The UK-based coalition loyalty programme Nectar has today launched an online shopping portal called 'Nectar eStores', through which Nectar members can earn points for shopping online with dozens of major brands that haven't attracted Nectar points until now. Today, the portal's launch day, The Wise Marketer brings you the full details.
It's a very big development for Loyalty Management UK Ltd (LMUK), operator of the successful Nectar loyalty card scheme, but it's also big for the avid Nectar collector. Like their High Street counterparts, most of the participating online retailers are awarding Nectar members the usual 2 points per 1 spent - an extra avenue for earning more loyalty points that hasn't been open until now.
The Nectar eStores web site is divided into 17 shopping categories that guide the user to a list of appropriate online retailers that are participating in eStores, or they can choose any specific retailer if they already know where they want to shop. The portal also has a powerful search engine built in, allowing users to find what they want based on product, price, and category. LMUK says that more than 500,000 products have been indexed.
Tracking the points
The technology behind the tracking of sales and points is actually very simple, and not unusual in its approach. When a Nectar member visits any participating e-tailer's web site via the Nectar eStores web site, a 'cookie' (a small and harmless data token) is handed to their web browser to keep for the duration of their shopping session.
With every page and click on the e-tailer's web site, the member's web browser hands the same cookie (which contains a unique identifying number - for example, the member's Nectar account number) back to the e-tailer's web site. When a purchase is made during that shopping session, the e-tailer's web site simply records the Nectar account number that was handed to it by the customer's web browser, and notifies the Nectar programme about how many points should be awarded to that specific member after the payment is made.
This kind of identity handover system is often referred to as a 'third party cookie' system - often used by advertisers to keep track of web browsers that have viewed specific adverts or product web sites. For this reason, it is vitally important that the consumer's web browser software is set to allow the use of third party cookies - a setting which some security- or privacy-conscious users turn off. But if there's no cookie handover, the e-tailer's web site won't be able to identify the shopper, and no Nectar points can be earned. "Caveat emptor," as they say.
Consumers need to be registered with Nectar (i.e. have a card number assigned to them, whether or not they actually possess a physical card) before they can make use of Nectar eStores.
Any computer that is capable of connecting to and browsing the internet can use Nectar eStores. However LMUK does recommend the use of a high-speed or broadband internet connection for quicker access to pages that contain detailed product images and information.
The consumer's web browser must be set to accept 'third-party cookies' in order for their transaction to be captured successfully, and for the appropriate number of points to be issued to their Nectar account after they complete their purchase.
More than 70 big-brand retailers are issuing Nectar points via the eStores portal. The launch partners are: Amazon.co.uk; 101cd.com; AA Breakdown; American Express; Apple Store GB; ASOS; Avon; B&Q; Bodas; Boden; BoL.com; Boots; Carphone Warehouse; CD WOW!; Charles Tyrwhitt; Comet; Contessa Lingerie; Cotswold Company; Cotswold Outdoor; Crocus; Currys; Debenhams; Dell; Direct Line; Dixons; Eagle Star; eBay UK; eBookers; Eden4Flowers; EmpireDirect; Eurostar; Evesham; Field & Trek; Figleaves; Firebox; FlyBe; Game; GreatMagazines.co.uk; Greenfingers; Heal's; Hewlett Packard (HP); HMV; Apple iTunes; I Want One Of Those; Jessops; La Senza; LoveFilm; Maplin Electronics; Moonpig; More Than; P&O Ferries; Panasonic eShop; PC World; Pet Planet; PIXmania; Play.com; Plumbworld; RAC; Rohan; Royal Doulton; ScrewFix; Talk Talk; The Hut; The Savile Row Company; The White Company; TheTrainline.com; Thomas Pink; Thomson; Tightsplease.co.uk; Toshiba; Viking At Home; Vitamins Direct; WeightWatchers; Woolworths; and Wow Woman.
Here's how the 76 retailers break down by category, according to the Nectar eStores web site (note that some appear in more than one category):