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Loyalty is Going Mobile

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Loyalty is Going Mobile
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You know you’re ahead of the game when the things you included in strategy recommendations two years ago begin to take shape in the marketplace. While I can’t take credit for either of the mobile applications associated with Sovereign Bank Cash Rewards or AirMiles, I can say we’ve been talking about enabling loyalty program members to take their loyalty programs with them on their mobile handsets for quite some time.

Sovereign Bank launched its mobile application early in 2011 as a way to connect debit cardholders with the merchants participating in its Cash Rewards program. Adding local merchants to the online retailers already present in most “pay for performance” rewards networks is good thinking these days.

The dirty secret of online malls is that while the offers may look great on paper, the amount of total debit card spend directed to these merchants is small. Shoring up a merchant funded rewards program with local merchants encourages cardholders to prefer specific merchants which they pass by each day as they go about their lives.

Canadian coalition Air Miles just announced the addition of a mobile application to its program and features several benefits through the new app. While members can check their account balance and browse the rewards catalog, the most important feature in my mind is the ability to locate merchants which issue the Air Miles currency upon purchase.

To spice up the launch, Air Miles included a location / game based feature. The “Check-in Challenge” is a contest that awards the top 50 “collectors” with the highest number of check-ins with an unspecified bonus. The contest idea is a good one as long as the bonus prize is well described and valuable enough to keep members interested.

Plastic Mobile designed the Air Miles application and the Sovereign app was apparently built by a custom design house. I have an instinct that we are about to see an explosion of mobile applications being launched in conjunction with loyalty programs and think that the mobile handset will quickly become the principle engagement channel between loyalty sponsors and their customers.

If you are serious about social shopping and social loyalty, a mobile app should be in your future.

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