In the thick of the pandemic, the restrictions on travel highlighted the vulnerability of the travel and hospitality industry, and the necessity for change. The travel loyalty industry was already in a race for relevancy besides fighting the battle for consumers’ share of mind and wallet. The restrictions sparked the global experiment to be productive from home and, for a spell, gave local travel the spotlight, making the industry ripe for change.
While the industry navigated the turbulence of the times for short-term survival, its leaders were charting a new course and widening their view to be prepared for what was coming next. One such leader, Loylogic, a provider of points commerce solutions for loyalty programs, wasn’t sitting in the wings waiting, but rather creating a new runway with the accelerated introduction of many new features in Pointspay, a new affiliate marketing platform that changes the way frequent flyers shop online and earn or use their points.
Of all industries that were negatively affected by COVID, travel and hospitality certainly feel like they were hit the hardest, with lots of stops and starts. And in a post-COVID world, where consumers seem to be more conscious of where, why and how they’re spending their money, travel and accommodation providers are going to have to claw their way out of the COVID vacuum and back into individual and company budgets.
“For so long, frequent flier programs were specifically tied to business travelers. We know it will take a while before FFPs get back to normal,” acknowledges Gabi Kool, Chief Commercial Officer at Loylogic. Kool believes Loylogic’s enhanced product Pointspay is going to change the world of frequent flier programs saying, “COVID showed us that there were so many alternative meeting options, so travel budgets may have been removed and reallocated by companies and individuals. There were far fewer miles earned on flight and travel activities in the last few months. So, one of the business problems we had to solve for travel and hospitality brands was how do we keep members engaged when loyalty programs aren’t top of mind?”
What was top of mind for consumers were everyday expenses The online commerce space was one of the industries that seemed to not have an engagement problem, and Kool seized the opportunity in that space for FFPs. “We see that for 2022, one of the only ways to grow miles issuance is in online commerce. We needed to make sure our clients’ programs are a part of that ecommerce earn and burn cycle.”
It’s certainly not FFPs’ first attempt at landing in that space. The landscape for the affiliate market is quite crowded and there’s no shortage of retail partners that FFPs have signed up to enter the everyday spend categories. But Kool reflects that the market is ready for evolution and that it’s time to diversify beyond traditional affiliate models and languishing co-brand credit cards. Enter Pointspay.
“We’re doing the work now with our partners and merchants to get FFPs top of mind and part of consumer daily life once more,” says Kool referring to the motivation for Pointspay changing the customer experience. “The user journey is broken in the affiliate market. No one really starts shopping from their FFP’s landing page. We wanted to create a more natural experience that doesn’t break down or add friction for the customer as they earn or use points and miles balances when shopping online — whether that’s because they have even more sets of credentials to remember or handovers between websites.”
Kool is referring to enabling a new payment experience that lets users pay securely and conveniently, and where they feel rewarded by the ease of the shopping and the earning and redemption experience. With Pointspay, the integration of miles and points balances extends the customer’s spending power in a frictionless way to be able to then influence the market mindset. “In the old way, FFPs were trying to do it backwards. They were trying to manage a large pool of retailers within their own customer experience instead of looking at how to be a better, more responsive partner to the retailers.” There’s a mindset shift that’s happening for FFP operators in this loop, where being a part of the online checkout payment process, instead of creating a new affiliate mall, is actually going to be much more productive for the airlines, the hotels and the operators of these programs.
There’s also a change in what can be offered for purchase, which benefits both members and the program operators. For the operators, it’s about optimization and revenue maximization. Instead of spending energy building and maintaining a myriad of relationships, trying to find products and services that feel like natural extensions of the travel and accommodations experience, FFPs — as payment service providers — can make any product and any service align. In this model, FFPs and their overextended teams no longer have to source 100s of logos on their own in order to offer a wide enough selection of brands and goods that fit with their brand values, within their program experience.
“This is MarPay,” declares Kool, speaking of this transformation of the industry towards being a meaningful part of the consumers’ everyday online spend, so that the aspirational, occasional someday spend feels closer and more attainable. Kool taps the overlap of Affiliate Marketing and Payment Systems as a new system that engenders more loyalty from program members who will have even more earn, reward and redemption choice — not narrowed by what fits within the specific loyalty program experience, rather widened by the expanded member wallet.
Kool sees Pointspay succeeding when it matures in the members’ view as a payment brand so that members can spend their miles and earn miles in a very frictionless experience:
“To win, we have made sure to integrate with leading Payment Service Providers and Affiliate networks and are working with them to activate many relevant online merchants so that a new merchant can be switched on almost immediately in our network, while also leveraging existing negotiated affiliate marketing commissions. In addition to these strategies, we also then work with our program clients to leverage direct relationships with certain large merchants to bring them on the network. This allows us to be more agile and nimble. We can get our FFP clients to market faster and allow them to measure sooner. That’s the model that works.”
There are new heights to which MarPay is working to take the travel and hospitality industry next. Kool is looking to strategic global partnerships that will grow choice for the members and reach for the programs. As Pointspay takes its position as a global leader in affiliate marketing to drive new income for travel programs via accelerated earn propositions, the question of whether there’s enough space comes to mind, but Kool is confident that he’s in good, smart company.
“There’s a lot to be gained by working together to make our industry better,” he muses when asked this question. “We’re looking forward to working and growing with our partners, and I root for our collective success as we evolve our industry and serve our members better and let them get more mileage out of loyalty programs. Affiliate marketing has never been a strong income generator for our collective industry, and it is time we take matters in our hands as loyalty experts and help members, programs, and retailers make the most of this fast growing and very sizeable market.”