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News and Trends in Loyalty and Payments

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News and Trends in Loyalty and Payments
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Today is an important day in Florida, not just because state officials might actually be able to tally votes from the Presidential election correctly, but for the fact that the weather finally changed. We woke up today to 56 degrees in Fort Lauderdale and can unofficially declare that seasonal change has occurred. You see, Floridians hear news reports of autumn weather, falling leaves and cooler temperatures, but don’t really believe it’s happening. So, regardless of the dates published in the Farmers Almanac that say fall is here, we wait for the proof which arrived today.

Something about crisp, fresh air brings energy to the day and inspires thinking as clear as the air. In the midst of striving to keep up with announcements, product launches, and company news that pops up in my compilation of RSS streams and Google alerts, I took a step back and identified key news items in loyalty marketing and payments over the past few weeks worthy of sharing with our readers.

To wit:

Last week at Loyalty World USA, I listened to a keynote delivered by Cheryl Bachelder, President and CEO Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen:

  • Details of the talk are here, and what caught my attention was the reality that her presentation described how the chain built its business and created loyalty across franchise owners, employees and customers through a brand building exercise that included everything except – ahem – a points based loyalty program.
  • Popeyes does have a fledgling membership program called the Bonafide Krewe and must realize the value of identifying customers and linking their preferences with purchase data, but the message to loyalty marketers at the conference was that points are just part of the equation.
  • Transcendent of this commonly employed membership approach is that Popeyes runs its organization by honoring people as individuals and creating an atmosphere of servant leadership. That is a subject many CEO’s speak about, but do not support through execution. Ms. Bachelder should be recognized for her commitment to building the future of Popeyes on these foundations.

Shifting focus from the US, two significant international announcements made my list. Both came from Aimia, a global leader in loyalty management and the premier sponsor of this blog.

  • Aimia announced that it had reached agreement to acquire an additional 20% equity participation in Premier Loyalty & Marketing, owner and operator of Club Premier, Mexico’s leading coalition loyalty program. This transaction, valued at US$88 million, is testimony to the promise of customer centric marketing programs in markets outside the US. While we refine the business within our borders, there are many hungry markets outside the US just hoping to position a loyalty strategy in place.
  • The blockbuster announcement that you may have missed while watching election results here in the US was the joint investment by Aimia and Points International Ltd. (both traded publicly on Canadian stock exchange TSX) to make a minority investment in China Rewards, a Shanghai based retail coalition loyalty program start-up. Points International (the operator of  loyalty commerce platform www.Points.com) and Aimia will each invest up to US$5 million in the venture in a performance based arrangement.  To add further strength to the deal, China Union Pay will participate, creating a unique blend of loyalty management, payment processing, and e-commerce into a new customer facing business in the world’s largest market.

Mobile payments made the news as well:

  • As Karen Webster noted in an insightful article on Pymts.com, it appears that the way forward for mobile wallet proponents PayPal and Google just might follow a familiar path, that of the established payment networks Visa, MasterCard, and Discover.
  • An established acceptance network is a tremendous competitive advantage. It could also represent an obstacle so big to overcome that these mobile payment operators, hoping to change the way consumers pay, will be forced to move forward through partnership with the old guard.

Finally, Burger King reminded us of the power of a strong brand:

  • The fast food chain celebrated the 55th anniversary of the Whopper, the iconic burger that has been the flagship menu item for the QSR giant over the years.
  • The announcement caused me to reflect on how one good brand decision can become the sustainable foundation of a business for decades. As population composition and purchase habits have changed through  multiple cycles, the Whopper remains.
  • The closest example of iconic brand building in the data driven marketing industry that comes to mind has to be the “1 to 1” brand built by Don Peppers & Martha Rogers. Who will create the next great brand in loyalty marketing?
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