Editor's note: This is an interview by Charlie Hills and Elliot Connolly of Mando-Connect (Mando) with Daniel Knight (Daniel), Project Lead for BMW Inside Edge at BMW UK Ltd, which explores an insider's look at BMW's new, innovative programme: Inside Edge.
Mando: Please tell us about BMW Inside Edge, what is it that makes the programme unique?
Daniel: BMW Inside Edge is a newly launched (early 2021), B2B loyalty programme exclusively for BMW company car drivers in the UK. It’s the first of its kind both for the BMW Group worldwide and the company car sector in the UK. Our aim is to build a direct brand relationship with company car drivers, who historically have been managed indirectly through a network of Fleet and Leasing companies. But through BMW Inside Edge, we’re looking to better understand, serve and connect with this valuable group of customers in both their professional and personal lives over the long term, further enriching the joyful experience of driving a BMW.
The programme is unique in lots of ways. For starters, it’s the only one of its kind which gives us first-mover advantage and a valuable point of differentiation in the market. More than that though, we’re deploying lots of exclusive programme touchpoints and experiences that members won’t find anywhere else. Even the sign-up process is uniquely vehicle orientated as members use their number plate as the registration mechanic, immediately creating a link between their BMW car and the programme.
All members can access a curated suite of rewards including luxury gifts and prize items, exclusive discounts and offers and thoughtful charitable donations. Plus ‘only-BMW-could’ moments such as special access to BMW events and experiences which have included the iconic BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and VIP passes for the Frieze Art Festival 2021.
Mando: What are the key objectives of the programme and what value has it added to members and to BMW?
Daniel: As a business we felt we could be doing more to get closer to our company car drivers, better reflecting the experience that private retail customers receive when purchasing their car. The immediate objective from launch was for high engagement with members — offering them regular BMW and premium partner rewards to add value to their car ownership experience. In addition, it’s all about building brand affinity, loyalty and ultimately recommendation — a key influencing factor in the purchase decision of the corporate car market.
Despite being in the early stages, we’ve already seen the direct impact the programme has had on members’ attitudes towards BMW. Sign-up rates have been high, engagement rates are strong and we are seeing very positive impacts on loyalty and recommendation.
Mando: What role do Partner Rewards play in the programme? Which are the best that you have offered members and why?
Daniel: BMW has a strong heritage in partnering with some of the finest companies in the world, whether that be through in-car product partnerships with leading audio brands Harman Kardon and Bowers & Wilkins or via top tier sports sponsorships including The BMW PGA Championship. A core part of our partner reward strategy is to blend the best of the BMW world with complementary third parties that share our values to ensure we’re delighting members with passion-led executions and rewards that consistently provide our members with a unique and memorable experience.
In our first year, we’ve secured impressive partnerships with over 20 premium brands across a diverse range of sectors. This has included luxury stationary from Mont Blanc, virtual Michelin star cooking lessons with Banquist, sustainable produce from Piper’s Farm and planet-friendly personal care from gruum. In 2022, our reward portfolio has started with a focus on fitness and wellbeing with offers from Garmin, Echelon and PepTalk supporting member’s New Year ambitions.
We purposely try and avoid the status-quo and are always on the lookout for brands doing things differently, those with strong sustainability and design credentials, as well as emerging categories that are on the rise – helping customers try something new.
Mando: What are your future plans for Inside Edge? What does success look like by the end of 2022 and beyond?
Daniel: This year we want to continue to scale our membership base to make sure as many BMW company car drivers are getting access to the amazing rewards on offer. Through a mixture of organic and paid social, as well as direct conversations with customers, we’re working hard to build awareness and convert unknown corporate customers into highly engaged members.
A big part of our strategy in 2022 is to offer more emotive experiences to truly give members the Inside Edge to things they love in passion categories such as sport, food and drink and culture. We’ll be delivering special, only-BMW could moments and continuing working with partners to create bespoke Money-Can’t-Buy rewards. We hope these stand-out activations will create even more awareness and interest in the programme, boosting credibility and member acquisition.
Mando: What do you think the future of loyalty for company car drivers is? Why do so few automotive brands focus on engaging this hugely important audience?
Daniel: With BMW Inside Edge we’re building something that will become an integrated part of the BMW driving and ownership experience. We want our company car drivers to get the same great brand experience that our B2C audience experience. Before we launched the programme, we knew Inside Edge had to be frictionless and seamless for members, which are two qualities we keep top of mind when thinking about the member experience and the types of reward journeys we build. We’re laser focused on leading the charge to elevate the BMW experience across all segments, for all drivers.
The future of loyalty for company car drivers is very exciting. Inside Edge was developed based on a robust understanding of our company car audience. We will continue to invest to understand and innovate to meet what they need as those needs evolve and develop. In the future, we think that all automotive brands should be focusing on understanding their company car drivers too and developing solutions to meet their needs. We hope BMW Inside Edge establishes the benchmark as the first of many innovations developed to delight the company car driver and elevate their brand experience across our industry.
Mando: What’s been your biggest learning about launching a new programme? If you could do one thing differently what would it be?
Daniel: With no blueprint or benchmark to compare, we didn’t underestimate the challenge of launching BMW Inside Edge. But through robust planning, our pilot research and direct feedback from the target customers themselves, we knew there was great value in a strong loyalty proposition. We knew what mattered and were confident it would be a success.
But to get to a good launch, that you can be confident in, takes time, resource and expertise. I’d strongly recommend that any brand considering launching a new programme considers the following.
- Build a dedicated team of experts blending internal brand and business knowledge with external loyalty experts. Inside Edge is powered by a collaborative team of BMW experts, a platform provider, a rewards provider and a creative & communications agency.
- Invest to understand what your target audience really wants. We conducted research and used extensive datasets to ensure we got the proposition, mechanic, rewards and communications right.
- Conduct a pilot. We conducted a small-scale pilot with Inside Edge to test and refine every component of the programme. This was an invaluable phase.
- And lastly, think big. Be ambitious in your thinking and execution!
One thing we’ve learnt is the power of our BMW retail network as a direct channel to acquire new members. Don’t underestimate the influence a personal conversation can have on conversion, so we’ll be pursuing more initiatives to help equip our retail teams on the ground to be BMW Inside Edge champions in their day-to-day operations.