundamental consumer desire – for organizations to understand who they are and what they value, and in exchange for their loyalty provide meaningful reward and recognition holds true around the globe.

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