A survey of the state of coalition and partner-driven customer loyalty programs
by Wojciech Kempny, Consulting Director Africa, GCC, APAC Comarch
Coalition loyalty could be one of the most powerful models to drive customer loyalty. We say “could be” because the coalition model is powerful on paper but difficult to execute successfully over an extended period of years. Today, we see the traditional coalition model vibrant in some markets but facing challenges in others.
For example, at its peak the Airmiles program in Canada gained nearly 70 percent household penetration in the country and was the loyalty program which commanded consumer attention in Canada for decades. The Airmiles model was taken to several European countries, Spain, Italy, Netherlands and was an inspiration for the Nectar program in the UK as it was launched by former executives with Airmiles.
Recently we have seen Airmiles face challenges through partner defection and the emergence of a competitive program, Scene plus, and Nectar has been sold to Sainsbury’s, the large UK retailer who was the dominant player in Nectar. Despite these examples, other mature coalition programs, Payback in Germany, Dotz in Brazil, and Bonus in Peru continue to thrive.
The biggest lesson learned from watching the evolution of coalition programs globally is that partnerships add value for members of all loyalty programs, whether a coalition or single brand led (Proprietary) program. This fact has been noticed by large conglomerate companies worldwide, sparking a lesser-known approach to customer loyalty.
Large enterprises in the Middle East, Asia, and the Caribbean (companies like Al-Shaya, ENOC, True, and Grace Kennedy) recognize the value in cross-brand promotion and have given genesis to an enterprise level value proposition – we call it the Umbrella coalition – that brings strong value to customers that patronize multiple brands under common ownership. This model is a favorite of the enterprise which owns a portfolio of diverse businesses and wishes to build loyalty among customers who patronize multiple brands under the corporate umbrella.
I am fortunate to have worked with brands leveraging partnership through coalition, umbrella, and cooperative models in many markets. Comarch has a long history, originally through its work with Payback in Germany, of providing support to brands in all of these operating models. Frankly, there are few companies in the world that understand the strategic needs of each of these operating models and can supply the technology and operational support to enable success for brands operating in these models. Comarch is unique in this area.
Over the years, several advantages and benefits from the partner-driven model have become clear to me that I want to share here. These can be grouped by beneficiary.
Let’s start with the customer, because after all, the customer should always stay top of mind for us. Developing strong, complimentary partnerships in a loyalty program brings more choices of ways to earn, convenience through these choices and afford the highest savings rate for the customer.
Regardless of any drawbacks that can be cited against coalitions, there isn’t a proprietary program in the market that can generate the absolute savings rate as from a coalition. And since achieving emotional loyalty is by no means easy, it is crucial to give the widest possible range of products and services to our customers.
For the brand that leads a partner-driven loyalty model, the opportunity to increase share of wallet across categories and build value for multiple businesses is unparallel. The partner model creates a large customer funnel, allowing all participating brands to reach a wider audience and in turn, collect a more comprehensive data set on the customer, leading to better ways to serve the customer. Customer acquisition is accelerated.
Partnering brands can leverage offers to build positive reputation and create additional revenue streams. The partner model hits the sweet spot of control and cooperation. Participating brands can share in the strategic direction of the program and collaborate to blend assets to float offers that extend value for all partners.
There are many benefits of this model for participating partners. Top benefits include:
- Build relationships with existing customers and generate cross-category purchases
- Increase customer acquisition by marketing to a combined database
- Develop more sophisticated understanding of share of spend from customers across categories
- Leverage continuing opportunities for cross- and up-selling
- Indirect access to well defined segments and reports
- Support and create buzz for Partner new store openings
One particularly interesting case study that illustrates how the loyalty model can evolve fluidly to create strong and market differentiating value for program members is the Mokafaa loyalty program managed by Al Rajhi Bank in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The program offers members the ability to earn Mokafaa points on a significant proportion of their household/everyday spend, with all bank products and with Partners as well. Moreover, with an established strategic partnership with the Al Fursan loyalty program (Saudia Airlines) it is also possible to exchange points for miles. Redemption is available across 100+ Partners integrated to offer instant redemption. Abdulaziz Alzaben (Senior Director Loyalty & Customer Modeling) is driving the expansion of the program’s portfolio as through constant enhancements to the loyalty program as Al Rajhi Bank is looking to have mass consumer appeal, reach a cross section of consumer segments and leverage the assets and data from Partners involved to create a highly personalized digital experience.
Another example of a loyalty program that constantly broadens the loyalty portfolio of brands and services is the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), a UAE based petroleum retailer. ENOC’s core business is managing petrol stations, owning & franchising convenience stores (brand is ZOOM), and offering automotive services across the Middle East.
ENOC has a loyalty program named YES composed of internal brands and has added a number of important external partnerships, including a bank partner, the Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD). The bank has issued a cobranded Visa card which offers savings of up to 15 percent on fuel and more at ENOC stations. Suryaveer Singh (Head of Loyalty at ENOC) has guided partner development, adding external partners on both temporary and permanent basis. The mix of partners spans suppliers, marketing partners, and service providers. The summary impact is that YES, a partner driven coalition is creating a truly differentiated offer to consumers in the market and one that cannot easily be matched by competitors.
Comarch has worked in each of the varieties of partnership models that we have mentioned here and believe we have developed a unique experiential set that will benefit the marketplace. We are able to assist at every stage of the journey – from business advice to implementation of a customized platform and post go-live support. If you have questions about the coalition model, multi-partner family-owned models or partnership expansion in a proprietary model, I invite you to call.