eBucks redemptions buck the retail decline
South Africa's eBucks coalition loyalty programme has reported is best ever holiday season with members spending more than R75 million worth of eBucks over Christmas 2009, representing an 8.4% increase over the previous year in contrast to a 4.8% decline in general retail sales for the year.
According to eBucks operations executive Adrienne Bewsher, "We have noted a definite trend toward value, with vouchers becoming an increasingly popular purchase among members. Woolworths vouchers were the most popular choice in the eBucks shop during the festive period. Similarly, eBucks discounts - which provide qualifying customers discounts of up to 50% - were also incredibly popular."
According to some market analysts, while the markets anticipated that consumer spending restraint would persist throughout the last quarter of 2009 (mainly driven by job losses and short-shifting of workers), the scale and magnitude of this restraint was far beyond expectations.
eBucks' higher redemption figures suggest that consumers are increasingly using their loyalty points to make gift purchases - a factor which eBucks attributes to the ease of spending them and the number of convenient channels through which members eBucks can be redeemed, both online and in the retail environment.
Both the eBucks card and eBucks internet partners experienced strong growth, with the eBucks card seeing a 20% year-on-year increase in the number of unique shoppers recorded in December 2009. This was partly aided by FNB's launch of the eBucks and Engen fuel partnership (whereby members can spend their eBucks on petrol at Engen service stations, using their eBucks card).
eBucks Travel also experienced positive growth with members making their travel arrangements far in advance, unlike the 2008 festive season. Members can also spend their eBucks on mobile phone airtime and prepaid electricity, and this also contributed to the programme's impressive festive redemption rate.
eBucks currently claims over 1.8 million members, who spend more than 80% of the eBucks earned in any given month. Members have redeemed more than R1 billion worth of eBucks since the programme's launch in October 2000, with the programme founder, FNB (First National Bank), having made the largest contribution to the R1.5 billion+ worth of eBucks awarded to-date.