The UK retailer, Marks & Spencer, has launched a trial of its new combined credit and loyalty card in Wales. The programme rewards the retailer's loyal card base, and aims to build a closer working relationship between its financial services and retail businesses.
Despite the trial programme being initially targeted at the company's existing M&S Chargecard holders in South Wales, the programme is not restricted to existing cardholders. Any customer who wants to benefit from the loyalty scheme can apply for a Marks & Spencer credit card or Chargecard in any participating store.
All nine stores in South Wales (Cardiff, Carmarthen, Culverhouse Cross, Cwmbran, Llanelli, Neath, Newport, Pontypridd, Swansea) are participating in the pilot.
Chargecard holders in the region have already been upgraded either to include the new loyalty scheme with their existing store card, or have been given the new combined credit and loyalty card.
"This pilot is the first step to delivering a totally new credit and loyalty reward package," noted Laurel Powers-Freeling, CEO for Marks & Spencer Financial Services. "We researched our customer base to find out what our shoppers want from a credit product, and believe that our offer reflects those findings through a mix of credit and loyalty."
The company will decide whether or not to roll out the programme nationally during the course of 2003, after examining the results of the pilot scheme. Having resisted a loyalty programme for so long, the company now feels that it is time to offer its loyal customers a credit facility that lets them earn Marks & Spencer rewards wherever they shop.
Every three months members will be mailed a loyalty statement, plus some reward vouchers, and a personalised brochure that highlights special offers aimed at their individual shopping habits. The vouchers can be used in any Marks & Spencer store nationwide, and are valid for a period of 15 months from the date of issue. The first brochures for the pilot have already been sent out to members.
Chargecard customers who have had their cards upgraded to the loyalty scheme will make their purchases under the same terms and conditions but they will now be able to earn loyalty points for purchasing goods within Marks & Spencer stores. Existing customers who have been offered the credit card or who do not want to participate in the loyalty programme can contact their local store (or call the Marks & Spencer helpdesk) to make their preference known.
The credit card
Ownership of the Marks & Spencer credit card (available in both Visa and MasterCard brands) bestows automatic membership of the loyalty scheme, as the card itself uniquely identifies the member with each transaction. No annual fee is charged, and the APR is currently 15.9% (which is well below the industry average of 17.1% for loyalty-based credit cards).
Reward points are earned for all spending on the firm's credit cards and chargecards. For each 1 spent with Marks & Spencer's UK stores, catalogue, web site, outlets, railway shops, and idTV store, members earn one point. For all other purchases, half a point is earned for every 1 spent.
Bonus points will be awarded from time to time when members purchase selected merchandise advertised in the loyalty brochure. And points are converted into vouchers every 3 months and sent to members as part of their regular loyalty mailing. Any remaining points are carried over to the next collection period.
The vouchers issued in the mailings can be redeemed in any Marks & Spencer's UK store (including non-pilot stores, outlets and railway shops) but they cannot currently be redeemed through the mail order catalogue, web site or idTV store.