Audio Transcript

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 sponsored by Comark a global provider of innovative software products and business services. Comox platform is used by leading brands across all industries to drive their customer loyalty powered by AI and machine learning. Comark technologies allow you to build, run and manage personalized loyalty programs and product offers.
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With ease. For more information, please visit comark.com. Hello, and welcome to episode 106 of let’s talk loyalty it’s May 13th. So first of all, eat Mubarak to those of my listeners who are celebrating as many of you know, I love to chat with global voices of loyalty. So today my guest is in South Africa, a country with a very advanced well-educated and highly competitive loyalty industry. I’m chatting to Brett Cameron, who is head of rewards at old mutual, a premium South African financial services group with operations in 14 markets.
1m 31s
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In today’s show, we discuss their challenge to build something innovative in such a competitive market and how their loyalty program is attracting new insurance customers, as well as retaining the others. So, Brett, tell me, what is your favorite loyalty statistic?
1m 54s
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It’s going to be the frequency of engagement, particularly for, for this type of industry where we work in insurance and financial services, our financial advisors, if they’re lucky, engage with our customers at least once a year, and we need more frequent engagement with our customers on loyalty program is as a good strategy to, to enable that if we can get to customers interacting with us weekly or daily, that’s a huge shift from what they used to.
2m 27s
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Yeah, yeah, you’re absolutely right. I know for me, the insurance company, I tend to, you know, not look forward to those phone calls that the honest, you know, it’s usually I have to pay money or, you know, figure something out. So you’re absolutely right. If there’s them, if there’s more pleasant ways to connect with each other, I think that’s it. That’s a good goal. So the obvious question, I suppose then is how are you going about achieving that from a loyalty perspective?
2m 48s
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Yeah, that’s, that’s really interesting for us and it’s been the history behind the philosophy of our whole program. We recognize it’s, it’s quite hard to build engagement around our products. There may be boring and maybe not something that people look forward to engaging around. And so the trick for us has been to almost borrow other own activities from a sort of a parallel domain to create those engagement activities. And, and for us, we built it around helping people with their financial wellbeing, a range of things from, from engaging in financial education, learning more about your finances, using various tools and calculators that we would give to people to, to gain insight into their financial position.
3m 40s
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And ultimately we were trying to shift our customer’s financial behavior on a day to day basis. So they realized some, some benefit out of this rewards proposition we take to them as well. Yeah,
3m 53s
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Absolutely. And again, listeners around the world, Brett, mightn’t be as familiar with the South African loyalty markets, but we’ve talked about it before. You’re obviously based there, but certainly from my perspective, it’s an extraordinarily mature and commercial and effective part of the world where consumers have been, I suppose, lucky to benefit from programs like yours for maybe I think 20, 25 years. So they’re very, I would say educated on the loyalty business. So I know you told me before, you know, you’ve, you’ve learned from that you you’ve leveraged it. It’s not your first attempt at, as building a rewards program if I’m right. Yeah.
4m 32s
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Yeah. So in South Africa, I think your loyalty program programs are very popular in general and in financial services, we’ve got some really, really strong competitors who have been innovating in the loyalty space, discovery vitality as the famous program in the insurance industry. If these e-bikes as are our strong program in the, in the banking space and they launched in the late nineties and as a company, our mutuals watched them over the years and tried to think about how to respond then. So yeah, this is now effectively, the third time we’ve made a serious attempt at trying to go onto program.
5m 12s
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And the first time we pulled it off the ground and great to be competing in the race now.
5m 18s
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Absolutely. So it’s, it’s what, it’s two and a half years old. Now, I think you said the, the old mutual rewards program.
5m 24s
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Yeah. We launched in 2018. We’ve now grown to a million members, which has been quite rapid to Africa. I mean, our sights are set much higher. I think the largest programs in South Africa have memberships around 10 million members. So one day in the future we’ll get to that sort of scale.
5m 46s
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Absolutely. And again, I suppose, you know, I, wasn’t familiar with old mutual, you know, specifically as a company and I think it’s just extraordinary. The company has 175 years old. So one to just acknowledge the, the incredible business that, that you’re working for. And, and also for being very honest, you know, I think that there’s very few companies get it up slowly, right? The first time they launched loyalty, but it’s usually an evolution, I think in my experience of, you know, just, you know, evolving a proposition, but you know, to, to, to kind of have a third go and to be finally getting it working, I think you must be super proud.
6m 23s
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Yeah. That’s great to have that out there. I think we’ve, we’ve got a lots of learning to do and a lot of the development to do to catch up with some of our competitors, but yeah, it’s great to be able to start cutting blocks. And I think it’s a re brings a really interesting dimension to the business. Things that I think will be enabled us to innovate in very interesting ways in, in years to come.
6m 47s
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Yeah. I think one of the things that really impressed me when we spoke before brush was the, the policy or the decision you made about who can join your program. And I think we all know that loyalty programs, primary function is to change behavior and to increase, you know, customer lifetime value. But actually you’ve opened it up much more broadly. And I think what you said to me is that you don’t even have to be a customer of old mutual to become a member of old mutual rewards. So I’d love you just to explain the thinking behind that and how that part of it is working.
7m 21s
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Yeah. When we were building our program, we were faced with that decision. So who do we, who do we allow to join? And what, what are the qualification criteria to join the program? And the first obvious answer is our customers and our customers, traditionally are people who have a product that we sell are paying us premiums, investing money with us. We realized actually we interact with lots of other customers who know our brands. They get financial advice from our financial advisors. They walk into our branches and they don’t always walk out of those interactions, having purchased the product. And so we said, well, why, why do we have to stick to this traditional definition?
8m 4s
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Why don’t we open up up our program more broadly, use these as opportunities, the rewards program, it’s an opportunity to, to build on these relationships that have been created. And then we said, well, actually, we’ve, we’ve got a proposition and this financial wellbeing, financial behavior change concept. That’s, that’s really what to anybody that’s in Africa. So it’s African joined the program and we can engage them on their financial wellbeing. We have to give away some rewards points for doing that. And hopefully down the line, some of these, these people that have joined our program will become customers because we’ve been able to raise their awareness, open their eyes to some of their financial needs and to, to build that relationship with them.
8m 49s
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That’s that I hope in time, they’ll pay us back by becoming a customer.
8m 54s
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Absolutely. You’ve earned their trust as well. Obviously then Brett, because, you know, we’ve often had the discussion on the show before about, you know, who goes first, essentially because there’s, there was a great statistic. Somebody mentioned about the, the intention or expectation of a loyalty program is as we said, you know, for customers to, to, to buy more and stay with you longer. But actually what customers think loyalty programs are for is for the company to demonstrate loyalty to them. So I think there is this slight confusion, I think between customers and brands as to, you know, who’s paying for this and how is it supposed to all work, you know, and who’s going to come out on the upside, but it sounds like all mutual.
9m 36s
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You, you, you’re very clear on that and you’re there to add value.
9m 40s
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You remind me of some of the initial research. We did listen, customer focus groups, and we were, we were presenting kind of the proposition to customers and all the amazing things the customers could get and customers on. They’re not stupid. They’re not, they would like everything for free. They would like their free lunch, but they also realized that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So in the research they’re asking, well, what’s the, what’s the catch? Why, why is obviously giving us away? And you, you almost need to be quite transparent with customers about what is the, what’s the trade-off, what’s the deal that they are turning into because they do realize that that yes, they are expecting something, something rewarding, but the customers, the companies aren’t just giving handouts that there, they do have businesses to run and the next trade off.
10m 33s
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So we often that’s been quite common in many of, you know, industry in South Africa of all press to talk about a shared value model that we, we wanted to create value both for our customers and for, and for the business and any value that we created for the business. We wanted to share back with our customers. And it does, does give them something back, but it also is something that we can leverage to, to create the incentives that loyalty programs bring.
11m 3s
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Yeah. And again, you’re way ahead, because I have now seen in the UK for example, that there are, you know, for example, and no strings attached consultations being offered to, you know, to, to potential customers. And again, probably a little bit of cynicism in the beginning, but genuinely it works for both parties and genuinely it’s a shared value because if I do get good advice, then I feel comfortable. Okay. I might move my business to these people, but I’m not prepared to take that leap until they’ve, I suppose, proven themselves first.
11m 33s
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Yeah. It doesn’t have to be a direct trade-off it’s in the spirit of working together and working in people’s best interests. Yeah.
11m 42s
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Yeah. Yeah. And I think the number that you gave me again, if you, if you’re happy to share it and about 20% of your members at the moment are not customers. So, so it is a significant percentage been good and
11m 54s
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What’s really been heartening for us is to see how many of those, those members who aren’t customers becoming customers. And we have some amazing stories. People who’ve, who’ve engaged with our financial education and all the tools that we’ve, we’ve offered them. And at the end of the process, we’ll say, wow, this has really opened my eyes. I, I now know what financial needs I have. Interestingly, when they sit down with our financial advisors though, they’re probably some of the best customers because they want to know what they want. And they actually quite easy for our biases to sell to. So,
12m 30s
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Wow. And did the financial education exist before the loyalty program brash or is it, is it purely part of the loyalty program
12m 39s
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That existed before or mutual has done lots of things with financial education over the years, some of the classroom-based in this test, we leveraged a digital financial education capability. What we found with the royalties program spaces was quite difficult to get customers, to engage with financial education, somebody who’s taking care of their finances. Generally. It’s not a easy thing to attract people to, but adding a few awards and telling people, you can earn a few rewards points for engaging. This has been a dramatic shift in the level of people who are engaging with earth message cashmere offerings.
13m 21s
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Wow, you’re right. It’s something I always kind of put off or a, you know, almost resent doing because you know, it’s just, I think I expect to be confused. So it’s a well done on putting that extra incentive in place because I probably need someone like that to educate me. And is it mainly video-based then Brett, in terms of the loyalty, certainly the, I think you call it money. Versity. Am I right?
13m 43s
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Yeah. As a university was the platform that had been built with a little animation studio here in Cape town that there’s a lot of education based animation development. And that, that does a really good job of it. But to me, that’s part of the, the full education. There are so many aspects of learning about your finances. Part of it is, is consuming some content watching videos and reading articles, but we also put a bit of emphasis on practical application giving, giving our customers members tools that they can use to get insights.
14m 24s
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One of my exciting sort of startup ventures has been a little budgeting app that we built in South Africa, where we at that’s one of those apps that links into your bank accounts and pulls all your transactions and automatically populates a budget for you. So that’s an app that’s on mutual owns 22 seven we’ve added rewards on to budgeting in 22 seven. And so we’re giving, giving our members very practical tools where they can actually do do things and then take action and get insight and learning from that as well.
15m 6s
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Okay. And 22 seven now forgive me, but it’s 24 seven, not water. What I would expect what’s missing or am I just being pedantic?
15m 21s
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That was 22 divided by seven, which is a short way of writing that three, that mathematical symbol PI
15m 30s
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Oh, okay. Much clever than me. Okay. Okay. So you can tell I’m not the Muslim. Okay. Okay. Well, I’m glad you’ve explained that to me. And that’s brilliant. And I suppose just in general then Brett, as I said, I love the fact that it is around education, shared value for members and not just customers. And I would love to, and just to get for listeners a sense of, you know, exactly the, the business areas that’s covered with the rewards program, because I was looking on the website and there’s actually a huge variety of things. So you’ve mentioned the tools, we’ve mentioned money Versity, but there’s also, I suppose, product areas and that kind of side of the, the, the loyalty program as well.
16m 13s
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Absolutely. And that’s, that’s the core of all Mutual’s businesses. There is the products we take to market. Our mutual is historically been a, a, an insurance and investment company, but these days is more of a broad financial services company getting into the banking space. We do short term insurance, pretty much every financial need that customer could have our mutual is, is able to, to provide for them. And that’s been one of our big success factors is for such a broad organization dealing with so many different products, so many different customers, our mutual oxidized business from the lowest income customer in South Africa to the highest income customer.
16m 60s
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It was important for our success that we did. We created a program that reached across the group that would be quite easy to build a program that applied to one product set or one customer segment, but to be able to integrate everything into one program was, was really critical for us and label us to build scale. It will enable us to leverage the program more effectively across the group. And it’s probably drive, enables us to drive kind of what I see as our primary definition of loyalty is like encouraging customers to come back and purchase from us again, not just the same product they might’ve bought before, but a product in a new, different, new category, a new financial, new products to do more business all across all.
17m 48s
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Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
17m 50s
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Lovely. And I know you’re five tiers, isn’t it? In the rewards program, Brett.
17m 54s
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Yeah. So while we have the primary driver of values is points that you can spend. So the Queen’s currency, we do have a tiering system. Five tiers are based on the number of financial needs that you have with our mutual. And as you have, as you meet more financial needs, you, you earn more points customers, a percentage of every premium, they pay back in points and the top customers get quite significant percentages of every payment back then.
18m 29s
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Wonderful. And I saw you also talking about new channels coming to market, and a new app I know is coming and quartz app, one of my favorite ad tools and also another favorite of mine at USSD, which I know lots of listeners may not be familiar with. So, so I wanted to just get a sense from you, how important you think USSD is. And maybe even if you don’t mind explaining it, Brett, because I think it’s something and very dominant in Africa, but not really in other parts of the world.
18m 59s
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Sure. Yeah. I’ll program straight digital. So all these digital interaction channels are really critical for us. USSD is, is something new that for us to go, but it’s been been around in Africa for many, many, many years. It’s very popular in banking and programs if you have any, but also also the mobile networks use it very actively, basically what it is. It’s a sort of a short text message service where you, you, you dump the Darla string of numbers and then it presents you with her, the text text interface, where you can choose options when you itemize the new item to, and it, I think it’s used because it’s, the billing works slightly differently.
19m 49s
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It’s based on the voice minutes of your cell phone contract rather than using data. And it’s, it’s very effective database type interactions in areas where there’s maybe poor connectivity and a traditional website might struggle to load. So you can assess to be very effective across Africa where, where data connect to it. You might be a challenge. So customers in Africa are quite some well-versed and using USSD for just going on to their mobile network buying air time. And in many markets doing, doing banking, being able to see their banking balance, to be able to make payments to all those types of transactions and, and increasingly loyalty programs are leveraging that capability.
20m 42s
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So what were you going to allow our customers to do is to be able to, to file USSD see their status on the program, the TLR on the points they status, they have to be able to redeem those points. Yeah,
20m 57s
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Lovely. Yeah. And I know again, just from talking to various people in various countries and not even in South Africa, actually in, in perhaps less developed countries, I think for, from a brand’s perspective, you know, some of them were concerned that it would be seen as, you know, maybe a step backwards because it’s, it’s quite a data technology. And, but certainly my view is, you know, it very much does cater to, you know, people maybe who don’t even have a smartphone. So they have an older, you know, a dumb phone as we used to call it us in the telcos industry. So it does make a loyalty program extremely accessible. And as you said, customers in all of Africa really know that function and it’s very intuitive.
21m 38s
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Like once you’ve got the menu numbers, people know how to use it. So I really do think it’s a good option for loyalty programs. I think it’s fantastic that you’re including it.
21m 46s
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Yeah, exactly. And then, yeah, we’re pulling WhatsApp in parallel, which has very similar functionality in a, probably more modern interface, but a it’s going to work a very similar way it’s presented menus and allow customers to redeem their points via WhatsApp. I think it’s going to be very exciting to hear. Yeah.
22m 5s
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Wonderful. Sure. Well at your, well, what’s your timeframe on that part of it, Brett?
22m 10s
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So some of it’s already live. We can, our customers can already see the points balance on all these channels and then the next few weeks, the redemption part of it will be alive as well. So,
22m 21s
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Wow. Wow. I’ve been, I’ve been talking a lot about WhatsApp recently and there’s not many people even at that stage that you’re at bridge in terms of having that the points balances available. So I’m so well done on getting that part life was, was it complex? Can I ask
22m 37s
1

There was, it took a while to get the baseline technologies in place, but to actually do the development has been, been quite Swift. So we’ll have to see if it’s easy to keep using them. Maybe we’ll, we’ll find other uses for it.
22m 55s
2

I’m sure you will. Absolutely. I will be playing close attention. And my final question for you then is I saw that you had mentioned somewhere about the next phase of your partnerships. I know you have lots of partnerships already and for the old mutual rewards program, and I saw you talking about points for and becoming physically fit or maintaining your fitness, which again, I know it’s not the first time it’s been done in South Africa, but I love to see that you are building that as well as behavior incentive into your own business and into your own program.
23m 28s
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Yeah. So I’ll be focused on the financial wellbeing and that many of our competitors have a, a strong elements of health and fitness and their programs. So as an insurance company, it’s something very important for us to do and are we are going to be developing that after the next few years for now, for now we’re giving some back customers some additional value if they’re participating in fitness events and endurance activities, and it’s, it’s something we’re going to continue to expand on into the, into the coming coming year. So,
24m 3s
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Yeah, and I definitely think again, as we please, God emerged from this pandemic sometime soon, you know, physical health will only become more important, but I also think things like mental health as well. So I’m sure that’s on your roadmap as well, because again, it’s happening in other kind of loyalty programs. And I know you’re, you’re looking globally, but I think it’s important for all of us to kind of see what we can do to support our members and our customers in ways that, you know, particularly aren’t directly relevant to your business as you’ve said, but at the same time it does, you know, just respect them, I suppose, as human beings and, and supports them overall.
24m 39s
1

Yeah, absolutely. And I come back, comes back to that shared value at the end of the day, if we can create for our customers, not just by giving them points, but also to be, to create solutions that that encourages could maybe, or, and behavior change customers are very interested in engaging with, with those types of propositions.
25m 1s
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For sure. Absolutely. Well, listen, that’s all the questions Brett I have from my side. And it’s clear, you’re doing amazing work with them, a million members two and a half years in and, and really feels like you’re, you’re building something now that’s working for you. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention before we wrap up?
25m 19s
1

I think, yeah, it’s been a really exciting journey and great to be part in an interview like this. I think there’s so much that we can, we can learn from each other. It’s, it’s actually been really interesting talking to you and listening to some of your other podcasts right now. We are all in very much a surplus similar situation, managing these programs and learning from each other. Yeah. I look forward to listening to more, more kind of interviews and, and seeing what I can borrow from some of your, your other podcasts for future.
25m 55s
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Well, you know what, Brett, you know, that there’s a phrase of heritage in another industry called steal with pride or copy with pride. And that’s absolutely what this show is totally here to do because none of us have all the answers. And at the end of the day, somebody is bound to found solutions that we all need. So, so I definitely hope it’s useful. And so in closing I’ll, first of all, thank our friends in Comark for introducing us. I know you’ve been doing great work with them over the past number of years. And from my side, I just want to thank you for your time, for your thoughts and for your amazing work. So Brett Cameron, head of rewards at old mutual, thank you so much from let’s talk loyalty to today.
26m 37s
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This show is sponsored by the wise market here. The world’s most popular source of loyalty, marketing news insights and research. The wines marketeer also offers loyalty marketing training through its loyalty Academy, which has already certified over 170 executives in 20 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals. For more information, check out the wise market, tier.com and loyalty academy.org. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of let’s talk loyalty. If you’d like me to send you the latest show each week, simply sign up for the show newsletter on let’s talk loyalty.com and I’ll send you the latest episode to your inbox every Thursday, or just head to your favorite podcast platform.
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