Brands of all types are seeking to make strong, emotional connections with their customers. We know that the opt-in structure of a loyalty program is ideal for facilitating that connection as it offers the best tool marketers possess to understand the preferences and desires of customers.
But where is the hottest spark of engagement in a loyalty program? Is it in the value of offers delivered to customers or the crafty communications used to make the offer? In many cases, it is the selection and choice of rewards that make the biggest difference in shifting customer behaviors.
There is as much innovation in reward offers today as in any other area of customer loyalty. And in mid-July Maritz Motivation announced a new offering with fintech startup Bumped that has the potential to lead the loyalty industry “beyond rewards.”
Together, Maritz Motivation and Bumped will enable Fortune 500 brands to offer their customers fractional shares of stock as part of their loyalty and rewards programs. In the company press release, Cindy Willis, Senior Rewards Product Manager of Maritz Motivation said "we believe that stock rewards are the next frontier in loyalty and have the power to not only do good for the businesses that adopt them but for customers and their financial wellness, too. It's super-charging loyalty behaviors."
The Wise Marketer contacted Maritz Motivation and Bumped to learn more. Here are the highlights of the conversation with Cindy Willis, which will be sure to open your eyes to new possibilities in how stock rewards can reshape customer loyalty.
Wise Marketer (WM): Maritz Motivation has been a leading provider of reward solutions for decades and clearly has a long-term view of customer loyalty trends. What did you see happening in the marketplace that served as a foundation for this new announcement?
Cindy Willis, Senior Rewards Product Manager of Maritz Motivation (CW): We are so excited to add stock rewards to the existing (and robust) rewards catalog at Maritz Motivation. Our long history of innovation in the rewards, sales and channel incentives, and consumer loyalty industry came into play when envisioning this collaboration with Bumped, but not from what we saw in the marketplace — it was what we saw as missing from the marketplace. An option for loyalty and incentives rewards that strengthens emotional connections in addition to shifting behaviors.
WM: How long has It been in the works?
CW: I connected with the Bumped team in Fall 2021, and our work began in earnest at the beginning of 2022. Our first conversation focused on the high-level concept of stock as a reward, and afterwards I read the Columbia School of Business study on their work. That’s when I really understood the opportunity in bringing stock as an addition to the Maritz Motivation fleet of incentives.
Taking a tool or service that wasn’t traditionally connected to incentives and offering it to our partners may have seemed daunting but working with Bumped meant we had the regulatory expertise, compliance management, and experience bringing stock rewards to market to quickly develop a solution.
WM: There is a lot of innovation in rewards at this time; easier use of loyalty currency at the POS and conversation of points across multiple currencies are gaining traction. We also witness the "democratization" of rewards through the conversion of points to purchase cryptocurrency. Can you comment on these innovations and share perspectives?
CW: Maritz Motivation has a wide spectrum of market-leading consumer loyalty and incentive rewards already — all built around what we call ‘The Happiness Point of View.’ Simply put, we know human happiness comes from a range of things — indulgence, financial health, personal wellness, community, and camaraderie, to name a few — and it’s our duty as a leader in employee and customer incentives to ensure we’re delivering options that can support individual customers’ and employees’ happiness.
Crypto as a reward concept can fit well into the traditional rewards bucket — cash, points, etc…we see them all as having a well known, broadly understood value. Those items have an important place in the loyalty space, but I think crypto and stock are night and day when it comes to reward value — they hit very different aspects of the Happiness POV.
Innovation is always important in the rewards and incentives space, specifically because of the need for variety and choice. It allows our clients to meet their audiences where they are. Maritz Motivation has a comprehensive, curated collection of rewards, from merchandise to gift cards to unique travel and experiences – and we’re excited that stock rewards adds a new dimension to that. In the broader context of a looming recession, financial wellness may become a more desirable reward than indulgence. That’s the beauty of partnering with Bumped — we can navigate those shifts, even while innovating.
WM: How do you contrast the benefits of stock rewards with crypto purchase offers? Both allow point conversion into assets that have changing market value. Equities are more stable and consumers have a greater understanding. Can you share your thoughts?
CW: In my eyes, stock rewards are all about providing a valuable reward or incentive that can also drive an emotional connection. Stock ownership creates that additive emotional value. When you make someone an owner in the brand they work for or spend with, it’s almost impossible to not also shift their behavior and affinity. Bumped has proven this out, and I can’t wait to see how it changes the game for Maritz Motivation clients.
WM: Is there a place in a rewards portfolio for multiple forms of innovative rewards or do you think that focusing on one or two new concepts is a better idea?
CW: As I mentioned before, choice is critical in rewards and incentives, because the end consumer or employee deserves to be treated as an individual – they should be able to personalize their rewards based on what makes them happy and what drives joy. That feeling is ultimately what builds their relationship in the rewarding brand.
WM: Can you share a little about Bumped and how you made the decision to partner with them?
CW: Bumped is a fintech company that has built the brokerage and technology for brands, banks, and loyalty experts like us at Maritz Motivation to power fractional stock rewards. They were the first company I saw bring fractionalization of stock to the loyalty, incentives, and recognition industry as a B2B offering. We’re both leaders and first-to-market in our respective industries, which means we understand what it takes to truly disrupt a space and bring a new product to market.
Additionally, I had so much confidence in David Nelsen and his executive team from the start. His first fintech start-up was in the incentives industry — which means he knew our legal and ethical guidelines to motivate behavior. We were already speaking the same language, had shared goals for driving innovation, and a vision for how stock as a reward could shift sentiments at new levels.
Maybe the most compelling piece of Bumped’s work was the two year pilot they ran, which was studied and reported on by the Columbia School of Business. It looked at about 13,000 consumers and analyzed how their behavior changed over time as a result of receiving stock rewards — the results themselves were tremendous with an average 43% spend increase, 1.5x more visits, and a 23x ROI for brand.
And now, over a year after the study was published, they’ve found that the spend increase maintains over time, and a customer-turned-owner can be worth up to 4.4 normal customers in terms of lifetime value. With the statistical significance and validity of those results, I knew we had to add it to our suite of rewards and incentives at Maritz Motivation.
WM: What else is important to know about this announcement with Bumped?
CW: We're delighted to unlock stock rewards for so many more brands, and to see ownership validated as a long-term loyalty mechanism. And we are meeting the needs of the consumers holding more than $48 trillion unspent loyalty points. It’s clear that these consumers want to go beyond traditional rewards offers from the brands they love.
I can’t help but mention that Maritz Motivation is so much more than just a rewards and incentives provider. We are here to drive broad innovation in the space when it comes to consumer loyalty, sales and channel incentives, and employee recognition, and we offer brands the ability to build, grow, or refine their overall program.
Stock rewards are just one example of how we’re pushing the envelope. If anyone reading this wants to start participating in the ownership economy with stock rewards, or simply get a fresh perspective on their loyalty, incentives, and employee recognition, please reach out!