How many times have you perused the same loyalty rewards catalogue online, weighing the option of this toaster, that bracelet, those golf clubs—only to tell yourself that if you wait just a little longer you’ll have more reward points and can choose from the next tier of rewards? Those days are quickly fading to memory as new loyalty and reward programs roll out for Canadians. Today Rogers customers can use the reward points they accrue on their Rogers Platinum MasterCard to pay their bill. Simple as that. It’s an easier way to use the rewards Canadians love and the Rogers program puts the power of the earning and redeeming right back into the hands of the cardholder. This is just one example of how, at MasterCard, we have been working with some of our largest partners to create customized programming that gives control back to consumers.

Today a successful loyalty program differentiates between customers and uses data to make daily life for a shopper faster, rewarding and seamless. Retailers and merchants need to design ever-changing, customizable experiences to engage consumers and generate loyalty to their brand. It’s what consumers expect and it’s the experience that keeps them coming back to a product or service.

Why does loyalty matter?
Loyal customers buy more, stay longer and refer valuable new customers. According to a study this year by Yahoo, 90% of Canadians belong to at least one loyalty program, while most possess, on average, four loyalty cards in their wallets. Competition is fierce and fighting for that top-of-wallet space is a changing battle given the capabilities of technology and big data.

As more loyalty players enter the market it becomes increasingly important to stand out and also provide consumers with safe, secure and simple experiences. Privacy and security remain a big concern and consumers want to understand how retailers are using their personal data.

MasterCard has provided loyalty solutions for 17 years and we’ve seen important changes in the landscape. In response we have developed innovative solutions to help merchants acquire new customers and expand their share of wallet. We’ve developed a strong understanding of the components of a best-in-class loyalty strategy.

Moving from ‘mass’ to ‘me’
One of the most important drivers of loyalty today is the shift from a generalized mass approach to a more personal, customizable one. No two customers are the same so it’s important to cut through the noise with an individualized approach. Loyalty providers cannot approach every consumer as a sales target; instead it’s about forming individual relationships. Demographic assumptions about various age ranges or genders no longer apply. The makeup of the Canadian family comes in many different forms, with changing life stages. The more individualized Canadian life becomes, the more Canadians expect the same to apply to their experiences.

Rewards in hand
Fittingly, as the landscape shifts to one of more personalization, consumers expect to interact with programming on their time, from their devices. Mobile use is at an all-time high with 24 million Canadians subscribing to smartphone device services and 23% of them using their smartphone to shop. It’s no surprise that the loyalty shift includes the need for mobile rewards. Canadians expect to collect and track rewards on their smartphones rather than add another card to their wallet.

Changing the channel on loyalty
Innovation at MasterCard is not new. We’ve been bringing next-generation solutions to market for nearly 50 years and with the increasing pace in which the world is moving and demands of customers growing, innovation is an even greater priority for us to ensure we defend, secure and advance our role in the payments ecosystem.
In the loyalty space it’s our big data that’s changing the game for the financial institutions and merchants we work with. Billions upon billions of terabytes of anonymous transaction data powers new technology we provide to our customers to help them create leading loyalty solutions:

  • Personalized offers are relevant to shoppers based on individual purchase behaviour
  • Real-time engagement provides offers and incentives to consumers in the moment
  • An omni-channel approach serves consumers in a seamless fashion across their channel of choice
  • Desirable rewards move beyond merchandise catalogs and gift cards—where there are finite redemption choices—to a wider variety of options that include experiences, relationship rewards and more.

We have partnered with Canadian financial institutions to take a fresh, mobile-enabled and personalized approach to rewards.

Rogers and Pay With Rewards
Our Pay with Rewards platform allows cardholders to use their rewards instantly at the point of sale for a purchase. No longer is a cardholder limited by catalogues or online redemption. Instead, cardholders can choose to use their rewards for everyday purchases and get real-time redemption alerts via the Pay with Rewards mobile app. Rewards are redeemed directly on the cardholder statement.

Rogers recently launched the Rogers™ Platinum MasterCard® using MasterCard’s Pay with Rewards technology—the first MasterCard issuer in North America to use it. Accessed through the Platinum Rewards website or the smartphone app, with Pay with Rewards cardholders can instantly redeem for cash back credits towards any Rogers or Fido purchase, in-store or online. Customers can redeem their cash back credits as often as they want, without having to wait for an annual credit on their statement.

BMO and card-linked offers
BMO Bank of Montreal launched the BMO Perks program which uses MasterCard’s card-linked offers technology platform. BMO Perks delivers exclusive offers directly to a BMO MasterCard cardholder’s inbox from national, regional and local retailers. Cardholders need only use their card to make an eligible purchase and the offer will be redeemed and credited directly to the card. Offers are selected for cardholders based on shopping history and are highly personal to the consumer.

A program using card-linked offers allows merchants and issuers to reach consumers beyond the traditional access points and interact with them outside of their walls where merchants don’t have visibility today. It offers a real-time aspect to engage cardholders at the moment of truth when they are transacting and provides marketing spend efficiency by providing highly targeted parameters.

The world of loyalty is changing—it’s becoming more personal. It’s up to merchants, financial institutions and the payment networks to harness the data consumers provide and put it to work for them, to make the consumer experience better, safer and faster. After all, loyalty needs to be earned. And it cannot be taken for granted.

Sasha Krstic is senior vice president and group head, Global Products & Solutions for MasterCard Canada. In this role, she oversees the development of innovative products and services that benefit MasterCard Canada’s consumers, merchants, and business partners. Ms. Krstic is responsible for Canada’s Core Products, Emerging Payments, Marketing, Communications, Advisors, and PSI / Fraud Management teams.

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Direct Marketing magazine.

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