South Africa’s retail rewards industry has ballooned over the past decade as giants like Checkers, Pick ‘n Pay, Spar and Woolworths compete for a bigger slice of the consumer market.
Store cards and rewards schemes have found favour among customers and retailers alike; but for different reasons. Customers are lured in with the promise of financial benefits in the form of loyalty points and discounts while retailers see the card as a cheap way to collect comprehensive customer data.
This has led some market analysts to question the growing disconnect between the designers and users of the schemes.
“Retailers have become so focused on collecting customer data and building complex multi-partner rewards programmes that they have lost sight of what customers really want,” says Brand Hubb CEO, Rob Anderson. He observes that store rewards cards have become unnecessarily complicated and offer little consistency from one retailer to the next.
The typical retail rewards scheme offers members a blend of loyalty ‘points’, product discounts and special offers with significant differences in the type and value of these benefits.
As a ballpark, customers might receive 0.5% of every rand spent in-store; but those who wish to participate in all the benefits on offer in a rewards scheme will have to keep a close watch on the terms and conditions applicable to each store’s rewards programme.
They will also have to carry and present their rewards card whenever they go shopping.
Although these requirements can be tedious, there are more sinister forces at play.
One of the concerns is with the damage that rewards schemes are doing to the brand-to-consumer relationship by excluding customers from discounts and specials. It has, for example, become common for stores to make special offers contingent on belonging to their rewards scheme.
“Customers deserve a better deal when interacting with their favourite brands,” says Anderson. “Our solution, which was built from the ground up in a digital world, empowers brands to interact meaningfully with customers and direct their marketing spend far more effectively,” he says. Brand Hubb’s Brand Rewards platform allows brands to reward customers for interacting with them by clicking on posts, watching videos, sharing content and completing surveys.
The platform could allow customers of brands such as KFC, Steers or Romans to interact with their favourite fast food brand in the virtual world without having to visit a physical store, and earn tangible rewards for doing so.
It also levels the playing field between goods and services brands, regardless of their industry. “Whether you are Coca Cola, Nike, Samsung or VW, you can establish lasting relationships with your customers using our Brand Rewards API plug-in,” says Anderson. It is now cheaper and easier than ever for brands to implement a targeted reward programme that will deliver exponential improvements in customers’ brand loyalty.
Brand Hubb is encouraging brands to redirect their digital advertising and marketing budgets towards the end-customer, creating unrivalled brand loyalty and allowing customers to engage with the brand on their own terms.
According to Anderson, early adopters are already benefiting from increased product sales and website traffic frequency. “We have made it possible for brands to build better data profiles for each customer and promote ongoing, active engagement with them through content sharing and other social media interactions,” he says.
Brands can have full control of their brand marketing spend rather than dealing with customers at arms’ length through third party platforms.
The Brand Rewards API can be white-labelled in any brand’s name. So, for example, Good Foods would ‘pay’ Good Foods Rewards to its loyal customers who can then exchange these points for products or services distributed via the Good Foods website.
“One of the shortcomings of existing customer rewards programmes is that they offer discounts on items that customers do not want or need; another is that customers are restricted in how they ‘spend’ their accumulated loyalty points,” says Anderson.
“We allow brands to deploy effective rewards programmes at a fraction of the operational overhead associated with existing initiatives”.
The question leading brands should be asking is: Do we want to carry on doing things ‘old school’ or do we want to offer a Brand Rewards scheme that is relevant to customers in the millennial generation and beyond?
“Your customers are ready to vote with their feet in favour of rewards programmes that offer meaningful brand interaction rather than forcing them to wrestle with clunky store cards,” concludes Anderson.
“It is time for you to redirect the money you spend on Facebook and Google towards rewarding loyal customers who actively participate in building your brand”.
Early adopters of Brand Rewards will dominate the brand-to-consumer relationships of the future.
As for the rest; they will struggle ahead with the handful of customers who can stomach deciphering the points and value-adds on their existing store rewards cards.