i-Mint grows as coalition loyalty gains popularity
The customer loyalty space in India - one of the world's major developing markets - is packed with successful single-operator loyalty programmes such as Shopper's Stop, Reliance, Tata, but the coalition model is beginning to increase in popularity thanks to its cost-sharing model, according to coalition loyalty operator i-Mint.
The Shopper's Stop First Citizen loyalty programme has reported provided an impressive 80% boost to the company's sales, while Pantaloon's Green Card programme has resulted in a 55% sales uplift, and Future Group expects a 70% boost from its own programme.
But creating and maintaining an individual loyalty programme is an expensive task that depends on a heavy IT backbone, dedicated manpower, in-house expertise, significant marketing spend, and a certain degree of risk. The solution, i-Mint suggests, is to adopt a coalition model in which several companies and stores gain access to a wide customer base, even allowing cross-partner transactions.
The i-Mint coalition loyalty scheme itself provides such a platform for thousands of merchants that interact with millions of loyal customers, even customising loyalty schemes for different partner companies across a number of sectors, depending on their unique requirements. The coalition then records all transactions associated with each loyalty programme membership, and analyses consumers' behaviour patterns. This data can then be shared with the partner companies, enabling them to understand their customers more deeply and to redesign their promotional activities accordingly - even in conjunction with other coalition partner companies.
According to Vijay Bobba, CEO for i-Mint, "In the current slowdown in the global economy, reducing customer churn and increasing customer retention is more important than ever. In the retail industry, loyalty programmes can cost from 1% to 1.5% of revenue, and up to 5% in other industries. No loyalty programme can ever give instant results, with a lag of up to 18 months before a company starts to see real returns from a loyalty programme, so patience is clearly a necessary virtue."
Since its launch on 1st August 2006, i-Mint itself has grown rapidly, providing a rewards marketing network that can capture purchase behaviour across several categories of spending. Marketers can then use this knowledge to create sustained demand for their brands. As a result, the company plans to further expand its network into new sectors, including entertainment, food, drinks, and so on.
The original partners in i-Mint were Airtel, HPCL, ICICI Bank, Air India, Lifestyle, Monginis, Bookmyshow.com and MakeMyTrip.com, with members being issued with an i-Mint card to present at the point of sale to earn points when making purchases. Interestingly, i-Mint has also entered the business-to-employee (B2E) space by launching co-branded cards for employees of major companies such as Infosys.
Points can be earned at some 3,000 merchant partner outlets throughout 29 cities in India, and can be redeemed for rewards including electronics, holidays, jewellery, gift vouchers, and merchandise. The programme's members now redeem some 40 million i-Mint points every month, on average.