Audio Transcript

#195: Virgin Red - The Red Thread Connecting the Virgin Brand Globally (45m)
Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas. And if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas for loyalty specialists around the world. The show is sponsored by Comarch, a global provider of innovative software products and business services. Comarch platform is used by leading brands across all industries to drive their customer loyalty powered by AI and machine learning. Comarch technologies allow you to build, run and manage personalized loyalty programs and product offers.
Paula Thomas

00:00:47
With ease for more information, please visit comarch.com. Hello, and welcome to episode 195 of Let’s Talk Loyalty today. I am joined for a second time by Virgin Red, the loyalty program for the entire Virgin group of companies. They have a wonderful way of describing the program as the red thread that connects this incredibly diverse group of companies. Virgin Red launched initially in the UK in 2020, and just a couple of months ago, they announced their expansion for our customers in the United States.
Paula Thomas

00:01:30
Joining me to celebrate this exciting milestone for the world’s most exciting brand is Andrea Burchett, Virgin Reds, international and strategic development director together. We had a wonderful conversation about integrity and the intention of loyalty programs and how Virgin Red is approaching its global rollout to make sure it’s relevant, I’m successful and lives up to the extraordinary expectations of a brand that is as well-loved as Virgin is So Andrea from Virgin Red.
Paula Thomas

00:02:11
Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty.
Andrea Burchett

00:02:13
Hi Paula. Thanks very much for having me
Paula Thomas

00:02:15
Delighted to have you on the show. And as you know, we did have your colleague Kelly Best on the program about a year ago. So this is going to be super exciting to catch up on everything that’s happening with your program. So I’m going to start by asking you the same question, actually, my new favorite question, I think I told you about which is asking you just in your, I suppose, personal opinion, Andrea, what is your favorite loyalty program at the moment?
Andrea Burchett

00:02:42
Well, Paula, for those of your listeners that know me, they know that I look at loyalty in its broadest sense. So for me, it’s about the intensity of a customer connection to your brand. And there was a company I dealt with just over a year ago that I do have huge respect for. I don’t know if you’re aware of it. It’s called Lad Bible, digital content publisher. They reach about two thirds of the 18 to 34 year olds in the UK. And what they, I know it’s amazing, isn’t it, it’s a prime audience to try and get to as well, but they develop content across entertainment, celebrity interviews, news, and current affairs, but with a real sort of sense of purpose. So they’ve got leading campaigns on mental health environment and political matters.
Andrea Burchett

00:03:23
But I think the thing that blew me away was the stance. I think they’d been going for about 10 years, but they have 262 million followers worldwide and 69 million of those come back every single month. And, and there’s no reason for them to come back there, isn’t sort of a points program or a loyalty program per se. But I think it’s really turning sort of traditional loyalty models on its head and really making us think about how content can actually create followers and therefore genuine loyalty. Yeah. So, yeah. So I think, you know, again, I’d get sort of your listeners to sort of look at some of the stats on Google as well. I mean the top three Google searches are Facebook, YouTube and Amazon. So I think when you’re designing a loyalty program, you need to think about how you engage customers rather than just selling to them.
Andrea Burchett

00:04:07
Yeah.
Paula Thomas

00:04:07
Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s music to my ears, Andrea, first and foremost, because clearly I’m a content producer and I, I fundamentally believe that there’s, there’s a form of intimacy actually, which does bring loyalty in, I think as you’ve already said, actually quite an indirect way. So even though I’m probably not the demographic that lad Bible is, is going out to target, I am aware of the brand and I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen them publishing. So it tends to come through for me, for example, on their Facebook page, but truly extraordinary to have unbelievable statistics like that.
Andrea Burchett

00:04:43
Yeah. And I think it’s a massive opportunity to Virgin as well. We have so much content. I mean, we’re very fortunate with the family, the Branson family, Richard himself. Yeah. So if you look at the volume of followers we have across all of our channels, you can imagine how we should be able to engage them with Virgin Red in some way going forward. So to me having joined only sort of October last year and just seeing the wealth of content, I mean, Richard going to space through Virgin galactic last year, the following we got from there in the media coverage, it’s how you take those followers and convert them into customers, which is which challenge I think for brands going forward. Yeah.
Paula Thomas

00:05:21
And I did actually look up obviously the Virgin homepage again in preparation for today. And I loved, you know, simple things, I suppose, even like the brand being described, for example, on LinkedIn as the world’s most exciting brand, which of course with urges galactic and Virgin voyages and just the incredible, I suppose, group of companies you guys have. So you must be incredibly excited to be getting started and, you know, watch us what five months in, at this point.
Andrea Burchett

00:05:50
Yeah, I think put, I mean, you know, the obvious question is what attracted me to join Virgin for me is absolutely power of the brand. It’s, it’s recognized globally, but it’s just effortless in its ability to cross geographies and industries. I can’t think of another brand actually, that can do that. So if you think about Virgin money, Virgin media, Virgin hotels, Virgin gyms. And I think that again is what presents that unique opportunity and why I’m excited as to how customers can interact with one of the brands we’ve got 49 different companies globally and 35 million customers. So they can come in connect with a brand, an ecosystem, a Virgin can wrap around them.
Andrea Burchett

00:06:32
There’s lots of simulation programs out there as you know, but they, they try and bring together different brands. We have the benefit that the door is all branded Virgin, but the ecosystem that we can offer across things from, you know, travel awards, entertainment, everyday things like octopus. So it’s a very broad proposition. I think today we’ve got about 240 different rewards in the UK low. Okay.
Paula Thomas

00:06:57
Wow. And that’s exactly, I suppose, was the trigger for our last conversation. Andrea and Virgin Red had just been launched. I think it was September, 2020. And again, the messaging beautifully clear. I think the terminology you guys were using was it was the red thread is the red thread that connects all of your companies. So I’d love to, first of all, check in, see how is the UK doing with Virgin Red at the moment?
Andrea Burchett

00:07:24
Yeah. The guys have been very busy last year. That’s for sure. The partners, you know, whether it’s booking.com, if we’ve gone into a new relationship with car who they do taxi services, as well as around the, the, you know, the, the Virgin brands. So we announced it back end of last year, a very strong strategic collaboration with Virgin money. So it’d be more in that space through that partnership this year. I think when the other exciting areas, which we launched April last year is Virgin train ticketing. There’s lots going on in the train space. Obviously the Virgin brand has some history with the east and west coast network, but we launched that last year is going really well.
Andrea Burchett

00:08:05
People are running points on their ticket purchases and we’re seeing good use of sort of etiquette platform. So that’s where you can store your easy ticket in the wallet. Not only can you earn points, there’s no booking fee. Again, we found through research that was a real pain point with some of the other providers. So that’s something that we’ll be looking to grow and develop as we, as we look ahead into this year. So yeah, it’s a lot more to come. We’ve seen some great success through our marketing efforts. So almost 1 million points have been donated points for good, which is our charities and communities lovely, a hundred thousand members entering some of our activation competitions. So, so things are going well, it’s early days, obviously travel coming back.
Andrea Burchett

00:08:49
And some of the restrictions around COVID being reduced is a huge boost for, for us and some of the brands that we have such as Virgin Atlantic and, and our hotel, our hotels and Voyager network as well.
Paula Thomas

00:09:01
Yeah, for sure. And I somehow ended up and quite joyfully of course, and noticing that the new Cruze proposition that’s coming out as well. Andrea, so I’m certainly following that I’m in the market for a cruise at some point. So I love to see the brand extending into these as you’ve said, actually travel as the obvious home for Virgin, given the Virgin Atlantic background. So it seems that the brand can absolutely do anything and do it with a, I think a level of excellence that just means customers will try it and trust it because it comes from the Virgin group of companies.
Andrea Burchett

00:09:34
Yeah. And I think you’re right, I’m in the Voyager. Stuff’s great. It’s, I’m traveling the European launches in spring, Portugal, Spain, Belgium. So some great destinations and hotels as well. Then we’ve got two hotels opening later this year up in Scotland. So adding up there ASCO, but, but at the same in the U S we’ve got hotels opening in, in, in New York. So it’s the Virgin companies themselves are building out their network and their product and service offering, which, which can only enhance and improve and benefit customers as well, even got very interested. Virgin orbit is landing in Cornwall to get down to Cornwell and, and look at some activity there.
Andrea Burchett

00:10:19
So that, and that’s great, you know, it’s great for Cornwall. It’s great for the youth to have a space, space outlet in terms of future strategy. So yeah, some really exciting stuff going on within the Virgin group, you know, which, which as I say, is only beneficial as we use Virgin Red and the points program to really knit all this together for customers.
Paula Thomas

00:10:39
Absolutely. Am I right. And understanding that Andrea, that you’re going to be operating hotels as Virgin
Andrea Burchett

00:10:46
Yeah. Virgin hotels. So the footprint in the U S is the same. We’re really excited. We’ve got the launch in New York. I think it’s about July time this year in the UK, we have Glasgow Edinburgh, and I’m sure there’s other, other locations on their horizon. Cause again, that’s quite a new, we call them our rockstar brands, newer, newer, and newer ventures, such as voyages and hotels and an orbiting galactic. And, and it’s almost the reverse really that some of the US footprint we have coming into the UK and as you know, the backend of last year, so sort of November, we took Virgin Red from the UK into the US market.
Paula Thomas

00:11:26
Yeah. And that’s exactly what I wanted to ask you about next. So, you know, one year of, you know, focusing on getting the, the footprint, getting the partners, getting the UK to the level that it needs to be for Virgin Red. So how’s it going with the U S launch so far in the, what did I calculate 10 weeks that you’re live with it, Andrea.
Andrea Burchett

00:11:45
Yeah. And I think, you know, I’m a bit long in the tooth on naughty, I guess, about 15 years. And I’ve seen unfortunately, quite a few failures in the U S market Amex, plenty, various others have been and try. So I think, you know, when we went in very clear with the view that we weren’t going to lift and shift our UK program and move it into the U S market, we wanted to, co-create the proposition in that market with, with partners both within the Virgin group, but obviously some selected partners outside as well. But I think to crack the U S market, I think our view is you probably need to take quite a regional approach. You know, it’s a huge, huge market, you know?
Andrea Burchett

00:12:27
So, so we, as I say, we already have a really good presence. Now we’ve got a strong collection and redemption proposition. We’ve got some great localized brands we’re working with. So whether that’s built, I think they’re on your show recently, you know, and for those that don’t know, it’s the ability to sort of accumulate points and, and through your rental. But, you know, it’s a great consumer proposition in terms of being able to help people get their first home, you know, online brands like Macy’s home Depot and carbon engineering, which is great. They, they build the technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Okay. Yeah. So we we’re out on consumer research at the moment, but we thought it was important to sort of go live just to generally show our commitment to the market and let partners know that we’re open for business, something to go and have a look at.
Andrea Burchett

00:13:15
You know, I always think it’s useful when something’s brought to life by being live in the market rather than concept. So we’ve got lots of plans and more developments happening in the U S market later this year.
Paula Thomas

00:13:26
Yeah. Yeah. And my immediate told there Andre is, you know, our number one market in terms of listeners, our loyalty practitioners in the U S so I’m guessing there might be opportunities for people listening to this show, for example, to maybe reach out and see if there’s an opportunity for them to work with you guys.
Andrea Burchett

00:13:44
Absolutely. You know, it’s an open door I’m always really interested to, to share insights. I think the, you know, the key thing we’re all having to deal with at the moment is that there’s been a massive shift in consumer behavior as a result of the last 18 months in COVID the adoption, as you well know. And I was looking at some stats the other day in the McKinsey’s report. It has been a 20% shift of online spend, but I think, you know, they were saying like 75% of customers have tried new shopping behaviors. That’s a phenomenal number. And, and, and a lot of that is millennials and sort of gen Z ads looking to switch to new brands that really reflect sort of what they’re looking for loyalty. So they’re very much the sort of, I’ll be loyal to you if you’re loyal to me.
Andrea Burchett

00:14:25
And again, I think we need to make sure our loyalty programs are genuinely being law to customers and our members rather than just, you know, as I say one way, one way relationship.
Paula Thomas

00:14:35
Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s probably one of the biggest things that’s come out. You’re absolutely right. Andrea, in the end, I don’t know whether it was, you know, just, you know, accentuated by the pandemic or whether it was already, I think, emerging, but this whole idea that, you know, why should I be loyal to this brand until I see, you know, how they treat me, how they take care of my data, how good the value proposition actually is. So I think you’re absolutely right. And to your point about built rewards, for example, I think that’s a genius insight in targeting perhaps that younger demographic that mightn’t be able to maybe fly internationally as yet, maybe at the life stage the rash, but are definitely paying money on rent, want to be able to be rewarded for that.
Paula Thomas

00:15:18
And then by the sounds of it, what they can do, then I think they exchange the points with Virgin Red. Is that the way that your partnership works with them?
Andrea Burchett

00:15:25
Yeah, yeah, that’s absolutely right. And I think like, you know, bill is great cause it’s, it’s something new and exciting. And I think working the benefit for them is working with the Virgin brand. I mean, it’s, it’s 50 years in its infancy, I’d say in terms of age, pretty much in that age bracket myself. So it was 50 years young, you know, I’m Richard Branson’s dream was to bring all of the Virgin brands and their customers together in one place. And I think that’s, you know, that’s certainly the mission for Virgin Red is to really create that extraordinary reward club, universal Virgin currency. So I think if we can help build, you know, build their proposition, but leverage obviously the trust that’s inherently there within the Virgin brand. Yeah,
Paula Thomas

00:16:05
Yeah, yeah. You’re absolutely right. And actually I was looking also as well, as you said that the, the stats for Richard himself and I really loved, I have to say the way that he’s just, I suppose, positioned on the website, but also his family, because I don’t think I was expecting to see his daughter and his son. And even for simple things like a speaking engagement, you can book a Branson, which I thought in terms of, you know, just the whole and taking care of people close to him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen, you know, anyone with, you know, a family company who’s really made sure to, and to build their careers as explicitly as I saw for Richard.
Paula Thomas

00:16:45
So that’s just a lovely, I think, example of how he runs his companies.
Andrea Burchett

00:16:50
Yeah. And I think, you know, the lovely thing, I mean, Holly is, is chief of purpose. So there’s a real thread of purpose within the DNA of a Virgin. And you know, what we want is to help all of our customers live a life more Virgin, you know, and that is about the environment that is about sustainability. You know, decisions are always made with that backdrop. So yeah, it’s fantastic to have the family involved, as I say, there’s a great network of companies, you know, and our job is to glue all of that together. And, and I think customers expect it to be glued together as well. I mean, the reaction to, to Virgin Red has been fantastic. And so it’s just building on those foundations for us now, as we, as we look ahead and both in the UK and us and potentially other opportunities for market expansion.
Paula Thomas

00:17:35
Sure. For sure. And you alluded to the fact so like myself, Andrea, and we’ve both been into the industry a while. In fact, our paths crossed very briefly back in the RVO stays. I think that was maybe seven or eight years ago, I think from memory.
Andrea Burchett

00:17:50
Yes, that’s right. I think you helped us with launching obvious with air Lingus and building that program in the Irish market.
Paula Thomas

00:17:57
Exactly, exactly. Fun times.
Andrea Burchett

00:18:00
More well poorly.
Paula Thomas

00:18:02
Absolutely. Absolutely. But something I love just said as well, last time we spoke, Andrea was moving away from, I suppose the, let’s say the traditional pillars of loyalty, you know, we all know are recency frequency and monetary value. And obviously they’re super important and you know, there’s a huge amount of analysis, of course, always for every program, but you have some kind of new pillars, which I really liked. And to me, they felt actually less commercial, but more emotional, more engaging. And I suppose more on the Virgin brand to your point about having a purpose and having a vision. So would you maybe share with everyone listening about what you think the kind of new pillars are?
Paula Thomas

00:18:44
Things like social, for example, that you mentioned to me?
Andrea Burchett

00:18:48
Yeah, absolutely. I think it, it, so it goes back to your original question, Paula, and the conversation on that Bible, you know, we all know the backbone of longstanding loyalty programs do look at recency frequency and the value of the transaction. I think that’s the point, it’s the value, it’s a transaction and the danger is you have a transactional relationship with your members. And I think today’s brands need to think about social. So social, you know, all brands are tracking their followers, but it’s how do you really drive that broad reach and, and engage with those followers more to, to enable them to become members of your program? So I think social is, is a massive area.
Andrea Burchett

00:19:27
Now I think reaction as well for me, we need to now have brands that can create an emotional and memorable, a memorable connection through the content. As I said, plays a core role in doing that and then interaction. I think, you know, the brands that I look at that I have a relationship with are born out of having a conversation with that brand. So again, I think Virgin, as I say is very well-placed, I think we’ve got all the ingredients so that we’ve got an amazing brand that’s admired. We will have a huge social network and social following through the 49 different companies and channels. I mean the immense number of channels that we have to reach our customers, you know, as I say, Virgin Rednecks, all that together. So I think from Alyssa’s perspective, yes, absolutely.
Andrea Burchett

00:20:09
You’ve got recency frequency and value, but how well are you doing on the social reaction interaction? And I think, you know, the content providers are starting to wake up. I think Disney years ago basically gave all their content to Netflix and realized over a couple of years that they actually built Netflix is database for them. So having discussions with them, they’ve pulled all their content from Netflix now and launch Disney plus, and that’s that Disney is very light. Virgin Disney didn’t have a central sort of database of customers, but through custom streaming, they’re now really building their own proposition and the customer relationships on a one-to-one basis rather than before relying on sort of box office revenues.
Andrea Burchett

00:20:54
And that’s a brand that’s got such high emotional engagement like Virgin. So I think it’s interesting to look at what’s going on in the content space. I think in loyalty years, we used to look at what went on in the retail space and that was our guiding star. I’d encourage people now to start thinking about the lights of the skies and the Netflix and the Disneys and, and, and even small brands to a certain extent like that Bible, because I think genuinely are working hard every day and not just taking loyalty for granted getting people coming back sort of month in, month out. Yeah.
Paula Thomas

00:21:29
And I will make sure to link to lad Bible for sure. Andrea, just, you know, again for PR particularly people who are perhaps overseas, who might be familiar with the brand, but, but do you have any insights on what their business model is? Because I do think that that’s something a lot of content producers dare I say, will struggle with, you know, what is, you know, how do they drive revenue? Do you know, was that like a partner of yours or just to get an insight on that side?
Andrea Burchett

00:21:55
Yeah. My understanding is they make money charging brands for sort of bespoke campaigns or programmatic advertising. And again, in the whole world of media and ad ad ad exchange platforms is going to get interesting. I don’t know if you’ve been reading some of the latest news around third party data, the restrictions that have been put on Facebook and others. So, you know, thinking about your data and how you monetize that in terms of first party data versus relying on other sources of data to, to reach customers more broadly. But yeah, the at the moment, anyway, my understanding is that it’s through sort of bespoke campaigns for brands.
Andrea Burchett

00:22:34
They’ve got some amazing brands they work with, you know, so it’s, again, very much a partnership approach rather than being seen as a sales channel. Okay.
Paula Thomas

00:22:44
Okay. Thank you for that. Yeah, no, it’s just always useful because as you said, I know you’d worked with them in the past, so I’m always great to get an insight. And again, this show is all about education and inspiration. So I know after this, everybody’s going to be looking obviously at Virgin Red, but also the other brands that we’re talking about. So what do you think is next?
Andrea Burchett

00:23:04
Sorry, just to build on that polar, I think one of the key things is to your point, I think the commercial model around traditional loyalty programs was really looked, you know, they, they use the margin from the transaction or, or invested from the cost of acquisition into loyalty. Yeah. The challenge we have for all of us in this sector is how do we measure other behaviors that we want to reward that don’t involve for financial transaction? I mean, we’ve, we’ve just launched a partnership with square meal and they’re using points and, and, and Virgin med points to reward reviews. You know, how do you value a review or how do you evaluate? And I think that’s the space that I was alluding to, I guess, in terms of these other metrics is how do you quantify those in a way that you can get them past your finance team?
Andrea Burchett

00:23:51
That’s a challenge for all of us as an industry because you know,, those behaviours are valuable, but then quantify. But as, as a financial transaction yeah.
Paula Thomas

00:24:01
And very difficult to justify, as you said, because, you know, it’s one thing to say, okay, we can incentivize, you know, transactional behavior and reward that, and we know where the margin and where that’s going to be funded from what that’s quite extraordinary. And I really love it actually, because I, again, I think it’s part of the evolution of where loyalty is, is changing, is to recognize that other behaviors have value as well. And if somebody does, you know, give you a mention, for example, on a social platform, or as you said, that sounds like a beautiful proposition with square meal. So to use Virgin points too, and to recognize that that’s a huge opportunity, I think for everybody.
Andrea Burchett

00:24:41
Yeah. And I think, you know, the brave thing is just to test and learn. You can adopt that because that, that will help you build the business case, as you say, by, by just trying these different things. And, but the restaurant industry has got it and, and the hotel industry to a certain extent and TripAdvisor and those other platforms, but it’s just, you know, if you can reward those behaviors and think of lifetime value, as we all talk about, then know that that generates a much more rounded loyalty program for your members. That’s that lives in the modern world. I th I guess in terms of more the traditional thinking that we’ve had before. Yeah.
Paula Thomas

00:25:17
And two other things you’ve reminded me as well when you mentioned margin and, you know, and just going back, I suppose, to the conversation with Kelly, your CMO last year was really two pieces of, I think, innovation and I suppose, inspirational thinking. So I know that Virgin Red, first of all, you decided that there would be no expiring on your points. So it’d be dying to hear how that’s going. And also, I know you mentioned to me, Andrea, that the goal is a hundred percent of burn for your points. So has all of that going?
Andrea Burchett

00:25:48
Yeah, I think every loyalty program should have a hundred percent redemption of points because that’s a hundred percent engagement from customers. I th again, you know, and as Kelly mentioned, because we’re a new program, you know, less than a year old, we, you know, we, we can have that agenda. We’re not an old loyalty scheme that you and I would know about where they rely on or, or have an element of liability, the assumption within their financial plan, that a volume of points doesn’t get redeemed. They very boldly to the decision to say points don’t expire. I think that’s because we do want every single red customer member to, to, to get their reward. And some people want instant gratification and they’ll use it really quickly on a break sausage ball or whatever it may be and others, you know, they want that dream holiday.
Andrea Burchett

00:26:32
And I think, you know, the challenge a lot is it’s attitudinal. So I don’t think you can ever assume someone might not want to use their points. I always view points as a bank account. And it’s, you know, if someone started taking the cash out, my bank account, or my apartment is expired, I’d be very upset. So I think for me, every loyalty program should strive that a hundred percent redemption because that’s a hundred percent engagement. And a lot of the retail programs do well in this space previously worked with Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s and others, you know, and they’ve got the benefit of prompting at checkout. Who’s making sure that that’s not inertia and that’s actually engagement when people do redeem. But yeah, we w we were very clear and it’s a very strong message from Virgin that our points don’t expire because, you know, that was, you know, they belong to you and you decide what you want to do and where you want to use them.
Andrea Burchett

00:27:21
And I think, you know, the benefit program is it, we’ve got sort of five different categories, I guess, of rewards, whether that’s everyday treats, whether that’s travelling adventure with Virgin Atlantic, Virgin holidays, whether it’s extraordinary experiences. So we’ve got, obviously the Virgin experience, days out, we’ve got the exclusive Virgin Red room at my, in Manchester, the AAO arena, you know, and then put in points for goods. So charities, local community startup businesses, you know, so there’s hopefully something there for everybody, but really putting the power back into the customer’s hands around how they want you to do the points and when they want to use them.
Paula Thomas

00:27:58
Lovely. And I presume then with them, with that depth of thinking, is that translating across the pond as we call it, is that policy also going to be in place for Virgin Red for us members?
Andrea Burchett

00:28:11
Yeah, absolutely. It is. It’s more a philosophy and ethos of, of, of the currency that, you know, we want to, you know, back to that bank account analogy that your points, and then we’d have the freedom to do what you want. I mean, you know, there are so many schemes, I’ve looked at them over the years and different loyalty programs. You can’t earn them quick enough before they’re expiring in the backend. And that’s really frustrating for a customer. It’s like, I just can’t bill my balance quick enough before the ones that I had before start expiring and trickling out the door. So, you know, we, we want to make our program as engaging as possible. And, and, you know, because it is about using the various companies across the Virgin brand, you know, ultimately customers will be redeemed back into that ecosystem.
Andrea Burchett

00:28:55
So why would we not want to maximize the value that they get? Yeah.
Paula Thomas

00:28:59
Yeah. And you’ve reminded me actually, just of a previous guest as well, Andrea, and it was actually American airlines and they talked about the importance, one of their cake, sorry, key KPIs was the speed of the first redemption. And that’s what I’m hearing coming from you as well. And I thought for anyone listening to the show, that’s an extraordinary insight because it almost seems like the immediate cycle, then it just kind of speeds up in terms of that virtuous cycle of collect and redeem and collect and redeem. So I think it’s, it’s wonderful to hear that the whole industry is moving beyond this, you know, reluctance in the past, you know, with other brands, for example, to say, oh yeah, just make a margin on that.
Paula Thomas

00:29:43
And to now this, you know, insight into, as you said, first of all, it is the bank account for the customer. So let’s, you know, keep that in place for them. But actually it does drive more behavior that you actually want with the overall program overall.
Andrea Burchett

00:29:57
Yeah. And I think it’d be good to chat to the colleague from her. Can I think the challenge, well, the two insights I have, I guess I’d share that over the years I’ve seen. Oh, cause the challenge with lot is his attitude or as we spoke about. So we did quite a lot of research with the customer basis just to understand really what the drivers are of loyalty. And I think for us, the rated collection, I guess, links to speed. So some people have to have a level of disposable income, to earn enough points over a period of time. So I think the collection was definitely one of the key ones, but the other one I’ll share with you is the, actually, the point of redemption was the, the most, the highest level of engagement a customer would be out.
Andrea Burchett

00:30:38
So as soon as they redeem and that, and that kind of makes sense because that’s them finally realizing the reward that they’re looking for. So if you can think about your marketing strategy. So if you see a customer redeem, what’s the next best action that you then put in front of them? I think really thinking about that redemption. Cause a lot of, again, a lot of frustrates me really cause a lot of loyalty programs look at redemption as a potential risk of someone checking out and see know essentially with the new ones of negativity rather than I very much see it as an opportunity to, to, to get customers, to build their balance back up. And, you know, as I say, from all the research I’ve seen, that’s when the customers at their most engaged really grasping that opportunity to, to boost for their balance by cup.
Andrea Burchett

00:31:24
Again, you know, the bank account, I hate seeing my bank account balance go down. Don’t need to see so many customers again, you know, in loyalty programs, don’t like their balance going to zero. You know, they’d rather do things which again we have in the Virgin Red program, you know, a little bit of points, a little bit of cash in their points to get a discount rather than fully fund the rewards. So again, having that flexibility place, the different attitudes of customers and how they look at, look at the loyalty currency and look at, look at Virgin and the points.
Paula Thomas

00:31:56
Yeah. And, and to be honest, I hadn’t heard anybody worrying about checking out when the member goes to zero, but I can actually see, you know, particularly for maybe more the financial mindset that they might see that as a very negative thing. But to me, absolutely like you, it’s a huge opportunity, you know, they’re, they’ve, they’ve had that extraordinary experience and it’s time to get back in and start on something new to collect for.
Andrea Burchett

00:32:20
Absolutely. I think, you know, that you like that you lean into law ultimately and you know, it comes with an element of risk because it is about customer behavior and attitude and yeah, that’s the being of it. And that’s why I love it so much, but you know, you’re here probably you’re right. More of the finance guys worrying about the run on the bank and all that sort of terminology that, you know, and I think you have to get beyond that, which is why I say you’ve got to look at lifetime value. You gotta look at other behaviors, you know like we get a member or posting a review, whatever it may be, but you know, you’ve got to embrace it. If you’re going to get into this sector, you’ve got to embrace it in its entirety, I think fuels to drive those opportunities. But I think what you’ll find is that customers and members will come back to you time and time again, if you do that, as I say, we found within the Virgin Red member base, they love the fact that we, we have no, no expiry.
Andrea Burchett

00:33:10
They love Virgin train ticketing, that there are no booking fees. There are all those little rules, that really cause pain points for customers. So if you can remove those, then you can really start amplifying your program, on a bigger, broader scale. Yeah.
Paula Thomas

00:33:23
And also leverage, I think the word of mouth marketing as well, because I think that’s exactly what, you know, no booking fees will do for Virgin Red, you know, in terms of its train proposition. Because I think as soon as you start putting in things like fees, people immediately start getting upset. So eliminating that it’s an immediate reason, to change behavior.
Andrea Burchett

00:33:44
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, you know, from a training perspective, it’s great as you know, Virgin Atlantic is more of a long haul airline. So the ability to enable people with their domestic travel, certainly across the UK at the moment and who knows in terms of future expansion. But again, it was just an obvious one for us to, you know, to get into it and offer that ticketing platform. And it’s a great opportunity to overlay other partners. So, you know, if you get the train into London, you can then promote things like Virgin gyms. Obviously, we’ve got the relationship with Greg, so grab a coffee, grab a sausage roll, you know, so there’s the, so the extension of the connected journey as I refer to it. So at the time you book your ticket to the time you arrive at your destination, you know, how can we sprinkle some of the other partnerships that we have through that?
Andrea Burchett

00:34:31
So car who, as I said, we launched with them last year, that’s a taxi service, you know, with square meal, you know, there’s all sorts of things. So, so I think for me, it there’s an element of obvious or coalition even within the brands that we have to optimize that train journey and make it more rewarding throughout, not just to the points that you earn through the ticket, but things that you can do through the journey as well.
Paula Thomas

00:34:56
Yeah. And isn’t it amazing how often sausage rolls become something that people really just look forward to as part of like their everyday treats during the week?
Andrea Burchett

00:35:05
Yeah, absolutely. Grabbing a coffee. I mean, you know, I just think those low valued redemptions are equally really, really important because it just keeps you top of mind. And I think that’s what I like about Virgin chain ticketing because it’s high volume, hopefully with everyone starting to go back to work high volume, low-value transactions, but it just like it under the retail programs, it just keeps you full front and foremost in people’s minds. And, you know, I think that will be a great facilitator for Virgin Red.
Paula Thomas

00:35:33
Wonderful. So as we go through 2022, Andrea, what said, what do you see on the horizon coming up maybe for the program?
Andrea Burchett

00:35:42
Yeah, I think, I mean, looking at it to a certain extent, it might sound a bit boring as an answer, but it’s more of the same, but it is more bringing more partners on board. I mean, a big opportunity for us and we’re making good headway there is to, to weave the Virgin Red currency across the Virgin companies. Yeah. So as I say, we’ve already got relationships with Virgin wine, I’ve got Virgin train ticketing. We announced the back end of last year, this collaboration, strategic collaboration with Virgin money obviously got Virgin voyages, Virgin hotels. So, you know, Virgin media. So it really is sort of starting with our own sort of ecosystem and glueing that together and customers expect it.
Andrea Burchett

00:36:24
I mean, when they hear Virgin, they imagine all those relationships are, are under one umbrella and that the points will be ubiquitous across, across the different ones and companies that we have. But that’s, that’s really our ambition is to realize that for customers and then bring them sort of real value, add opportunities through the breadth of different travel categories that we have putting sort of great earning and spending opportunities and choices in front of our members.
Paula Thomas

00:36:51
Oh yeah, for sure. And I’m just thinking ahead, would you believe I’m going to Virgin Megastore this evening? So, so that’s already a nice little coincidence, but the other one, I suppose that we have here, and I know there’s a few Virgin companies in that certainly in Dubai, what the one that I’m most impressed with purely back to the the whole piece around travel and exciting as a brand is the whole Virgin Hyperloop. So again, just if anybody’s listening and just interested in compelling technology in terms of leading-edge transport solutions, it’s quite extraordinary what Virgin is doing with the Hyperloop. And hopefully that will be an ultra-high-speed train, I think at 1200 kilometres an hour, going to buy an app Adobe at some point.
Paula Thomas

00:37:35
So unbelievable stuff that you guys are involved in
Andrea Burchett

00:37:38
The Virgin Megastore brand, as I say, I mean, it’s just, just amazing as you say, in Dubai, in terms of the following and appeal that it has, it just talks to me to the, as I say, the power of the brand, but just where people, as I said before, want to start there, but you know, you might choose that Virgin Megastore is where you want to earn your points, but then the rest of the ecosystem can wrap around that relationship. So, you know, it’s very much in the hands of you as a member where you choose to have your affinity across the Virgin companies that we have and the products and services we offer. We haven’t touched a bit. I’m sorry. Probably the other thing to mention, I guess, is the user experience. Cause there’s, I think, you know, again, we see this a lot in research around value and convenience and value is defined very differently.
Andrea Burchett

00:38:22
What’s valuable to one person, you know, has a different value price to another, but I think convenience again and removing friction in the user journey. So, you know, we’ve made quite a lot of improvements in a new homepage. We’ve introduced a search bar in the app, so it makes it easier for members to find their favorite words. So again, just, you know, thinking not only about the Earnin spend side of things, but also making it simple and easy to, to, to engage and interact with everyone’s very poor and, and, you know, and particularly as we start getting back to work and our busy livestock coming back in again, I think that’s really critical as well, just to make sure we keep that user experience in, at the forefront of our minds whenever we build anything out.
Paula Thomas

00:39:04
For sure. And even though Virgin Red hasn’t arrived in Dubai. Yes. I can tell you that the simplicity of the proposition for loyalty in Virgin Megastore, Dubai is super, and I wasn’t even aware that shows you how simple it is. So for example, and again, just for people around the world to listen, you know, all I had to do was give my mobile number, my, my favorite form of identification, because I know it’s the only one I know, but then you are immediately insured on any products you buy in the Virgin Megastore automatically for a year. So we’ve had to return things from time to time, for example, and it was just wonderfully reassuring. And again, I can only see that getting better when again, it comes across the whole country and all the Virgin brands in this market, although I’m sure it will take you a while.
Paula Thomas

00:39:51
It’s not as quick and easy as it sounds to roll these things out globally. Huh?
Andrea Burchett

00:39:55
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, it’s from a tech perspective, obviously we just need to be mindful in terms of how we build things out, but we are trying to make sure that as we build our technology, it’s with the line of sight of more of an international expansion, but at the same time, like the U S market, it isn’t going to be a lift and shift. There is the sort of frontend user experience and the partnerships, everything else that, that needs to be mindful of, of the different sort of requirements needs and, and, and Eagles sort of even the legal and regular regulatory landscape that reside in those different countries that we look at. Totally. But yeah, as I say, our strategy is definitely, to bring together all the companies and, and sort of tap into the 35 million customers that we have today of the Virgin brands.
Andrea Burchett

00:40:41
So yeah, that might take us a bit, a bit more than a year. Well,
Paula Thomas

00:40:48
Totally. And I think, I think it’s absolutely right though as well, Andrea, because as you alluded to earlier, particularly with the U S market, we’ve all seen some really big brands try and not manage to nail us, but I think you have an extraordinary opportunity with, I suppose that the coalition and the whole group there, just to build something that is ultimately compelling, you know, for people in different, as you said, states and cities one at a time and build it slowly and carefully, which I know is the approach you guys are taking to make sure you get it right. So,
Andrea Burchett

00:41:21
And the benefit is that it all boils down to the brand. I mean the brand in the US is amazing. It’s got like an 89% awareness. Wow. Our footprint, you know, with, through hotels and orbits, you know, it’s so amplified and, and 76% of customers have openness in the U S already to things from Virgin. Okay. So, you know, we’ve got a good starting position to be able to really build quite compelling. But as I said, we want to really listen through the research that we do and through the partner engagements that we have to make sure that it’s co-created and very much tailored to that market, as opposed to, as I say, like you and I, we, you know, I’ve been in this industry long enough to, to make sure we learn from the mistakes, mistakes of others,
Paula Thomas

00:42:04
For sure. Oh, you will. Oh, absolutely. Super exciting. So, listen, I don’t have any more questions from my side. Andrea, was there anything else that you wanted to mention for listeners before we wrap up?
Andrea Burchett

00:42:18
I think it’s just, yeah. Take forward. Some of those lessons and learnings, I think, you know, the benefit with lot is it’s a long-term gain, you know, we should be looking at the lifetime of a customer. So I think, you know, that the key is just to, to, to take, take stock of what’s happened over the last 18 months, recognize that your customers probably aren’t the same customers that they were a year and a half ago. It might be the same individual, but their attitudes and behaviors have certainly changed. You know, as I say, it’s a very small community, I’m looking forward to judging various loyalty awards over the coming months, reading for me and case studies. But I’ll just be really interesting to see what’s been going on in the industry over the last 18 months. Cause I think, you know, we’ve all missed the opportunity to network and get in a room and, and share ideas and thoughts.
Andrea Burchett

00:43:03
So, so yeah, so I’m looking forward to meeting more people in person over the coming months, as we, as we hopefully get a little bit back to the semblance of normality.
Paula Thomas

00:43:13
Wonderful. Well, I will certainly be attending the awards in London, so we will definitely have a proper chance absolutely. To reconnect. So again, listeners don’t we’ll know we’ve been there, making sure everybody gets their entries in. So good luck with the judging. I’ve done it myself in the past. It’s absolutely fascinating. A lot of work of course, but definitely very inspiring. So listen with all of that said, Andrea, I want to wish you every success with Virgin Red, as you continue with your global expansion, it’s an extraordinary story. So Andrea Burchette international and strategic development director at Virgin Red. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.
Andrea Burchett

00:43:51
Thank you, Paula. It’s been great. Having time with you. Talk to you seen
Paula Thomas

00:43:57
This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer, the world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing use insights and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which has already certified over 245 executives in 27 countries, a certified loyalty marketing professionals for more information, check out thewisemarketer.com and loyaltyacademy.org.
Paula Thomas

00:44:38
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