Not for the first time in the past few years, Barclaycard in the United Kingdom has announced a new customer loyalty and rewards initiative. Most recently was 'Freedom' which, after extensive media coverage, faded into the background - but the company's latest 'Bespoke' programme seems much more promising, according to The Wise Marketer's European consulting editor, Peter Wray, managing director for Loyalty Matters.
Earlier this month Barclays and Barclaycard announced a new initiative of 'Bespoke Offers' that aims to deliver improved and more personalised marketing offers to cardholders. The programme automatically enrolled all Barclays and Barclaycard customers, and membership is free of charge.
This is effectively an open market play by Barclays, which is clearly seeking to play the 'group couponing' card - but with its offers being better, and more personalised to customer lifestyle and lifestage interests. Big brands including Virgin, House of Fraser and Starbucks are already signed up for the programme.
Barclays has developed an IT platform that scores all offers for every customer based on an analysis of their spending patterns, and their interests (as previously expressed via a variety of media channels). Customers can then access those offers through whichever channel they choose (the web, a mobile app, or social media) and the programme's retail partners can also make offers to the customer base and receive data analysis from the results.
In this context the programme will seek to blend large brand appeal with smaller, more entrepreneurial online start-up brands that could not normally deploy this type of marketing due to the major costs associated with a Big Data approach to real-time marketing. The business model for Barclays appears to be based on the 'stickiness' or loyalty that this marketing activity - if it catches on with the customer base - will deliver to the Barclays and Barclaycard branded financial card base. It will also generate a commission back to the provider on all the transactions and, given the size of the Barclays card base across all retailing channels in the UK, this could be an attractive revenue stream.
A key feature that is being stressed by both Barclays and Barclaycard is that the customer remains very firmly in control of what offers they want to get, and when they can be approached with them. This alone could have a 'game changing' impact on the growing couponing market, which sadly has become synonymous with consumers receiving offers that are only vaguely linked to their lifestyle and interests.
This is somewhat more of a 'laser guided' marketing style than the 'carpet bombing' techniques that have become common in many offer-based loyalty initiatives. Relevance, control and trust are the three key principles that came first in the design for Bespoke Offers. Barclays reports that it has undertaken significant consumer research in developing Bespoke Offers, and is responding to the observed "customer demand for more differentiated and personalised but customer-in-control offers".
This is already a very crowded space and achieving 'cut-through' with austerity-challenged consumers is not going to be easy. But this does look like an initiative worth watching in terms of both impact and effect. Watch this space.