Keynote Kickoff: Loyalty & Awards 2020 in Review

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on March 24, 2020

Loyalty & Awards 2020 Conference Overview

Good fortune was afforded to the organizers and attendees of February's Loyalty & Awards 2020 conference. The annual gathering of global airlines, hospitality companies, and service providers is organized and hosted by Global Flight, an aviation services firm lead by Ravindra Bhagwanani, and the event was successfully held just as many business people were evaluating travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Wise Marketer served as a Media Partner for the Loyalty & Awards 2020 conference and we wanted to share a summary of what took place over 2.5 days in Vancouver, BC. 

First, if there were cancellations due to the coronavirus scare, we didn't notice. The rooms were full of people energized to share information, learn and network with colleagues. Guillermo Orillo, Head of Strategy LATAM, opened up the conference with an overview of Latin America's largest loyalty program, LATAM Pass. The LATAM Pass program has more than 30 million members, is twice the size of the next largest competitor in the region and processes more than 7 million tickets redeemed every year.

Orillo pointed out the value of the active customer base saying, "Our FFP is a core differentiator of our product offering. Leveraging its power to keep customers engaged is vital". Active members typically book more than 20 trips per year and remarkably, over 90% have a LATAM Pass cobrand card. Maybe the most important characteristic of active members is that over +85% redeem miles at least once per year. Orillo pointed out the importance of redemption saying, "Redemption is a key milestone in the member lifecycle and a key factor to keeping members fully engaged."

During the previous year, LATAM Pass introduced two products that contributed to higher engagement:

  • The first was an offer allowing members with the LATAM Pass cobrand credit card to purchase miles by borrowing on the card. Those who take the offer have 15 months to repay their loans based on their credit card consumption. Over that period of time if the loan is not repaid, members are charged for miles on the card. Since the launch of the promotion, purchases on the cobrand card increased 40% after the loan was repaid, churn was reduced, and most people redeemed their miles within 6 months of getting the loan. That's engagement!
  • LATAM Pass also made it possible for members to redeem airmiles for dollars that can be spent with Amazon for purchases on its global marketplace. Adding the brand power of Amazon to the program was important and members responded to the added choice of redemption offers by registering higher satisfaction scores.

The agenda shifted from airplanes to trains to going green!

Lisa Rott, head of CRM Strategy and Loyalty Programmes at Deutsche Bahn, shared a close look at how the German rail system explored the question of whether the topic of sustainability was a major trigger for consumers. In the context of loyalty members, the company wanted to understand if people were passionate enough about sustainability to put those needs ahead of their own desire to accumulate equity in its Bahn Bonus program.

Research confirmed interest in green causes as 52% of people were interested in sustainability and 50% said the highest priority in future transport should be that the environment is preserved. With that confirmation, the rail system started a journey to unlock the most effective way to introduce green elements to its loyalty program. 

Deutsche Bahn found that a balanced introduction of green into its program worked best. Bahn Bonus announced it would plant a tree for every new member joined. They also made a move towards more complete digitization of program operations with more focus on the mobile app and retirement of plastic membership cards. Sustainable products were injected into the reward mix and by the time of the presentation, Ms. Rott said that over 90% of redeemed rewards were sustainable in nature.

There was a follow up panel going deeper into the topic of sustainability that included Lisa Rott and Gwendal Castellan of Tourism Vancouver and Coro Strandberg of Strandberg Consulting. You can get some idea of the conversation through a short interview coming soon with Gwendal Castellan.

The agenda was chocked full of impressive talks through the balance of the agenda. Here are a few highlights:

  • Nandika Suri, Director Planning and Integration United Airlines Mileage Plus, unpacked the process the airline completed to re-engineer its loyalty program tier structure and Jamal Ahmad Alawadhi, VP Etihad Airways, shared tips for transforming a product-centric business into a one that puts the customer first through delivery of memorable customer experience. 
  • Ian Di Tullio, SVP Guest Services Accor, shared how the relaunch of Accor's ALL guest loyalty program achieved specific customer objectives while vectoring in to support enterprise wide objectives. His comments were made as part of a panel that included Qatar Airways and Icelandair.
  • Marti Beller, President Kobie Marketing, lead a workshop on Kobie's Emotional loyalty Scoring (TM) system. The process helps brands understand what kind of emotional loyalty motivates their customers: Habit, Status, and Reciprocity. Ms. Beller led the group attending in an exercise to understand how their scoring system works and we learned that most people are influenced by all three emotional loyalty types. It is the understanding of the influence of each that can lead to campaigns that deepen relationships with customers.

The ceremonies for the Loyalty & Awards 2020 conference were a delight and you can see all the winners here.

Day three at the Loyalty & Awards conference included some fascinating talks from academics, industry experts, and big brands.

Here are a few highlights:

Stowe Shoemaker, Dean UNLV College of Hospitality, shared the big picture of the state of loyalty in the hospitality industry. His key takeaways addressed the question of “How will loyalty programs be different from today?”

  • Less about frequency and more about real-time and unique interactions
  • Less about earn and burn, more about holistic travel experience, from start to finish
  • More flexible, easier to use, currency driven with multiple partnership layers

Patrick Sojka, Founder FFB Group and operator of Rewards Canada had this perspective:

  • Patrick talked about the undeniable importance of transparency and honesty in loyalty program communications. He provided evidence why these two elements are in demand from consumers today and how, if well executed, can increase engagement and loyalty. Watch out for his short interview coming soon!

Harsha Chandra Shekar, Business Development Uber Technologies, talked about the recent launch of the ride-sharing company's consumer loyalty program. He shared a bit of startup nostalgia in the form of a diagram written on a napkin by Uber founder Travis Kalanick as he prepared for a meeting with investors. The big take away from the napkin was to emphasize the intent of Uber to create a "massive, efficient, and intelligent network" to transform the public transformation space. In launching Uber's loyalty program, Shekar said that "We [Uber] want to move from transactional to emotional and wanted to leverage the loyalty program to accomplish that goal."

There was so much more happening at the Loyalty & Awards conference than we can fit into one readable article. Trust us that the workshop on “Delivering a Next-Gen Travel Loyalty Program" from Cheetah Digital landed a forward looking talk about balancing the role of technology and human factors in loyalty programs from Sebastian Riedle, Managing Director Lufthansa Miles & More. Both were worth missing out on a beautiful afternoon in Vancouver.

Gilad Berenstein, Entrepreneur in Residence Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, made it impossible to skip out early for a walk on the wharf at Vancouver Harbour. Everyone wants to know the interplay of AI and Customer Loyalty and Gilad is the unique type of person who can actually answer that question.

  • He defines Loyalty as the result of Intimacy and Contact, where intimacy represents the "quality of the interactions between brand and customer" and contact the "quantity of contact between brand and customer". His work at the Allen Institute is all about increasing both intimacy and contact in correct proportions at a rapid pace in order to drive stronger brand loyalty. That, of course, can only be accomplished through machine learning and AI, which is becoming available in several new products in the market.

As events turned towards networking and social themes, we polled many attendees to pinpoint the top recurring themes from the event and to describe Loyalty & Awards 2020 conference in just three words. Here’s what we heard on a consensus basis:

  • Top Themes: Sustainability, Customer Focus, Simplicity
  • Three Words: Interesting, Exciting, Networking

In our role as Media Partner, Wise Marketer engaged over a dozen of the presenters in short interviews. We'll be posting these on this site very soon and will add links to those posts as updates to this article.

See you next year at the Loyalty & Awards conference!