Executive Interview

Executive Interview: Cathryn Lodwidge, Loyalty Marketing Lead at British Gas

British Gas Rewards with an example of its Augmented Reality feature.

Creating meaningful customer loyalty through great rewards, partnerships, and smart use of technology.

British Gas Rewards is a fairly new loyalty programme, launched by one of Britain’s most iconic brands in 2017. It has a simple purpose, to say “thank-you” to millions of loyal British Gas customers. It’s the first of its kind in the utility sector, offering unique benefits not available in other programmes such as free energy days and tickets to The O2 in their exclusive Rewards terrace. Cathryn Lodwidge is the Marketing Lead for the programme at British Gas and we were lucky enough to steal some time with her to find out more about this highly innovative and successful programme.

By: Charlie Hills

Tell us about British Gas Rewards, what is the programme for?

British Gas Rewards was designed to say thank-you to our loyal customers; we need to be relevant and offer them rewards and experiences they really want — and to make them feel appreciated. We offer a regular series of exclusive rewards to our millions of members. One of our most popular rewards is our free energy “Loyalty Days” — these are all about recognising our customers. As well as our rewards, we know partner rewards are really important to our members too. We work with Mando-Connect to identify the partner rewards that really matter to our members and then develop partnerships with those brands to create exclusive and special rewards. We’ve given our members exclusive dining experiences, chances to win fantastic holidays, tickets to concerts with their most loved bands at The O2, and more.

What do you see as the role for new technologies in loyalty and how do you as a business unlock the power of new technology to add value to your members?

For me, new technology is critical to enhance our member experience. New technology has enabled us to interpret and use data and insight better and faster so we can improve how we understand, and therefore, engage and delight our members. It’s also enabled us to offer improved and smoother member experiences. And, of course, we have used it to create new types of member experiences too.

In 2019 we created what we believe is the world’s first ever loyalty reward experience using augmented reality. We created a fun and interactive game where our members were able to use augmented reality to interact with Wilbur the Penguin, our loveable British Gas mascot. They could take selfies with him and help him on his Easter Egg hunt to win millions of prizes (including family holidays, smart technology devices, and meals out).

As it was web based, it meant members didn’t need to download another app to enjoy it, and we saw a huge number of members engage with our programme because of it. The number of active members jumped considerably during the game and this has sustained after it. There’s a lot of love for Wilbur and our members really valued the exclusive experience we were able to offer them. Something we wouldn’t have been able to deliver unless we had the technology to help.

What do your customers really want from British Gas Rewards? What’s most important in driving real loyalty?

Customers expect to get something in return for their continued loyalty, over and above the product or services they’re buying. A few years back British Gas was facing a real dilemma where customers felt resigned and undervalued. We weren’t doing anything significant to recognise customers for their loyalty; we were constantly giving the best discounts to new customers. This left customers with no real tie to stay with us.

After a lot of in-depth research, we identified that a loyalty programme was the right way to delight and engage our customers. So British Gas Rewards was developed to say thank-you and to start to create a deeper and more emotional relationship. We learned that our customers wanted simplicity, engagement not points, and great rewards. So we created a loyalty programme that’s simple and personalised, recognising customers for their value and offering rewards on things they buy day-to-day, as well as things they like and love.

Loyalty Days (free energy days) are one of our best performing and most loved rewards. This rewards members with free energy days based on how long the customer has been with us, up to 20 days. This has been our most engaging reward. And that’s because we’re recognising our members and rewarding them with something that they really value — money off their bill. And it’s because of rewards like this, that we’ve seen the results we have, being British Gas Rewards members are more likely to stay with us and take more products.

So for us, it’s a combination of recognition and a strong value exchange, that helps to drive loyalty.

What do you think the biggest opportunity is for loyalty and British Gas Rewards in 2020?

We’re looking at a number of different initiatives for 2020 and they’re all really exciting in terms of the potential they have to drive even greater loyalty and that all important emotional connection.

We’re looking at driving further personalisation in our communications, evolving and improving some of our key rewards, and we are also exploring the potential to develop rewards in the green space.

This is a really exciting area as the customer appetite for this is really strong right now. We’re lucky that we can join up with other areas across the wider business to create products and services for our members that can play into this really well. And, like new technologies, this has to be right for our members. It has to be relevant and be able to drive a deeper emotional connection.

We will be watching this space for more news in 2020 — and you can find all the coverage here at The Wise Marketer!

Charlie Hills is the Managing Director and Head of Strategy at Mando-Connect. This was interviewed at the Festival of Marketing 2019.

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