Jonathan Seabolt, head of sales and strategy for LoyaltyEdge, believes that with so much data available to loyalty marketers, they need to leverage it to their advantage and “wow” customers to heighten brand loyalty.
Leveraging 20 years of American Express’ expertise and thought leadership in the rewards program business from the award-winning Membership Rewards program to is cobranded cards, LoyaltyEdge’s white-labeled loyalty solution helps companies design, implement, and manage customized points-based loyalty programs to engage and retain their customers regardless of payment type.
Loyalty360 spoke with Seabolt about how customers are changing today.
There is a lot of talk about customers changing, how do you feel customers are changing and how are you adapting to that change? Is this just the case for your brand or vertical? Or is this affecting everyone?
Seabolt: Customers are equipped with more data than ever before and they’re using it to their advantage. One way they’re doing so is by churning credit card offers to gain as many points as possible which have caused even the issuing giants such as Chase to implement a 5/24 program where an individual may only apply for a maximum of five products within the last 24 months to avoid gaming of the system.
What this means is that as points issuers, we must spend more, not on capturing new accounts, but in retaining the ones we have. I’m reminded of a story told to me by Peter Hall at the Visa Bankcard Conference. Peter said: “I don’t really like ABC Credit Card Company and I never transact with ABC Credit Card Company, but the few times I have used that credit card was to purchase some of my favorite wine. At the end of my cycle, when I considered calling in to cancel my card, a box showed up on my front door and it was a case of my favorite wine from my least favorite credit card issuer. Now, I don’t like my credit card issuer, but I love my wine. And so, therefore, the card became top of wallet.”
As marketers, we must use data to our advantage to wow our customers which will drive a lift in spend and, ultimately, increase customer satisfaction.
We continue to hear about brands that are looking to create alignment between their customer loyalty efforts and the brand promise. Should all brands try to become the next “Apple” or “Amazon?” Or is it more realistic and/or beneficial for brands to understand their own unique brand identity, and then define objectives, process, and programs that align with that unique identity?
Seabolt: When a customer or member interacts with the loyalty program of their bank or credit union, respectively, it should look and feel seamless. The user experience of their loyalty partner whether bought or built should be one and the same. Brands shouldn’t try to become anyone else, but I think they can leverage the technology that the Apple’s and Amazon’s of the world are spending R&D budgets on to help offer their customer base the latest and greatest and enhance their own brand. This is always easier said than done as most FIs must budget a year in advance and aren’t as nimble as startups.
What is new or different with your program?
Seabolt: The great thing about working at LoyaltyEdge is that we solely focus on loyalty, unlike others who offer loyalty as an add-on to their processing services. With more than half of our leadership team previously running and managing loyalty or card programs, we know what it takes to move the business forward. We literally eat, breathe, and sleep loyalty and, because of that, we are continually looking for ways to improve and enhance our offering.
With everything from point bank management and redemption fulfillment, to marketing and analytics, we strive to be No. 1 in every category. For example, one area we are heavily investing in includes our Pay with Points (PwP) capability. I know, I know, everyone has PwP, but this is much more than a simple statement credit at the end of the cycle. It’s a real-time redemption at the point of sale from either a physical card or a digital wallet capability. This is a huge advancement in the PwP space and we believe it will be a key differentiator that separates LoyaltyEdge other providers.
How do you define customer loyalty and what does it mean to LoyaltyEdge?
Seabolt: At the very root of customer loyalty is, [loyalty: [loi-uh l-tee] noun, plural loyalties.
“The state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations.”]
The definition showcases the ability to be faithful or stays committed, while loyalty is often looked at from a reactive perspective. At LoyaltyEdge, customer loyalty means offering loyalty from the first interaction and, if possible, prior to that by showing goodwill up front to a prospective customer or client. In our experience, this yields much better results rather than having to earn it over time. We hold ourselves to a high standard and we know our clients are held to the same so leveraging our subject matter experts to help our clients move the business forward and allow us to worry about the day-to-day makes everything flow smoothly.
Why should (or would) a customer be more likely to be loyal to your brand, or your brand promise? Or, what makes your loyalty program/customer loyalty focus unique?
Seabolt: For LoyaltyEdge, we believe our clients are loyal to us not only because we build a bespoke rewards program to fit their business model, but we regularly go above and beyond the call of duty. Anyone can fulfill a gift card. We focus on how to help our clients get the most out of that gift card through program design, marketing, and analytics.
Our goal is to get ahead of the questions our clients will ask, and provide them proactive reporting and data science so they have the most up to date information to make sound business decisions. On top of that, LoyaltyEdge is flush with loyalty thought leaders who have worked on the client side managing programs such as Citi ThankYou, Amex Membership Rewards, and Navy Federal Credit Union. With this direct experience of managing a program internally, it allows us to build the most extensive and effective loyalty programs in the market.