Apple Pay steps further into the loyalty ecosystem

As a member of the Quizno's loyalty program, I can see the advantages of having Apple Pay. Quizo's has always been a low-end proponent of loyalty, and by pairing with Punchh and through them Apple, it gets access to more sophisticated features. We can watch the evolution of loyalty into being too complex for most businesses to own. 

9to5Mac: Apple Pay loyalty card support coming to Quiznos, Smashburger, and more restaurants, 2017-Jun-22 by Zac Hall

Punchh works with over 85 restaurant chains including Quiznos, Smashburger, Pieology, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and announced plans today to bring Apple Pay-based loyalty card support to its client restaurant locations.

For participating restaurant brands, Apple Pay users will be prompted at checkout to add the restaurant’s loyalty program to their Apple Wallet. Once added, customers will automatically begin earning points and receiving specialized offers, which can be redeemed during future visits. Restaurant brands using the integrated solution will be able to match customers who have opted in to their loyalty program with their payments and receipts, know which menu items they purchased, and incentivize them to use Apple Pay.

Following today’s announcement, Punchh says customers will start seeing Apple Pay support for loyalty cards at participating restaurants “starting later this year.”


Why Marriott is not worried about Airbnb

While Marriott recognizes Airbnb as a competitor, its current strategy is being driven by pressure from the online travel agencies. In general, Marriott serves a distinctly different market than Airbnb, although that could change. In the meantime, Marriott is looking toward expansion, operational excellence, and a booming loyalty program to cement its future. 

Fortune: Marriott: Why It's Expanding as It Fends Off Airbnb, 2017-Jun-14 by Shawn Tully

So far, Sorenson’s strategy of building scale is working. The OTAs’ share of bookings remains flat at around 8%, and more new hotels are signing with Marriott and other branded hoteliers than ever before. The combined rewards programs are growing faster than ever, says Marriott, at around 1 million new members a month. As long as those higher-margin direct bookings remain strong, Marriott’s owners will be happy and its business healthy.


How Shell is leveraging CRM for marketing insight

Companies have been slow to realize the value of their CRM data for marketing insight. Shell's global  leadership in London has recently moved to the front line with its appointment of an experienced brand manager to head the CRM practice. Sherine Yap moved from the Global Marketing Promotions Manager for Shell Retail to the Global Head of CRM - Retail. 

Marketing Week: How Shell has bridged the gap between brand marketing and data, 2017-May-24 by Charlotte Rogers

Yap explained how the actionable data insights generated by her team are driving conversations around marketing spend and strategy. The data, for example, shows that a customer that engages with Shell’s loyalty programme is worth 10 times more to the company than a non-loyalty customer.

For all the marketing strategies that we have around attracting new customers, actually if you want to spend your money wisely we need to be driving more satisfaction and more value out of existing customers by deepening engagements. It’s not an opinion, I’ve got the data to back me up,” she said.


How puts customers in charge is constantly trying out new ways to excite and intrigue their customers. 

VentureBeat:  How gets users to pick the right subscription option (VB Live) , 2017-May-24

Too many subscription options, the potential customer gets overwhelmed and walks. Too few, and your customer feels crowded into their decision.

Finding that sweet spot, the subscription option that makes your user feel like they’re wringing out all the value and your accountant feel like Scrooge in his money vault, that’s the key to bottom line results, says Derek Blatter, Senior Manager, electronic payments and fraud prevention at, though not quite in those words... 

There are two key page elements to pay attention to: How you provide the default option to the customer, and how price is highlighted — for instance, the additional savings they’ll get if they choose a long-term commitment versus just a one-month subscription.

A lot of it comes down to how well-informed the customer feels.

“Just distilling all the subscription information into a simple way to understand is key,” Hennessy says, pointing out the matrix of options on Ancestry’s selection page. “Get a lot of information out to the customer in a way they can navigate and get working and integrating with your product as soon as possible.”

But all is not lost if they don’t choose the most lucrative option, he says. 


Minimal CRM and the challenge of tagging

Many of my friends have either added a CRM tool to their email application (i.e., adding Streak to GMail or PoliteMail to Outlook), or they have created a CRM-oriented routine using other tools such as Excel or Evernote. 

Because I've seen what a great CRM application can do, I am attracted to a full-featured product like Salesforce, but then discouraged because I just don't have enough 'relationship-building' time to use all its features. 

I recently stumbled across an article by Khe Hy, who used to be a hedge-fund manager and is now a writer and adviser. He did a great job of zeroing in on the essential issues of having a 'personal CRM' and the challenge of grouping and tagging your contacts. I've been trying to do this in LinkedIn, and it's so much more difficult than I anticipated. Khe has done a great job of 'hacking' this problem. 

RadReads: I couldn't find a good personal CRM so I created my own and want to share it with you, 2014-Aug-23 by Khe Hy

[I've lightly edited this information to be easier for future reference.]

The crux of the system is 4-category tagging system. As I meet new people, I use four tag families to describe their attributes: 1) Industry/Sub-Industry,  2) Job function, 3) Passions and 4) Personal Attributes. 

  • The first two are pretty straightforward (and very similar to LinkedIn); however, much of the magic occurs when you understand and connect upon an individual’s passions and personality traits. Quite simply, people connect more deeply over their personal commonalities than the information on their business cards.

  • ...The most “controversial” part of this system is that the tags are hard-coded [limited and pre-defined]. The reason I did this was to enforce some self discipline on the user (and to make things searchable). As most Evernote users know, the free form nature of tags makes it very hard for them to be effective. The example that I give is say you were using “Crossfit” as a tag – one day while updating you may type in “Xfit” and you would immediately have duplicates.

If you’ve made it this far, you must be wondering if creating these tags, updating individuals, filtering, etc is worth all the work. I would say that this tool becomes pretty powerful as the number of individuals increases. I currently have 500 people in mine and I believe that it enables me to really surpass Dunbar’s Number [150 contacts is a human limit without technology support] as I try to make myself as helpful as possible to my network of friends. I’ve added fields to help manage small mailing lists and to also keep track of attendance to the various events that I host. [In the CRM world, these are History fields.]

  • Resist the habit of adding new tags right away. Start by adding them in the Free form field and making a habit of scanning those every month or so.
  • Comment your tags – this can help resist the temptation of adding new ones too quickly or dealing with those that are not mutually exclusive


Alaska Airlines, unlike United

Recently, I flew Southwest Airlines, which used to have the reputation for humanity now enjoyed by Alaska Airlines. At Southwest, they were very efficient and friendly, in that order. It seems like the bigger and older a company gets, the less personal it becomes. I hope the Alaska-Virgin America merger goes well and they have another few years of humanity to share. 

Bloomberg Pursuits: Why Little Alaska Airlines Has the Happiest Customers in the Sky, 2017-May-24 by Nikki Ekstein

According to Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, Alaska performs well—or wins—in every category. In-flight services are one exception: Alaska keeps up with aircraft models and onboard technology but doesn’t push these envelopes. (This is expected to change as the carrier inherits Virgin America’s tricked-out fleet.) But cost is a selling point. Flight crew get praise. And the airline wins by its widest margins in the boarding, deplaning, and baggage handling category.

“This [category] represents access,” explains Taylor. “The courtesy of the gate staff, timely flight information, and the time it takes to get on and off the plane.” In his mind, how you’re treated and how quickly you board are related: It takes smart, intuitive crew members, both behind the scenes and in the front of the house, to make the process seamless. It’s about making customers feel less like cattle, he says, and more like individuals. How does Alaska do that? “It’s not a mystery at all,” says Taylor. “They’re just very people-oriented. They empower their employees.”...  

Even though Kelly flies the airline only a few times a year—mostly to TED events in Vancouver—he puts serious stock in his Alaska miles. They’re often redeemed at more valuable rates than those of other airlines, he says, to the point that booking an Emirates flight is often cheaper with Alaska miles than with Emirates miles. The carrier also sells miles cheaply, for less than 2¢ apiece. (Other carriers sell them for 3¢ or 4¢.) “All this makes it one of the most valuable programs out there,” Kelly says.

Maintaining reward status is also easier with Alaska than with other airlines. “Even in a down year, Alaska will grandfather you into your normal level of status,” says David Fowler, chief privacy officer for an online marketing company. That was an informal perk until recently: Earlier this month the airline launched a “parental leave” policy that lets new parents (or others with significant life changes) put their loyalty status on hold for a year.

For Amy Daly-Donovan, an organization development consultant, little things like upgrade reliability, free cocktails, and end-of-year thank-you gifts (like tins of cookies) allow Alaska to stand out. “They truly seem appreciative of their highest-level frequent fliers and have the best frequent perks—no change fees!” she says.


Loyalty Role Models: Sephora, REI and JetBlue

Every industry has different models of customer loyalty. You should know who are the 'role models' for your industry, and consider adapting their programs for your customers. 

TowerData: 3 Big Brands with Exceptional Customer Loyalty Programs, 2016-May-17 by Phil Davis

  • Sephora’s loyalty program, Beauty Insider, offers everything a cosmetics addict could want in a beauty membership. It’s free to join, and each dollar spent accrues points that earn members free beauty supplies. 

  • REI proclaims, “REI is … dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” And its loyalty program embodies this goal. 

  • At its core, TrueBlue by JetBlue is a pretty typical airline rewards program. Members earn points for the dollars they spend on JetBlue travel, which they can redeem for discounted flights and other perks. Where TrueBlue takes it to a new level is with extra features they’ve been adding since its launch 15 years ago.
    • “Continuously Extending” [offers] TrueBlue points for members who use the JetBlue Card from American Express
    • TrueBlue Mosaic [is] a program that rewards the most loyal customers with waived cancellation fees, early boarding, access to a dedicated customer service line and complimentary in-flight alcoholic beverages
    • Family Pooling... allows families to combine their existing TrueBlue points into a shared account 


eBay's unique CRM is real-time, all channels

Managing customer relationships is not a function--it's a passion. eBay demonstrated the passion by developing technology that supports their specific and existing customers--those people actually buying from eBay, today. No CRM "platform" available "off-the-shelf" is going to serve our customers as well as something we build ourselves. 

eMarketer: eBay Incorporates Machine Learning to Overhaul Email Marketing Platform, 2017-May-3, interview of Alex Weinstein, Director of Marketing Technology and CRM at eBay

eMarketer: Can you talk more about this personalization platform? How does it work?

Weinstein: Imagine a customer is browsing eBay for shoes. Marketers constantly create deals—there are some deals on shoes, some on electronics and some on accessories for cars. As those deals are created, they’re placed into virtual “buckets.”

For every piece of marketing content, such as our newsletter, a machine learning model looks through all these buckets and decides that based on a customer’s browsing history, a shoe deal would be most relevant. It’s the best of both worlds—content is filled by a machine learning model selecting from deals that humans have created.

eMarketer: Why did you decide to build this platform in-house instead of buying a prebuilt one?

Weinstein: We evaluated a bunch of third-party offerings, but there were two reasons for doing this in-house. The first reason was eBay’s sheer scale. We are one of the largest marketplaces on the planet, with a billion items for sale and 167 million active buyers. Third-party solutions struggled with the scale.

The second reason was our internal decision to prioritize this work and be one of the best in the world at it.... 

Now, we have a real-time data pipeline that powers our downstream marketing campaigns. Whenever an action takes place on the site—a customer buying an item, browsing or just seeing an ad—the activity is tracked by our real-time engine, which updates the profile of the customer and sets off triggers that we have embedded in the system. The triggers apply to both customers and items: For example, the moment the price changes on an item a customer has viewed, we can automatically send that customer an email. No batches involved.


How Marriott and Hilton are innovating loyalty

Just as customer experience allows us to move beyond price competition to capture customers, loyalty innovations are growing our mind share. 

Hospitality Net: Hospitality, Meet the Digital Age, 2017-May by Marc Berman

Hospitality loyalty doesn't have to limit itself purely to the transaction step of the travel plan. A traveler's planning journey is much bigger than that. According to an Expedia Media Solutions survey, more that 60 percent of American digital users consume travel content. Collectively, they're spending 1.5 trillion minutes each month doing so. That makes for a lot of browsing, researching and planning.

Loyalty programs are beginning to catch onto this and are adding content into their offerings. Marriott's new loyalty app, launched in February, can deliver curated, original content from Marriott's digital magazine, Traveler, based on users' previous hotel searches or upcoming travels. This content helps the brand become present at other stages of the travel planning process, instead of just settling for the purchase touchpoint. Not to mention, it's sure to help the wanderlust kick in for those who are more likely to travel on a whim, or the business traveler plan a last-minute trip.... 

Solo travel may be on the rise, but traveling is still most often done in a group. In 2015, 76 percent of those who travelled did so in a group. Digital elements to the hotel-booking experience can ease the tension here, especially when it comes to payment.

The new Hilton Honors loyalty program allows users to pool their points with up to 10 friends or family members, giving it a leg up on Airbnb where users have to settle for only one payment method rather than splitting it across a group. The program also allows users to put a certain amount of points towards a stay rather than forcing them to pay for the stay entirely in one currency, a great feature for groups who don't have everyone participating in the program. Loyalty marketers sometimes neglect that group, though with easy payment options like this, brands can drive new membership. 


Mining for customer aspirations at Kohl's and Marriott

One of the big advantages of a sophisticated loyalty program is the opportunity to find out what your customers are dreaming about. Experiential Rewards: How Kohl's, Neiman Marcus and Marriott Set a New Bar, 2017-Apr-28 by Bryan Pearson

The best retail customer experiences are designed to fulfill consumer expectations. For the shopper who got to participate in a fashion photo shoot for Kohl’s, it meant filling a celebrity’s shoes.

That’s basically what a member of Kohl’s Yes2You Rewards got when the retailer invited her to participate in a photo shoot of the LC Lauren Conrad line, designed by The Hills TV star and fashion designer Lauren Conrad. As Conrad described it, the member (Kayla Watters) got to "fill my shoes...."

For Kohl’s, the Yes2You Rewards program also provides its own set of merchant benefits. These include having “an authentic, two-way dialogue” to learn what its shoppers want, how they interact with the retailer and what matters most in their brand experiences, said Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief merchandising and customer officer.

“As we learn more about our customers through Yes2You Rewards, we develop deeper relationships and provide promotions, experiences and surprises that are meaningful to them,” she said.

Since the program launched in 2014, Kohl’s has made millions of customer surprises, she said, ranging from a VIP trip to the American Music Awards to an early screening of a blockbuster film to the opportunity to star in a Kohl’s photo shoot. “The positive sentiment we’ve seen from these customers is incredible and absolutely deepens customer affinity with our brand.”...

Marriott Rewards Experiences Marketplace offers for auction a meet-and-greet with Tony Bennett, VIP access to the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and tickets to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Recently, it auctioned off a chance to stay in one of eight tricked-out tents at the Coachella music festival, each of which duplicated a room in one of its eight boutique hotel brands.

Important to these experiential reward strategies is that each is sized up to its audience. From Kohl’s branded photo shoots to Marriott’s customized tents, each brand uses its program data to develop reward options that hit the relevant sweet spots of its core members.