Todays’ guest is a nationally recognized, award-winning relationship marketing expert in the United States, whose agency has created or managed loyalty programs for brands like NASCAR, PetSmart, GNC and Chipotle.
You will hear some powerful ideas around the emergence of some new demographic trends, the business of “live shopping” and the power of Booktok which are important across all global markets.
Paula: 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 from loyalty specialists around the world.
This show is brought to you by the Loyalty & Awards Conference, the leading annual event for loyalty professionals in the travel industry. Make sure to join us this year from the 9th to the 11th of October in Rio de Janeiro, for the perfect mix of inspiring content and exciting awards. Check out loyalty&awards.com for more information and to register.
Hello and welcome to this episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty. My guest today is Jenn McMillen. A nationally recognized an award-winning relationship marketing expert in the United States, whose agency Incendio has created or managed loyalty programs for brands like NASCAR, PetSmart, GNC, and Chipotle.
Now, many of you know that I love learning about emerging trends in marketing. As they offer exciting possibilities for us to drive innovation in our loyalty programs. In today’s conversation, Jenn shares some powerful ideas around the emergence of some new demographic trends, the business of live shopping. And also the power of Booktok, and she explains why these trends are important both in the United States market, as well as for all of you listening around the world.
I hope you enjoy my conversation with Jenn McMillen from Incendio.
So Jenn, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty.
Jenn: Thank you for having me.
Paula: It’s gonna be an exciting conversation, Jenn, when I looked at our LinkedIns, I discovered we have 238 people in common. Would you believe.
Jenn: Only 238. Okay.
Paula: Totally crazy. Yeah. It’s a small world in loyalty. I almost can’t believe we haven’t met before, but I think we’re gonna have a very interesting conversation, uh, based on your incredible career and all of the work you’ve done for some of the biggest brands in the United States, which are gonna tell us a bit about. But before we get into talking, Um, all of these exciting case studies, I guess, and future trends. As you know, I always love to ask my guests about their own personal favorite loyalty program so that I can get a sense of what you admire both personally and professionally. So tell me, Jen, what is your favorite loyalty program?
Jenn: All right. So I wanna start out by saying that I’m executive platinum on American Airlines, so Oh my God. Wow. Yes. Um, so as I call it, I’m Queen of the dung heap. So, uh, yeah, they’re not my favorite loyalty program despite the fact that I am top tier in their program. Wow. Um, Oh yeah, I know. So my favorite loyalty program is actually hotels.com, which I think would probably surprise people.
Uh, but I used to be, I was in Marriott’s program for a long time and I hit top tier. Right. And then I was in Hilton’s program and I hit top tier. And what happened one day was I actually, I woke up in a hotel room and I couldn’t remember where I was. Oh no. Because Right. And when you travel so much, yeah.
The root of the problem was that everything looks the same. Yeah. And so, yeah, so, and then I just, I was like, you know what? I have a craving for variety. Yeah. And, uh, so I actually switched over to hotels.com. Yeah. Which of course has Marriott properties, Hilton properties, everything. But, um, I, I think for me now, because I’ve traveled so much, I mean, you know, in your, in your twenties and you think travel is so glamorous.
Oh yeah. Um, yeah. And staying in a hotel room as a treat, yeah. I’m way past that point in my life. So, um, for me now it’s about finding like a little bit more like the hidden gems and, and because, you know, ho the way that hotels, uh, hotels dot com’s program is structured Mm, it’s after 10 visits, they average your visits and then they give you one night of credit based on the average of those.
Oh, nice. And so, yeah. And so for me, um, you know, it’s been wonderful because, uh, like the last time I went to Amsterdam on vacation mm-hmm. Um, I picked just weird, fun, crazy hotels. And, uh, my entire hotel side of the vacation was actually covered by all of my hotels.com nights. Wow. Um, yeah. So for me, again, I’m, I’m using, I’m doing what a lot of business travelers do.
I take my business travel, right? Yeah. Suck it. And then use all the perks, you know, in the travel programs to actually go on vacation.
Paula: Wow. But I have the same experience, Jen, in terms of, first of all, business travel. Sounds fabulous. Um, I was in Paris, Lisbon, and Madrid, I can’t even remember now in October, November and December last year.
And honestly, like, I, I, you know, was exhausted. I got sick. I was just like, it wasn’t fun, uh, because I was there to work hard and loved the work. But, uh, I totally agree. Um, business. Deserve exceptional rewards. So it’s super interesting to see what hotels.com is doing in terms of the simplicity, it sounds like that’s actually the most compelling part for you, because of course you could find boutique hotels anywhere if you just went and did a Google search for any city.
But it’s the fact, it’s that simplicity and you know what to expect in terms of your.
Jenn: Mm-hmm. They also help you with discovery, which I really like. And so, you know, they’ll send out, uh, one or two emails a week and it’s like, you know, the 12 best boutique hotels in New York City. Wow. Something like that.
And beautiful. Yeah. And again, it is then that’s what makes it fun, you know, for when you travel so much is it’s the novelty of it. And, uh, like. Uh, so I’m actually getting, uh, married this year. Congratulations. Thank you. And, um, we’re getting married out of town. Mm-hmm. And so every time we go, we stayed a different hotel and, and that’s what’s actually been kind of, kind of fun because we wanted to stay at a big variety so that we could recommend to our guests.
Um, who are well cool. Basically everybody’s at a different budget level, right? Yeah. So we’ve stayed at three stars, four stars and fives. Mm-hmm. And, and that actually has been kinda fun. Um, you know, because, you know, you kinda get in a certain groove. Yeah. And, um, and so being able to like, and again, we’d stay for a week and so we’d switch hotels and stay at three different properties during that whole week, you know, while we were down doing the planning.
But, um, but that’s what makes it fun, right? Yeah. And a variety is the spice of life. And, uh, you know, and we’re in a better position to help, you know, make recommendations on something that might be, you know, totally better fit for certain
Paula: travelers. You know what I mean? So, yeah. I would totally be coming to you for recommendations, so that’s awesome.
Jenn: me, that’s anything.
Paula: But also what I like about what you said, Jen, is um, the power of content for the discoverability side. Yeah. And what I’m starting to hear coming through and I’m kind of, you know, teasing it out I guess as much as possible, but there are so many lever. That are available to loyalty professionals.
Mm-hmm. And we all about know about our points. Our prizes are subscription and they’re all amazing. But the differentiator is sometimes the thoughtfulness that a brand might put in and go, have you thought about going to this destination or this incredible hotel? So is that something that you are seeing coming through in your agency and the client work that you.
Jenn: You know, I, what I’m seeing is that there are companies that are using data very well. Mm-hmm. And there are companies that aren’t. And for the ones that are using data, well, that’s where that differentiated experience is coming through. And, uh, you know, I mean, it, it’s, you know, some of the best ones out there, um, are like the beauty brands and, you know, like for instance, I mean, they can ask you three questions and can completely, basically triangulate you mm-hmm.
As a customer. You know, without doing any other work. And, you know, and what they’re doing right, is they’re using that data, you know, to to, to personalize your experience right out of the gate. Yeah. And, um, so I think that’s incredibly interesting. And, um, so they’re doing it well. But there’s other companies, uh, you know, because, you know, we’re loyalty program professionals on my team.
Sure. And so we sign up for every program that’s out there. Yeah. And there’s one program in particular where we, on purpose, two of us, We sat side by side and we filled out our profiles and we did them completely opposite of each other just to see what kind of marketing we would get. Yeah. And, um, no differentiation.
Oh, I mean, it just was like, okay, so you know, the, the promise to consumers right, is if you give us your data, right? Yeah. The quid pro quo is that we will use that data to make your experience more personalized and more relevant. And in some brands it’s happening. Some brands it.
Paula: Totally. Totally. So tell us about your background, Jen.
How did you fall in love with this industry that so many of us really do love and feel so passionately about? Um, because I think it gives us a unique opportunity to be loyal to our customers. And of course then there’s the commercial benefit, hopefully, uh, not always, but um, certainly if we bring professionals in, there will be.
But how did you get started in this?
Jenn: I will tell you my story, but it’s gonna totally date me. Oh, no, that’s, um, which is fine. But, um, so I, I grew up actually as a very classically trained database marketer, and, uh, we had a program that we were actually running for. Okay. So again, this is way back, right? So people who are like under like 35 are not even gonna like, know what this is, right?
But, um, we were running a program for the baby bells, and so this is back when each, uh, you know, like phone system, you know, was confined to its own state, you know, uh, this was right when cell phones were just hitting the scene. Mm-hmm. And, uh, number of portability did not exist at the time. I mean, all, all these things, right.
And so, um, I was running the, the, um, the direct mail side of these programs. And then kind of what fell into my lap was the administration of the loyalty program aspect where we gave points and, um, for usage, right? So if you were on a better plan, you got more points, you know, of course encouraging you to, you know, keep going up the food chain.
Um, but back when, okay, again, this is where it’s like, it’s like stone tablet time here. But it’s back when you would sign it for a plan of minutes, you know? Yeah, yeah. You would pay that amount for minutes and then if you went over, you actually got charged for it. Which, uh, you know, at some point there was that switch where it was like, wait a minute, hold on.
We’re actually penalizing people for using our product, so maybe we need to rethink this. Right. So, uh, but yeah, but, so that was my first foray and that was for, You know, all the, you know, like the at and ts, like all the regional at ts. Mm-hmm. And then, um, you know, as things progressed, then it turned into.
It turned, you know, turned into, uh, more of a national loyalty program, et cetera. But at the time, um, I was contacted by an agency called Briley and Partners, which, uh, I think a lot of people know, certainly in the States. Yeah, yeah. And, uh, they asked me if I would come to Dallas and interview with them, but they wouldn’t tell me what client it was.
Oh. And so I had to sign this NDA and, um, but at the time, okay, remember this is like the mid 90. Right. There were not a lot of people who even had loyalty program experience. Sure. And so, um, what it turned out, it was for Blockbuster. And so if you remember Blockbuster Awards, um, that launched way back, that launched, actually I can tell you the exact date, but it launched in 1998 and um, it was one of the first programs that was out there that wasn’t a travel program.
Right. Because you remember like, you know Yeah. All the airlines and all the hotels had. But the retailers relatively new foray and uh, so yeah. So that was, so I was, um, on the team that built Blockbuster rewards and Cool. Um, yeah. Yeah. I was 27 years old when that happened. Yeah. And, um, I am now not 27.
And most people won’t even know the Blockbuster brand I do. So I think we’re of a similar vintage Jen.
Jenn: Yeah. I was like, it’s one of those dead brands on my resume, but there’s one.
Paula: There’s one left. I saw that on your profile. That’s incredible. And then GameStop, I know was a huge one for you as well. So tell us about the work you did with them building that very incredible program.
Jenn: Yes, I would say GameStop was the, is the best job that I ever had on the corporate side. And it was just, it was such a good match for my personality and just such a good match for what the business wanted. And, um, you know, GameStop at the time, even when I joined GameStop, and that was in 2009, there was a lot of talk that GameStop was gonna be the next.
Blockbuster Right. Ironically that it was gonna, you know, go, go the way of the dinosaurs. And, um, so what I had been, what I was brought in to do my challenge right, was uh, we are gonna give you a year to build a best in class loyalty program. Wow. And, um, I will tell you, I interviewed, Um, uh, the CEO o at the time did not want someone like me on team, on staff.
Oh, no. Cause he wanted someone, he just, he felt we just put more money against stores. Yeah. And we’ll just keep, we’ll just keep building stores and that will offset this. Yeah. And eventually the, uh, the rest of the senior team was like, no, I, I promise you this will be a good thing. And so I interviewed with, with the then c e o six times, and, uh, finally I just, I finally said to, you know, Yeah, the, the person who would become my boss, I was like, listen, we just neither need to fish or cut bait because I just, I can’t keep doing this.
I mean, we’ve been doing, we’ve been interviewing for four months now, right? Yeah. Um, it worked out to be the best job I’ve ever had. And so, um, what I did was I built a program that was based on our most profitable activity. And at GameStop, um, that was, um, selling pre-owned games. And so, um, what Interesting.
Yeah. What we built. Yeah. So we built, uh, it’s called Power Up Rewards. Mm-hmm. Um, now there’s over 40 million people in the program last time we looked. Wow. Yeah. And, um, and it went global, which was great. Yeah. And mm-hmm. Um, you know, when I left, I left after five years, and, um, it. It was valued. I mean, again, our, our books were public, so this is not Okay.
Yeah. Not a surprise. But yeah. The auditors valued PowerUp rewards as a $250 million asset to the business. Wow. And, uh, so that was my job for five years. Yeah. And I loved it because it really did, um, it changed the way that we did business. Mm-hmm. Because when we started collecting data, right. And again, for anybody who runs a loyalty program, you know, the data is the stuff that makes you incr, it makes you smarter, better, faster.
Right. Data. Sure. And I mean, we were able to use it. Um, I remember talking to the real estate team and I said, if you think Google Maps changed your life, Wait until I show you what we can do with PowerUp data. Yeah. So for instance, I could take a pin and I could drop it across the United States and show you where literally every single member in the program was.
And so, you know, I could come to the real estate team and say things like, you know, I know you don’t think you can put a store in Tyler, Texas, but you can. And then based on the number of customers there, what we think you’ll do in sales, we, we could actually make a square foot recommendation. You know?
Wow. Yeah. Don’t be bigger than 700 square feet. And we could tell you based on the customer how to assort the store. So, I mean, you know, cuz if you had, like for instance, you’re located next to a college, probably a lot more Xbox, a lot more PlayStation, right? Yeah, yeah. If you’re gonna be in a mall and you’re right next to, you know, toys us Jimboree, you know, at the time.
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. More Nintendo, more plush, you know, that kind of stuff. And so not only were we able to use the loyalty program data to assort the store more smartly, Um, we were able to do that for our real estate decisions. Mm-hmm. And then we are also able to use that data as well to, um, when we started to acquire companies, um mm-hmm.
You know, we, we owned a bunch of wireless companies, that type of stuff. Again, this was using our customer data to show like where like, for instance, like the most tech engaged customers were. And so, um, Extraordinary. Just an extraordinary opportunity for me as a professional to build something from scratch.
Cuz you hardly ever get to do that. You know? A lot of us come in and you fix broken things. Yeah. But, um, it really, it really was a truly, this is a terrible pun, it was a game changer for GameStop. Um, you know, and it was, it was the darling of our earnings calls. And so to be in that position was great.
Yeah. And the day that, um, my CEO changed my nameplate, um, from, uh, you know, VP of loyalty to, uh, data. And that was, you know, I was like, that’s a good
Paula: thing. Amazing. Wow. Yeah. So how long, how long did it take him to, to change his mind, Jen? Because if it took six interviews, he was obviously very resistant and thankfully the, that the leadership team won him over.
Yeah. How long did it take, would you say? I mean, just anecdotally, of course, but you know, that’s a huge achievement to, to, first of all, I suppose, leverage loyalty data. In a commercially valuable way, like beyond the, the cost center that we’re often perceived as, um, you know, in terms of giving rewards and all of that kind of stuff.
But how long would it, uh, would you say it took him to really kind of go, okay, wow, this is working? Yeah.
Jenn: Um, well, I had a c e o change, uh, during my tenure. Okay. Okay. And the CEO who interviewed me became our chairman of the board. Okay. Um, still kept his office, was in the, was there every single day. And, um, he was a founder of the company.
Oh. So just incredibly invested. Yeah. And, uh, so the CEO o who took over, uh, was a gentleman named Paul Rains. Mm-hmm. And, um, and he, he was my champion. And, uh, I mean, truly. Truly wonderful in terms of the He got it executive support that I received. And for him, um, he had been at Home Depot and had been a member of the C-suite there.
Okay. And so he understood, right, yeah. What customer data can do. Oh, okay. And so, so yeah. So along with him and, uh, and my boss, uh, who was the CMO at the time mm-hmm. It just, it was. It was an incredibly supportive environment and they were very open to trying new things. And, uh, it, so just in terms of like my professional success there mm-hmm.
Um, I don’t know if I ever went back to the corporate side. I honestly don’t know if I could replicate it because just all the factors were perfect.
Paula: Totally. Totally. And that experience of being, as you said, the, the darling of the investor calls, I mean, that’s pretty special. Nobody has heard that on this show before.
Jenn: Yeah. Well, I will tell you, the investment community was very fond of PowerUp rewards because they could see what was happening. Okay. Um, I will tell you on the flip side, my finance team, um, treated me like the anti-Christ because, uh, even though I was generating, right. Yeah. Hundreds of millions in just fee revenue.
Right? Yeah. From the paid program. Yeah, of course. It’s a points program, so you’re accumulating liability on the books. Yeah. And um, there was one person in particular who would, who always wanted to let me know that I was responsible, just me. Right. For 65 million of liability on the books. Wow. And then I, I would to go, well, I’m just, you know, I’m just a dumb marketer.
So I would guess though that with the 10 million people who are paying $15 a year, uhhuh, that feels like more than 65 million. But I’m just in marketing, so you know, don’t look at me. Oh
Paula: God. Yeah. I mean, you
Jenn: know, again, That’s their job. It’s, that is their job. Totally. Their job.
Paula: And, um, you know, it’s an ongoing challenge.
We’re not gonna fix it. It’s so fast forward then Jen to, uh, to today. Tell us about the kind of work you do and some of the brands that you work with. Sure.
Jenn: So, uh, started Ennio almost eight years ago. Mm-hmm. And, um, I started Ennio after leaving, um, Michael’s arts and crafts. And so Michael’s was my job after I left GameStop.
Um, both companies in Dallas. And after five years, I felt like I needed, I felt like I could, had done what I could do right. At GameStop, and it was time to move on. Sure. And so, um, started in Sandio and, uh, it, I probably, actually, I probably would’ve never done it had I not. Michaels. Um, and the reason why, why I actually end up leaving Michaels was that, um, I had been recruited, uh, by this, the c e o and um, I started without a boss.
And when I did get a boss, uh, he told me in no uncertain terms that he was not a fan of loyalty programs. Ooh. And I was like, Hey, do you know why I’m here? Like, Hey, do you know why I was recruited to come here Uhhuh, but. All things for a reason. And so, um, I started Incen. Mm-hmm. Because it’s just, it’s is, it really is, it is so much fun to immerse with the client and, and help them, you know, figure out their issues and solve their problems.
Mm-hmm. And so, you know, what I like to tell people is that, um, you are probably experiencing our work, um, and you’ve, and you may not know it. Mm-hmm. And so, um, you know, we’ve had a hand in developing PetSmart treats. Mm-hmm. Um, Chipotle rewards, uh, our first client was g. So that’s a, like vitamin supplements retailer, uh, here in the States.
Yeah. And, um, so my, my GNC Rewards, that was our first client. That was the first thing that we did at incen, so I’m very proud of that. Amazing. But, um, I mean, if you’re in Dave and Buster’s program, uh, you’re experiencing our work. Um, we just launched a couple weeks ago, um, NASCAR fan rewards, and so congratulations.
Paula: Yeah. Thank you for that. I heard about that one. Yeah.
Jenn: Yeah. So, uh, yeah, so it is, I mean, and again, It’s, it’s always a pleasure. Yeah. You know, to be working with brands that people, uh, have, have heard of. Yeah. You know, like ABT and Purina and T G I, Fridays, Ruby Tuesdays, um, Sally Beauty, uh, JC Penney, I mean, so it’s, you know, devil.
Yeah, we got a lot, we got a lot out there and a lot going on. Yeah,
Paula: we got a lot going on and that’s why I wanted to talk to you, Jen, I guess, um, you know, uh, you know, for this show and this audience, which as you know, is global, so yes, it’s predominantly, or let’s say our, um, you know, 23% of the audience actually is the number are in the United States, but we’ve a lot of listeners in the UK and Australia.
And what I really love, uh, for anyone who has, I suppose, that role as you know, advisor consulting and strategy, is you truly get a perspective in terms of, you know, first of all, what is working for clients, uh, what are they asking for? Um, what are they concerned about, I guess is something which is also super interesting.
And there’s a lot of stuff like I know you write for Forbes for example, and you know, retail is obviously such a strong part of your kind of background and history. But just some of the topics that popped up on your work that I found fascinating were things like, uh, live shopping. I think we, I would really love to explore that with you.
Um, some of your insights around, uh, millennials. I know it’s a term which I’m guessing you made up, but somebody made up, which is I did not make it up.
Jenn: Yes. I I cannot claim credit for that. Okay, no worries.
Paula: It’s, it’s a good one. But, um, yeah, so I think there’s, there’s demographic insights around loyalty as well, Jen, that I would, I would love to explore with you so, Let’s start maybe with that part, if you don’t mind, because there does seem to be, you know, a lot of, I suppose, industry frustration that particularly millennials or Gen Z would often be, um, considered, um, almost immune or intolerant or, you know, just less engaged, I would say with loyalty programs.
Um, and that’s feedback we get a lot and it doesn’t always surprise me to be honest, because, you know, when I was the same age profile as that demographic. I wasn’t flying frequently, I wasn’t doing the hotel stays, and there wasn’t enough loyalty programs in other sectors to really capture my imagination.
So what are you hearing coming through and tell us about this terminology? Actually this, uh, this particular cohort that you wrote about in your article. Yes. Because I found it quite fascinating.
Jenn: Mm-hmm. So the term is millennial. Okay. And, uh, to put an age range on that one, it’s gonna be someone who is 23 to 33 years old.
Okay. And the, the interesting thing about millennials is that 48% of them are living at home with their parents. Mm-hmm. And so, again, think about where you were, right. Between the age of 23 and 33. Yeah. Um, You know, the first time I got married I was 27. Right. And so 23, yeah. I was, you know, relatively fresh outta college by 33.
I mean, and we had bought our first home. Right? Yeah. So that’s a pretty big swath. But, um, what’s happening is that for all these people who are living at home, right. And a lot of them returned during pandemic. Mm-hmm. And, um, and some of ’em are, they’re still, they’re still staying at home because, uh Right.
Inflation is crazy. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know if you’ve, like, I don’t know what, Uh, you know, to rent an apartment, uh, you know, around the world. But certainly we’re seeing a huge spike in what it costs, uh, you know, to rent, you know, here in the states. Like real estate’s kind of crazy right now. Sure. And, um, so what has happened, right, is you’ve got these people who are, uh, Generally college graduates and they have a lot of buying power and um, and because they’re not paying a mortgage or rent.
Yeah. Uh, one of the things that’s really interesting about what they’re doing is, um, they are actually, uh, okay. Weirdly, they’re driving the luxury market mm-hmm. As well as they’re driving the secondhand market. Mm-hmm. And so with luxury, what we’re seeing, right, just again, just from a straight up demographics perspective, is that these are the folks who are, uh, you know, coming into luxury.
About three to five years ahead of where previous generations were. And, uh, you know, so this is where, you know, like you see a lot of people, you know, again, you know the luxury goods. I mean, you’re seeing people with Gucci and Yeah. You know, everybody scarves and louton bags, you know, and that’s thing.
Paula: Yeah. Yeah. It’s quite incredible because certainly when I was 21 to, to 31, 33, that age profile you’re talking about, Jen, there was no question that anyone that, that I even would’ve met would be buying a Louis Vuitton or a Gucci Yes or anything, but, but I do see it in that age profile, so, So I was fascinated to, to, to see your article and to hear that insight that you know, that the fact that there are a lot more, you know, back living at home and again, I guess pred debt, you know, before we have mortgages, it probably is a good time to, to actually buy the fancy handbag that you might have hopefully for a long time.
But then what I also love that you pointed out is they also love to actually buy second. So it mightn’t be that they’re going into Dubai Mall in our example, but they might actually want to buy it on Etsy, um, or eBay or whatever the, the secondhand marketplace is. So, so it’s almost, in some ways a conflict, but at the same time it’s, it’s a very important insight, I think for loyalty marketers to be thinking about.
Oh my gosh.
Jenn: This is the generation that, you know, has grown up with a very different mentality, you know, than, you know, I think kind of our generation. And, um, you know, as I was talking to a friend of mine about this, it was, you know, I grew up, I I was in high school in the eighties and we all wanted to look the same.
Yeah. You know, I mean, every, but that was our, that was a con, very conformist mentality. And we all looked very similar. We shopped at the same places. Yeah. You know, and to kind of be outside the norm was, Yeah. Asking right to, to perhaps be singled out in a, maybe a good way, not a good way. Right. Yeah, sure.
And this generation, right? I mean, very much individuals. And so one of the things that has really taken off, especially during pandemic right, is the rise of secondhand shopping. Yeah. And you know, there’s so many services. You know, certainly, like I’m b really familiar with them in the States, but like services like Poshmark mm-hmm.
Thread up the real, real. Mm-hmm. And even as I throw those three out, each of those is hitting a different demographic. Right. I mean, thread up is like, kinda like your basic goods. Poshmark maybe in the middle with a little bit of luxury thrown in. Real, real is is designer stuff. And, um, you know, it’s, I think they just grew up a really different mentality and a about, you know, consumption as a whole.
Mm-hmm. And one of the really interesting things that I had seen, you know, during the holiday season was a statistic about pre pandemic, um, and post about. Um, what would you be, what would be your acceptance level of giving a gift that is known to be a secondhand gift? Oh, yeah. And it went from being 32% acceptable to 57% acceptable.
And so, again, when you think about, you know, all of these changes and how this generation coming up is very interested in sustainability. Yeah, they’re very interested in corporate values, making sure that they match their own. And, uh, you know, they’re not as materialistic. Um, they are definitely more focused on experiences.
Mm-hmm. But they’re part of their d n A as as a generation mm-hmm. Is this whole reuse, recycle, upcycle type thing. And that’s why secondhand has, has really just taken off like crazy.
Paula: Totally. Mm-hmm. And, and what, uh, what is their, uh, attitude towards loyalty programs, would you say? Jen, again, you know, given that, you know, we talked about that their buying power is very strong in some areas, maybe not as strong in other areas.
So do you see them wanting to engage with our industry? You know, can we, Can we design programs that can effectively, I suppose, um, really be personalized in an effective way? And I’m thinking specifically about maybe I think you’ve, you’ve got a few beauty retailers perhaps as clients. Um, and it strikes me that there are certain sectors like that where beauty is a huge part of what they expect from a retail brand.
Is that fair to say?
Jenn: That is fair to say because, you know, again, this is the generation that has grown up with exchanging. But their expectation is that if I give you my data, you must personalize and, you know, otherwise you’ve broken the social contract. And so, you know, again, what I see, and I’ve got, you know, several, uh, people in my life who fall into this like 23 to 25 year old, you know, uh, demo.
And they are, they’re just, uh, they’re just kind of starting out, right. You know, just getting their first apartments, that type of thing. And what I see with them, and again, I see this too in, you know, in the, in the data and the surveys that the industry does mm-hmm. Is that they know how to use loyalty programs and so for them, they’ve grown up with them.
Mm-hmm. Because now they’re so ubiquitous. Right. I mean, you know, when you’re dry cleaner and your yogurt shop have Dr have loyalty programs, you know, they’re, they’re everywhere. Right. Totally. You know, with all. P os systems out there. Now they’re all building in loyalty components, so it’s very easy, you know what I mean?
To scan your check, get points, et cetera. Yeah. So, uh, like if you’re in a restaurant, but, um, what I, what we see though is that they are not as brand loyal. Mm-hmm. And, uh, pandemic certainly through that, you know, into a curfuffle for many. And, um, but this demographic that these younger c consumer. They are very, very interested in the value proposition of loyalty programs.
Mm-hmm. And they’re very well versed in it, especially, um, you know, like when they’re getting immediate benefits. And so, uh, part of the national news this morning, which I thought was incredibly interesting, was that, um, Dunking Donuts, Starbucks and Chipotle have changed their programs. And these, these programs are incredibly popular, you know, with with people of this age group.
And, um, and they’re mad because, uh, yeah. You know, Starbucks, uh, all of them have, have switched their, uh, it, it costs more points, right? To get a reward devalue and. Um, you know, and again, and it’s, it’s happening because it’s, you know, there’s an inflation is happening, the cost of food is up, the cost of labor is up, so everything has to ch change, right?
Um, but like, what, I think it’s funny because what the, uh, the leap that they’re not making is well, you’re spending more, you know what I mean? And so, uh, yeah. You know, it’s, it’s happening on a commensurate basis, right? You’re spending more and the points just got, you know, a little bit, uh, you know, harder to use, right?
But, um, yeah. But no, I think it is. This generation was raised on them. And so they understand how to use them for their own personal benefit. And so what’s happening now, especially the ones, uh, again, this millennial group, right? They’re so interesting because, you know, they’re the ones who understand exactly how to get a free coffee out of Starbucks, a free sandwich.
A free burrito out of Chipotle. Yeah. And, um, and they’re using those as part of their daily lives. And so for them, right? Again, for all of us who’ve built and run programs, It’s a perk program, but what’s happened is it’s become so ingrained in their mentality that now it’s become, um, yeah. A it’s, yeah. I mean now for them it’s, it’s a,
Paula: um, a hygiene factor.
Dare I? Totally, totally. Yes. Yeah. What, what I do think they do, Jen, and correct me if I’m wrong, but. I do think they, they then share and tell each other. So I think the advocacy is huge. So it might be, yes, an expensive acquisition cost in terms of getting that first engagement. Uh, but I guess there is, um, yeah, huge shareability and I think that that’s an important insight as well for, you know, again, as much as they do want to be different and, and, you know, not be like us as you know, all looking and feeling the same.
But there is this, um, likability factor where I guess we all want people that we know and love to, to benefit from something that we have enjoyed. So, so I do think it works really well. Um, and the devaluation, I think I’ll nearly have to do a, a whole show just on that topic, Jen, because. It has happened here as well in Dubai with my, you know, most used program, uh, with, you know, with Emirates Airline and Skywards.
But in fairness to the team, um, certainly in the media, they have explained it well. Mm-hmm. They have talked about the fact that the, the points have been at the same redemption level for 10 years now. Um, so actually it is important that, um, that it does move in line with, with overall pricing and again, in favor of the frequent flyer.
Who, like you want to be able to avail. Um, and they probably have billions of points anyway, so, um, it’s less of an issue, uh, for people like that. So definitely a rapidly shifting market. Um, so much going on. And just before we finish on that topic, you’ve reminded me of one of my favorite blog articles that, uh, Seth Golden wrote, and I dunno if you know him, he’s a very.
Marketeer Cir inspired me to, to become a podcaster actually, but he talked about the next generation. Mm-hmm. And because we’ve come to the, the end of the alphabet, which I know is the name in Convention for Demographics, he did say that rather than going to Gen A for the next cohort, that it will probably, or he believes it should be Gen C.
See for Covid, see for carbon, see for climate, see for community. And I thought that’s genius. Yeah. So it’s, there is a lot going on, um, that we love talking about, of course. And, and, and really wanna stay connected to, so, so thank you for your insights on the millennials. I’ll make sure that we link to that article, um, in our show notes for this episode.
So let’s talk about live shopping, Jen. This is something that I’ve been fascinated by just for a couple of years now. Well, actually probably before that, the whole sh home shopping thing, we didn’t really have it in Ireland, but I know it was huge in the US and I was always like, I, I loved watching it. I don’t know why.
Um, but it seems that, um, lots of people, and I don’t know again, the demographics, but in terms of retail behavior, Um, it seems that there’s plenty of opportunity for, um, I suppose, hosted product demonstrations, which are broadcast on either social media Yes. Or specifically within mobile applications, I’m guessing.
Um, I think you mentioned one particularly that seem to be taking off, but tell us a bit about what are you hearing about this live shopping trend? Sounds super exciting.
Jenn: It is, uh, it, it’s the, it’s the next evolution. Right. And I think when it first came on the scene, and it certainly was happening before Covid, that uh, I think people were a little bit skeptical about it.
Yeah. But, uh, you know, all of a sudden when you can’t go shopping anymore Right. And our lives turned a little bit more inward and it went online. Yeah. I mean, lives. Stream shopping. Oh my gosh. Talk about like, of the moment. And it’s interesting because, um, so you know, as we watch, uh, certainly we watch, you know, a lot of beauty brands.
You know, we saw over the last, oh my gosh, uh, probably 10 years, right? That marketing kind of ratcheted down and community reviews Right. Started coming up. Yeah. Because course, it was, you know what you want to believe, right? You want to find someone who, you know, looks like you, same age, et cetera. They’re recommending products to you, they’re writing reviews.
Mm-hmm. And, you know, it’s this, it’s this distrust, right. Of brands and especially, you know, marketing, um, where they’re like, Nope, nope, you’re just feeding me messages that you want to feed me. But when you read reviews right from the community, yeah. That, that gives you some sense of comfort, right? I mean, that’s why like when you look at like, you know, eBay right?
You get these verified reviewers so you know that the person actually bought the product, that they’re not just being paid to shill. Yeah. And um, so I think livestream shopping was the next evolution of this because, um, you know, and again, for someone who’s not, you know, well-versed in it, I mean, this is where brands are using this to promote and sell products through.
You know, they’re digital platforms, right? Yeah. So like, as you said, like hosted shows and that type of thing. And you know, the aim of course is to provide consumers with that immersive experience, immersive and interactive experience because mm-hmm. You can ask questions. Mm-hmm. You know what I mean?
Mm-hmm. Like someone you know is talking about like, well, how does the jacket fit in your shoulders? You know what I mean? Or, you know, does, you know, this is cream, make you feel dry, you know, all those type of things. You know what I mean? And, and that’s where, you know, pe you’re, and encouraged of course to buy, you know, during the live stream, but I.
You know, again, as, as we, we know, we’re denied social interaction. Yeah. And being able, for instance, to go to a store right. And try something on. Um, this is the next best thing.
Paula: Totally. And, and we had one amazing example, Jen and I will get them back on the show. It was two years ago, and exactly to your point, it was a covid, um, requirement, and it was in China, and actually it was the duty free and, uh, Lagar, uh, Lagar dare, uh, pardon me, is the pronunciation of the company, but the, the actual airport remained open even though flights were not flying.
It was kind of bunkers. But again, they have all. Beautiful branded products. They have highly trained staff and they were standing around with nothing to do and they started and, and bizarrely, they had an Excel spreadsheet, apparently was the loyalty program, which is a little bit terrifying. But they started this live shopping.
Now I know China does everything in a very different way. It really inspired me and it certainly sounds like they were probably ahead of the US it sounds like, with this particular behavior, but for me, I, I actually think it’s super enjoyable to shop in this way, and I’ve no doubt that there’s loyalty programs again who are listening to this show, who will find that a very appealing idea.
Um, you know, like connect and actually, you know, maybe there’s point’s involved of course, with the purchase. Um, and I did see a great example recently. It wasn’t quite, uh, live shopping, but it was, uh, it was a different way of using loyalty through social media. And it was a a 10 minute Tik TikTok, which had Hilton Honors points if you watched until the end.
And I mean, it was just unbelievable. I talked about it on another show. I’ve been so taken with it, but Paris Hilton was in it. And just as a loyalty expert, I thought it was genius that I actually said, okay, I’ll take your challenge. I’ll spend 10 minutes, you know? Yeah, it’s gonna be fun. And it was.
Brilliant production, of course, as you can imagine. But this is the way I think, uh, loyalty programs have to go like beyond, you know, as I said at the beginning, the subscription programs and the points programs and the basics. Yes. You know, it’s, it’s, it has to be more engaging. Otherwise people won’t stick with it anymore.
Jenn: for you getting, uh, Hilton Honors points out of it, that is a tactic that we see, right? That’s coming up through loyalty programs, which, you know, has been coined, learned to earn. And it is, I love us. Yeah. Just, yeah, just sitting through, you know, yeah. Like a video, something like that. Um, you know, this is where, I mean, if you wanna talk about, you know, trends and loyalty program design, I.
Gamification is, is is finally having its moment. Right. In a big way. Totally. Yeah. Um, it has evolved beyond the open up the app and it’s the spin to win. Okay. No, it’s not that anymore. Right. I mean, you see that, but it’s not that anymore. Right. Yeah. But it’s really, it’s about engagement. Yeah. It’s about experiential elements.
Yeah, and it’s about exclusives and I mean, and the fact that, you know, now that we’ve definitely gone to a much more mobile forward world. I mean, that is the stuff that, you know, programs are getting, are putting out there to get you to engage. Totally. Because totally, like I said, I mean earlier, right? I mean, loyalty programs have become ubiquitous.
Totally. Totally. And so what, what is your stand for, right? Mm-hmm. How are you going to be different and make your program.
Paula: Absolutely. Yeah, and I like that term learn to earn as well, Jen, because we all know the, the, the traditional transactional earn and burn, and I can only imagine the complexity. I’m sure your, your team there in Incen are probably, you know, busy doing business cases around how do you justify incentivizing behavior, which is not related to, to a transaction, but.
Do you have any kind of comment around that? Is that something that brands are open to hearing about or they’ve been shocked? When you suggest that you reward something that doesn’t, doesn’t involve the, you know, the member spending money with you.
Jenn: No, uh, I mean, I’d like, like for instance, NASCAR fan rewards, which we just launched, uh, at the beginning of this month.
It’s a, it’s an engagement program. Mm-hmm. And I mean, there’s certainly, there’s transactional elements in it. For instance, um, like we’d love to see you go to a race, but, um, you are being rewarded in the exact same point value if you buy a grandstand. Or a suite. And it’s just more about, you know, um, engaging with the brand, just immersing, you know, in, in that culture.
Okay. And, you know, in, in finding more ways to engage with the sport as a whole. Mm-hmm. So, uh, you know, again, we’ve looked hard for examples. To benchmark, you know, when we were building the program. Mm-hmm. And we, we literally couldn’t find any, you know, that was Sure. Just as pure of an engagement play as we, as we possibly could make it because mm-hmm.
You know, uh, part of the reason for NASCAR is that, you know, we built this program for the casual fan mm-hmm. And, you know, for the person who may not be able to attend a race either financially or geographically. Mm-hmm. And so it’s meant to be a program that you can enjoy at home, you know? Mm-hmm.
Watching races from home, but also, you know, things. Playing, uh, NASCAR fantasy mm-hmm. Uh, by, you know, answering quiz questions. Mm-hmm. Uh, by, you know, just look looking at what, you know, their foundation pages and what they do for their charitable works. Yeah. And I mean, there’s, there’s, there’s a ton of ways to earn points that actually don’t involve spending money.
And, and again, that’s very, very purposeful because we want you to, you know, engage and, and start to really love, you know, NASCAR as a.
Paula: Absolutely. And there’s one great example, Jen. We had them on the show. It’s in South Africa. Totally different sector, but again, with this genius insight around, you know, wanting to be actually of service, um, depending on what that looks like.
But it’s a bank in South Africa called Old Mutual and they have financial education and you do get loyalty points if you watch their video. And learn about their products. And you don’t even have to be a customer of the bank. It’s, it’s quite extraordinary and it’s part, partly a, a CSR initiative. And again, it’s just a wonderful way to say, look, if these people ever do decide that they’re ready to take a bank account, they’re gonna take it with us.
Because we’ve taken care of them. So I think that’s absolutely wonderful. So definitely be excited to hear more about NASCAR awards as and when. Um, but listen, the final topic I wanted to ask you about in terms of these trends was I think what you described as a movement, uh, for, uh, the book industry and, uh, book talk.
So tell our listeners all around this, uh, huge trend, which I had never heard of.
Jenn: Yeah, so I got interested in book talk, um, which is, uh, again, you know, since we’re, you know, you’re listening to this, it’s hashtag uh, book B O O K T O K. Yeah. And it is the book platform of TikTok. And, uh, so we have a, uh, we work with books a million and second in Charles, uh, which are book sellers here in the States.
And, uh, as we were getting engaged with them, you can’t. Book talk. And so I went to Barnes and Noble. Mm-hmm. I went to half press books. I went to books A Million, and every bookstore out there has a book talk section. And it is because, um, it is, it’s almost like, again, the younger generation has discovered.
Hard, like actual physical books. Right. Wow. And, uh, cause again, you know, part of what we’re seeing a little bit is a backlash against screens, but that’s a, that’s a whole different topic. Yeah. But, um, you know, certainly during pandemic, I had to laugh because, you know, one of the folks that I spoke with, um, for the article that I wrote for Forbes was, um, uh, about, you know, what are you seeing with book talk?
And they’re like, okay. Sales of books that have been around forever. Like, there’s a book called The Notebook, right. And it is, they’ve actually made a movie out of it. I mean, the book has been around for, I wanna say 20 something years. Okay. Maybe even longer than that. Um, and the, the younger generation, like for them it’s the process of discovery and the Notebook was recommended and it has become, you think like, I can’t keep it on shelves.
Right. And it’s not a, it’s not a recently published book. Right. Yeah. So, Yeah, you know, you’re getting it like secondhand, but you know, there’s a lot of authors out there. Um, you know, one being a woman named Colleen Hoover and her. I think she owes her, uh, her career to book talk because she was a rather rather prolific writer before.
But, um, book Talk has, I mean, if you go to any of the displays or any of the tables in any of the bookstores mm-hmm. You know, I would say fully probably 30 to 50% of the books on the table are hers and they’re her back catalog. Wow. And so, but you know, the big piece of this is that it’s all about discovery And, um, and with book talk, you know, people are making recommendations to each other and, okay, this is where again, No amount of marketing from Colleen Hoover’s PR team is, is gonna, is gonna cause this spike, you know, amazing in the book chains across the country, you know?
And, um, and she had a book come out, uh, you know, towards the tail end of pandemic that, that just, that hit like crazy. Wow. And it was like weirdness. I was, uh, I was in New York City on the subway and all I saw. This certain book by her called Verity. And I was like, that’s crazy. It was in my bag too. So I was just, and you know, I was like, this is crazy.
But um, yeah, no. So the book talk, um, I think what it does, it taps in against that thrill of discovery, amazing recommendations by your peer group. And so that, again, like what I, you know, talked about with beauty, right? Yeah. It is. It’s having someone who feels authentic to you mm-hmm. And who has a real voice making recommendations for things they might think you’re like, not because they’re getting paid for it.
Yeah. You know what I mean? Or.
Paula: And I love the fact that actually it closes the loop with the real world, um, in a way that’s, that’s, I, I suppose, more appealing than purely, you know, the beauty industry where it can be, you know, I suppose a little bit superficial. It feels sometimes, but actually, you know, people getting excited about books is quite inspiring.
You know, um, I know there was one actually, uh, we, we talked off air actually a couple of weeks ago about, uh, the Peppers and Rogers book, which also I think was very close to your heart. And would you believe I’ve never read it, Jen. I felt so bad when I was, uh, realizing that. So I’m gonna go and order that.
I know it’s one of the original loyalty classics. So, just as a final comment, do you wanna mention that book, cuz I know it was really a, an important part of your journey in loyalty.
Jenn: Sure. So, um, there, there was a duo, um, that was kind of at the forefront of our industry, uh, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers.
And, uh, they put out a book, oh my gosh, I gotta say it’s gotta be the mid nineties at least. Right. And it, uh, it was, it’s called the one-to-One Future. And it was at the time incredibly revolutionary because they talked about, you know, being able to walk into your local coffee shop and your drink would be waiting for you, right?
Because they know you. Mm-hmm. And um, one of the examples I thought it was kind of crazy was, um, like going through a car wash, right where you put in, like, you know, your phone number. And they know exactly what you want for your car. You know what I mean? Sure. Whether it’s, you know, the, the triple coat, whatever, you know what I mean?
Or you know, like an extra pass with a dryer, whatever. Right. But that, that you’d already know. Right. And so it was all about using customer data to be known, to be recognized, and to personalize your experiences and, um, I read this as a, as a fledgling database marketer, right. You know, in the nineties. And I thought, this is what I wanna do for my career.
Because, you know, again, I mean the sexy stuff right in the eighties was, I mean, working for an ad agency, you know what I mean? To have like a big account like Coke or Budweiser, you know, whatever. Yeah. And um, for me it was definitely about the one-to-one. And so actually I did have a. Um, to meet, um, Don Peppers, and I said to him, your book changed the course of my career.
And I meant that, you know, very sincerely. And, uh, apparently a lot of people have said that to him. Wow. And, um, but it just, it, it really did because again, as I got into loyalty programs, you know, administration soon thereafter Right. Running, you know, the phone companies programs. Mm-hmm. It’s true because I mean, that, that’s where, you know, that’s what makes us responsive as, as humans and as consumers.
Is when you feel like something’s being recommended to you, you know, that is personalized, it is relevant to your situation. Yeah. And it feels like a good match, right? Totally. And I mean, and that’s, that’s the magic, that’s the magic of marketing. You know, where, uh, you know, some people would call that manipulative.
I call that opportunistic and damn delightful in most
Paula: instances. Well, I’m going with Magic Marketing, Jen. I think that’s perfect. So listen, uh, with those fabulous words, um, I don’t have any more questions, Jen. Are there any other, I suppose, big, uh, insights that you feel are important to mention to our audience of loyalty marketing professionals around the world as we wrap up?
Jenn: Uh, I actually, I read this on a billboard the other day and I thought it was incredibly relevant and it said, um, you don’t learn anything by talking
Jenn: Yeah. And, uh, so, you know, again, as, uh, you know, some days I think, you know, you think you know the path, but, um, as I always, you know, recommend to our clients, um, probably one of the best things that you can do is not only talk to the people in the field, right, who represent your brand mm-hmm.
But also talk to your customers because I think the answers that we all seek are out there. Sure. And, uh, you know, if you know where to look, but. You know, again, as I, I always said to my team, you know, I said, get out, get outta the building. You know, because you’re not learning anything sitting in your cube.
You know, go out there and experience the world and see what customers are actually really
Paula: doing. Fantastic. So, listen, Jen, where can people find you? If they want to reach out, they wanna connect, uh, where’s the best place for them to contact you?
Jenn: Sure. Well, uh, so of course we have a website, right? We are, we are a legit business, so everybody has a website and, um, ours is incen works.com.
Mm-hmm. And, uh, the word Incendio means fire in Spanish. Um, but if you are a Harry Potter fan, you will also recognize that as the spell for making fire. And, uh, so yeah, so Incendio Works is our web address, but I’m also pretty active on LinkedIn as well. Okay. And, uh, so I’m, I’m pretty easy to find under Jenn McMillen.
Paula: Fantastic. I wanna make sure, of course, to link to you as well in the show notes. So Jenn McMillen, Founder and Chief Accelerant at Incendio. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.
Jenn: Thank you.
Paula: This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer. The world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which is already certified, over 500 executives in 38 countries, as certified loyalty marketing professionals.
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