#542: Global Loyalty Marketing and Travel Trends with Mastercard

Today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty is created in partnership with our friends in Mastercard.

Our guest today is Kate Mescal-Pevzner, Senior Vice President of Global Cardholder Services for Mastercard, who joins us to share her insights on key trends in the global loyalty industry, as well as some incredibly exciting statistics from Mastercard on how people’s travel habits are changing.

While you won’t be surprised to hear that people are traveling more and more for unique experiences, it was fascinating to hear some of the reasons that people are choosing to fly – whether it’s to attend the concert of a superstar like Taylor Swift or something more unexpected like the recent solar eclipse in the United States!

With a truly global perspective on consumer insights, both from the data from their payments card business, as well as their flagship travel report from the Mastercard Economics Institute, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy listening and learning from Kate Mescal-Pezvner from Mastercard.

Show notes:

1) Kate Mescal-Pevzner

2) Mastercard

Audio Transcript

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. 

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Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty in partnership with our friends in MasterCard. My guest today is Kate Mescal Pevsner, Senior Vice President of Global Cardholder Services, who joins us to share her insights on key trends in the global loyalty industry as well as some incredibly exciting statistics from Mastercard on how people’s travel habits are changing.

While you won’t be surprised to hear that people are traveling more and more for unique experiences, it was fascinating to hear some of the reasons that people are choosing to fly. Whether it’s to attend the concert of a superstar like Taylor Swift or something more unexpected, like the recent solar eclipse in the United States. With a truly global perspective of the loyalty landscape and unique insights on consumer behavior, as well as their flagship travel report from the MasterCard Economics Institute, I’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy listening and learning from Kate Meskel Pevsner from MasterCard.

Kate Meskel Pevsner, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Kate: Thank you, Paula. Thank you so much for having me. Delighted to be  here.

Paula:  I know you listen to the show, Kate, so it’s also a delight for me to have you. So thank you for listening as well. It’s such an honor. 

Kate: Thank you. The content is great and I’m excited to be here. There’s so many exciting things happening in Loyalty. It’s great to both learn and share. 

Paula: Oh, totally. Yes. Well, you’re totally on our vibe, Kate. So, so yeah, let’s get straight into it. You have an amazing career in loyalty. We’re going to talk about today loads of insights to share with our audience.

But of course we have a standard opening question, which gives us a bit of a glimpse into your mind as a loyalty marketing professional. So I know, you know, this question super well. I know you’ve prepared an answer for us, so please do share with our audience. Kate, what is your favorite loyalty program?

Kate: Absolutely. So my favorite loyalty program goes back a number of years when I lived in London and I’ve always been very impressed with Ocado. It’s a UK based grocery delivery service. It’s not a points based program. It’s a subscription loyalty program. And their model is a bit like Amazon Prime for those who have that.

So it focuses on engagement options rather than points. So preferred delivery spots, surprise and delight gifts of products they know you like from your purchase history and it’s really strong recommendation engine. And for me, it was a great example of a company using data and personalization to build loyalty and create a fantastic customer experience. For me, it was how loyalty is really an outcome of using data wisely for consumers. So Ocado it is. 

Paula: Amazing. And you know, it’s not a name I hear that often, Kate. But the fact that it is subscription based and no points, I think first and foremost is incredibly impressive. 

Kate: Yes, absolutely. But you know, we’re seeing that more and more in loyalty, right? You’re building loyalty through engagement. At MasterCard, we talk about loyalty as an outcome that it takes more than points and rewards to build loyalty. And I think that these are really powerful ways that brands are working to connect with consumers. 

Paula: Yeah, for sure. And actually we released an episode yesterday, Kate, where a very impressive brand in Australia winning loads of awards, but the loyalty manager there, she was talking about like the end of points could come sometime soon, which of course is quite provocative. But of course, we love a bit of controversy. We might as well challenge ourselves to think about it. 

But I do think there is a role of course, for points to play, but certainly as somebody who values things like Amazon prime, as you mentioned, subscription is just an incredible, credible model. And I think what it allows it to do as well as a loyalty program or as a business, more importantly, is to understand that the kind of demand the needs, as you said, and personalize what’s coming through from their members.

Kate: Absolutely. And I think what subscription does that’s interesting is it meets a need of a consumer where they are. I think there is always going to be a place for points, to be honest. It’s about creating optionality and meeting people where they are in the life stage they are. Not everyone is going to need grocery delivery or an Amazon Prime subscription, but at some point in their life, they may. And I think this is where providing optionality in these programs creates a lot of flexibility and helps to create engagement. 

Paula: Yeah, it’s a great word, optionality, and yes, I probably have far too many subscriptions, so I’m probably guilty of forgetting to cancel some, so, so that’s also important, huh? 

Kate: Well, Mastercard has a tool to help you out, Paula. So we can talk about that as well, yes. 

Paula: Oh, totally. 

Kate: We have a subscription management program that allows you to view all your subscriptions and manage them and understand what is in your portfolio and how you’re spending. 

Paula: How did I not know about that? That’s incredible.

Kate: It’s new and we’re excited. It’s something that we’re beginning to bring to market. 

Paula: Oh, well done. Okay. Well, listen, I mean, it sounds like I knew that was coming. I genuinely didn’t. So well done us. That’s brilliant, Kate. 

So talk to us about your career background, Kate. I know you’ve done some super exciting things, even a little bit of podcast work in the background, which of course is brilliant for me to hear about, but a lot more of the loyalty space in some incredible brands. So yeah, talk to us about your career background. 

Kate: Absolutely. I have spent my career in different types of loyalty and engagement roles. So at MasterCard, I lead the global cardholder services business within the loyalty group. And this helps customers build engagement with consumers through compelling benefits and insurances.

And previously at MasterCard, I led strategy for the loyalty team, including working on the subscription piece that we just talked about, but looking at engagement tools more broadly. And I started my career in consulting for Accenture in their products organization. I then worked in consumer engagement for a US retailer called Ann Taylor. I went to graduate school and after that I worked for American Express in a variety of roles before leaving to join a podcast startup. 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah, my God. And I think that was acquired by Spotify, if I’m not mistaken, yeah.

Kate: That’s right. That’s right. So I worked for Panoply Media, which was later acquired by Spotify. And it was a company that worked in both podcast production, but also the technology business of podcasts. How do you reach consumers through different advertisers? How can you create attribution and advertising? It’s a really interesting business since the emerging technology it’s a really interesting way to learn about consumer behavior, but of course, when the opportunity came up, loyalty strategy at MasterCard, it was so compelling for me, you know, MasterCard has such a global perspective, decades of experience. And it’s been a really exciting opportunity here. 

Paula: Well, I can’t imagine anybody being able to resist a call like that coming through Kate. So yeah, obviously you’re thriving there in the MasterCard ecosystem and doing some superb work on the loyalty side. 

So let’s get into all of that. I think one thing I’d love to mention is obviously I was at a local event here in Dubai yesterday also run by MasterCard and saw some incredible data in InsightsCase specifically this MasterCard Economics Institute, which I had no idea existed, but given the amount of information you guys get in terms of the payment side of the business to inform the loyalty side of the business. I think that’s where I just saw a very compelling, unique selling point: a brilliant presenter on stage. So, so kudos to to the MEI team, it really did a great job. 

And the most recent report then I know is around my favorite topic as well around travel. So I’d love you to share, I suppose, some of the things that are coming through. Here we are May, 2024 it’s coming into the summer, which is traditionally, of course, the peak for travel. But there’s lots of things that you’ve told me are actually changing and maybe blurring in terms of how people are behaving post pandemic. Thank God that’s now quite far in the rear view mirror for most of us. So, so talk to us about some of your insights, Kate, what are you seeing coming through? 

Kate: Absolutely. So if you don’t mind, Paula, I’ll take a step back and talk a little bit about what we’re seeing in the loyalty industry, and we can then dive into the MasterCard Economics Institute data that really brings that to life.

Paula: Sure.

Kate: So, as consumers balance prices and priorities, we’re seeing changing demands from them. We see a renewed focus on these experiences and building relationships to really make loyalty come to life. And this is across all industries, including travel. The competition is fiercer than ever, but that also creates a lot of opportunity.

So what we’re seeing from consumers is that delivering meaningful, valuable value is incredibly critical. Consumers are sophisticated, their comparison shopping, they’re looking for the best economics and they’re looking for personalization. They know that their data is being used for decisioning. And so they’re willing to share it in exchange for convenience. 

And how brands can bring that to life and adapt to these changing consumer demands is really thinking about their traditional loyalty benefits and re-examining that, right? Leaning on personalization, customization. And like consumers, brands are also cost conscious, and we’re seeing them be more selective in the type of consumers they’re going after.

We’re seeing that in travel, in particular, as the airlines change their programs and make status levels more challenging to reach. And so, as brands prioritize their most valuable customers, this really changes dynamics within travel loyalty. We’re seeing booking patterns and travel corridors change and technologies adapt, right? And that is all impacting then, travel and what we’re seeing then come out of the MasterCard Economics Institute. 

Paula: Amazing. Yeah. So much in that, Kate. Thank you for taking that step back. I think you’re absolutely right. There are so many trends in loyalty and personalization is the one that I’m hearing coming through most strongly.

I think you’re absolutely right. Consumers are better and better at understanding it in every market, not just let’s say more mature markets like the us. I hear that from absolutely everywhere. 

I also hear a lot of programs saying that they don’t feel that they’ve nailed it. So I don’t know, Kate, if you have, you know, any perspective in terms of how mature we are or how good we are at delivering on that personalization, because there’s a lot in it. I think it’s fair to say, first of all, in, you know, capturing the data, ensuring it’s kept clean, and then of course, applying it to the right people to create that kind of idea of obviously loyalty as an outcome, which I know you guys talk about a lot. So what’s your view on, on, on how well we’re doing it? 

Kate: I think personalization is evolving. I think we’re seeing more coming out of personalization in terms of being able to reach the right types of consumers and meet them where they’re at. And I think that is what’s key to personalization, you know, how you’re using people’s data remains incredibly important.

Consumers want to know that they can trust you with their data. Privacy and security has to be at the forefront of any of this. But we’re seeing some really good examples. If I could share one from Mastercard, we in the travel space, we have a great example from our Dynamic Yield business, which is a personalization engine.

And they’ve worked with G Adventures, which is a leader in small group adventure travel. It sounds really fun. And so they’ve, they G Adventures has worked with Dynamic Yield to deliver more relevant results to travelers. So they were able to tailor experiences on their home page to each user based on their established affinity. So what they know they like.

And we saw great results from that, an almost 15 percent increase in revenue per user and a 50 percent increase in conversion rates after dynamically curating the right content on the site. So personalization is starting to work. It is starting to be realized and we see it coming to life and travel in these meaningful ways. 

Paula: Yeah, absolutely. And I think what’s happening, you’re absolutely right, Kate, is you know, in the digital environments, I suppose there are some brands that have been doing it super well for a long time. And G Adventures is a brand that I’ve certainly seen some of their work. It’s absolutely incredible. So congrats on having them as a client. 

And I think what’s happening. And again, just even reflecting on some of your own kind of events and the insights from amazing brands there is taking that into the offline world and omni channel and making sure that the personalization is happening no matter where the member is, the customer is, and making sure that we’re delivering on that execution.

Kate: That’s right. And I think we could see that come to life in a lot of different ways. One example is personalizing offers so that you could get a push notification when you’re out in the wild, reminding you that you’re near a store that has an offer that’s relevant to you. You know, again, it’s using the data that consumers know brands have and making sure that you’re using it in the right moment and with the right level of communication. So it doesn’t be, it doesn’t sound creepy. 

Paula: Yeah, totally. And yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a, it’s a really important point is like, you know, when I was collecting data many years ago, I will blame my naivety on it, but we collected data sometimes for our own internal purposes to understand the profile of the member, but we hadn’t thought through to the next step, which is definitely what I’m hearing you guys talking about is using that data for the benefit of that member to give them that customized product or adventure that they might be looking for, but just to understand it and serve it back to them. So I think there is a responsibility when we collect the data to then use it in a way that our members are going to love.

Kate: And responsibility is critical. That is what builds trust with brands, but it’s also what keeps consumers feeling safe and secure and gives them peace of mind. 

Paula: Totally. Totally. So loyalty is never going to stand still. Certainly a very exciting industry. And as I said, I mean, you know, I talk to all different sectors, but it’s always travel that is closest to my heart.

Cause that’s where I first saw, I suppose, how powerful it can be as a lever many years ago now. So talk to us about travel, what’s what’s coming up this year?

Kate: Well, let’s be clear. Travel’s not just back. It’s booming, right? It is, it is such an exciting space right now. And at MasterCard, we’re so fortunate to have the high frequency insights from the Master Economic, MasterCard Economics Institute that help us uncover these opportunities.

So, one of the most exciting things that I’ve seen come out of the MasterCard Economic Institute travel 24, 2024 report is that nine out of the 10 record setting spending days ever in the global cruise and travel, sorry, global cruise and airline industry were this year. 

Paula: Oh my God.

Kate: So let me say that again. It is such a powerful insight and I tripped a little bit because I got so excited.

So in 2024, nine out of the last 10 record setting spending days ever in global cruise and airline were this year. So of all the days that people have spent, they’ve spent the most nine out of 10 days in 2024 travel is back in booming. Here in the US we’re seeing an all time high of nearly 16 million Americans traveling internationally in Q1, 2024. This is an astounding number, right? But globally, even we’re seeing huge record numbers. Passengers traveling by cruise are set to break records this year, cruising. The number of global cruise passengers is up about 16 percent over the pandemic levels. So unbelievable how people are, it’s no longer revenge travel. It’s just a way of life and people are so keen to see the world. 

Paula: Yeah, but you know what? I also think it is. I think it is a new found appreciation for the experiences that you mentioned earlier, you know, because I do think we value and we appreciate so much more. And we’ve been talking about experiences since loyalty began, certainly since I started, like 15 years ago. But you know, travel is to me the ultimate experience. I’ve been lucky enough to already have a couple of trips this year, and I’m certainly planning plenty more coming up. So great to hear those record breaking, like nine out of 10 days case. That’s absolutely incredible.

Kate: Yes. And on the experiences side, what we’re seeing more and more is that consumers are traveling for these really memorable events. The recent solar eclipse in North America generated a lot of travel. There’s global sporting events that everybody is excited about and planning trips around and then concerts.

And you know, Paula, that I’m a Swifty. And this Swift Lift is a new term that we’re using from the MasterCard Economics Institute that shows profound impact that Taylor Swift concert has on tourism and travel economies. So her recent Eras Tour, when it was in the United States, went to 20 cities and we saw huge stimulation of local economies. So, spending growth at restaurants was lifted by an average of almost 70 percent a day during the tour. 

Paula: Wow. 

Kate: And then, really, and then accommodations were raised almost 50 percent in the immediate vicinity of the stadiums she played at. So, she’ll be in Paris this week and I’m really excited because I think this is going to be a continuation and it really shows the power of people traveling for something they’re excited about. 

Paula: Yeah. 

Kate: And getting that experience and really enjoying  something in a new way. 

Paula: Oh my God. So Swift Lift. Okay. So you heard it here first, a whole new word. If we could get Taylor on the show, I’m pretty sure she could teach us a few things. 

Kate: Absolutely. She generates loyalty like no one else.

Paula: And it is in a whole other way. I mean, we talk about it, you know, our emotional loyalty, our transactional loyalty, but my goodness, that devotion, dare I say it, is what she’s managed to cultivate. So there, there’s absolutely nothing like, I guess, an artist like that. And she must be, I don’t know, perhaps the most successful ever in history, given, you know, the era that we’re in dare I say it, given the name of her tour. But you and your daughter, I know are Swifties. You told me, yeah. 

Kate: That’s right. Yes. And I think what’s so interesting about the Swift Lift of impact is the impact on travel, right? So yeah, the fact that people are spending around travel and around these passions means that prices are remaining elevated in the travel and leisure and hospitality industry, but not in a worrying way. It globally, what we’re seeing is a continued expectation of disposable income growth that serves as a tailwind in this industry, and it gives brands a lot of opportunity to create loyalty as people continue to travel. There’s this intense willingness to travel around whatever you’re passionate about, and so I think there’s a lot of momentum that brands can capture in that.

Paula: Totally. I mean. I often think, you know, when we talk about general trends in loyalty, the idea of community is one that comes up regularly but not in a way, again, that is particularly let’s say a leading mechanic. So some brands do it. I think Sephora does it pretty well. There’s some that do capture that community piece, but that’s what I’m hearing coming through that shared passion and a reason to engage and a reason to go and willingly spend. Like, I don’t know if you and your daughter got to see any of those concerts. I really hope you did, but I mean, I would hope that you got that. 

Kate: No, unfortunately not yet, but it’s on our bucket list. Okay. And of course a reason to travel. 

Paula: Totally. I was going to say yet is one of my favorite words. If somebody asks something and it hasn’t happened, then it’s just not yet. So absolutely incredible. 

So passion points are changing. People are traveling in higher volumes than ever. How do you think the industry is evolving to cater to those, you know, new types of people traveling to perhaps places they’ve never gone before. I think you shared a couple of ideas with me before in terms of some almost cottage industries that are emerging as a, you know, new ways for businesses to, to support these passengers. 

Kate: Yes, absolutely. The travel patterns are really changing. And there’s a few trends we’re seeing. The first trends that I like to talk about is it’s no longer work life balance. It’s work life blurrence. So that means that if you’re booking a business trip, people are bolting on you know, either at the beginning of the trip or the end of the trip, more time stay in the destination they’re traveling to for work, and this is because work and companies have really adapted to allow their employees to work from anywhere.

And that means that the, both the quarters are changing where people are traveling, but also the times people are traveling are changing. And this came out in the MasterCard Economics Institute report as well, where there’s a demand, of course, for frequent beach destinations in Greece and Portugal and Spain that will never change.

But what has changed is the travel growth outside of the peak summer months. So there’s more flexibility now to go enjoy these beautiful seaside towns when they aren’t as crowded because you could spend a few days working and then a few days relaxing as well in this work from anywhere environment. So it’s both booking the business travel and being able to stay a few extra days, but then booking leisure travel. And being able to work while you’re there to extend your trip or change the timing of the vacation. 

Paula: And I love the word Kate, so work life blurrence is certainly something as somebody, you know, with a small company of my own, any opportunity that I get to extend my trip, a hundred percent. So you’ve nailed a behavior that I thought was just me, but obviously it’s happening at scale. 

Kate: You’re a trendsetter, Paula. 

Paula: It’s all me. 

Kate: You know, another thing that we’re seeing, you mentioned these micro economies, another thing we’re seeing are these economies of convenience, right? So ways that people are traveling, changing and that means that people are leveraging new types of lodging and luggage storage accommodations that may not have existed in the past. So we’re seeing people store their luggage in city centers while their Airbnb check in is delayed, or they have a long layover and they need a hotel for maybe just a short term instead of an overnight stay. And we’re seeing industries adapt around this and really come up for these conveniences.

The other conveniences that we’re seeing that are pretty exciting are micro redemptions. And you and I talked a little bit about this when we spoke earlier. It’s the idea that you have airline points and you may not be able to book a full flight, but you could redeem them for a convenience like in flight Wi-Fi.

These are areas that are creating excitement for consumers who may not be able, who are maybe not road warriors traveling every week, but want to enjoy the trip while they’re on it. 

Paula: I think that’s actually my favorite, Kate. And again, I’m not nearly as close to the US market as you are, particularly on the airline side, but I’ve seen some of the announcements on LinkedIn.

And as you said, like there are so many people I know like friends and family who don’t get to travel as often as I do. And therefore they would never even join the loyalty program, nevermind engage with it because they just don’t see the point. Whereas now I think it’s a brilliant acquisition tool, because if I can join, get enough points, perhaps even from one flight, redeem those for onboard wifi. I totally feel like I’ve nailed something that nobody else has figured out. And there’s just that win, win, win factor. And as you said, it’s not all about the free flight because that’s probably unrealistic for a lot of people. 

Kate: That’s right. The other thing that we’re seeing in my business is we think about benefits is we have fast track lanes and you could buy a single fast track access.

So if you have one of our world or world elite credit cards, you may be able to access fast track through that. But if you don’t, there’s other ways through your credit card relationship that you may be able to buy a fast track pass, buy a single lounge pass, things that create conveniences and loyalty for the financial institute, but also creating these you know, sort of capturing this economy of convenience that’s coming up for people who are just so passionate about travel and a great experience.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And I think what that does then is absolutely cater to, as you said, the road warriors who, you know, if we are traveling a huge amount, we absolutely need that lounge. We need every fast track facility because, you know, the shorter the queue, the happier Paula is for sure. And I know I’m not alone. But then as you said, the micro rewards actually means in a, I think a very scalable way, there is like a mass market proposition that loyalty programs can tap into.

And again, I’ve seen it with brands you know, for example, you know, rather than even needing to, you know, get 10 coffees or, you know, get 10 stamps to get a free coffee, you can redeem just for a free shot of flavor. So that flexibility piece I think is coming through and that’s what our audience loves to hear about because that’s a new idea to go, well, how can I bring that flexibility that you talk about from the MasterCard Economics Institute and apply it into my program because that’s what the member is going to value.

Kate: That’s right. The micro redemptions is an easy one. It goes back to what we were speaking about earlier in optionality. Creating options for consumers and rewards redemption is something that people feel very passionate about. They feel that they’ve worked for those points and they want to be able to use them how they want to use them. So it may be for the big trip, but it may be for something every day. That’s a little bit more convenient. It makes life a little easier or your day a little happier. 

Paula: Totally. Yep. We’re all about the convenience. Amazing. Talk to me about the inspirational side of travel, Kate. I know you guys again have some amazing insights on that. The the world of influencer marketing is alive and well from what I’m hearing. So tell us about that. What are you seeing coming through? 

Kate: Yes, absolutely. This is where social media and loyalty, I think, have a lovely symbiotic relationship where you can create this, in this influenced inspiration for brands can sort of inspire consumers on what is exciting and what they can dream about.

And yeah, this is really impacted travel. So we’re seeing popular destinations. Changing as social media influences and inspires with new ideas. And examples of this that we’re seeing are shown in the MasterCard Economics Institute data as well, where we have destination dupes. So while Croatia has been a very popular destination, especially you may remember during the Game of Thrones, everybody was taking the pictures on the Iron Throne. It’s become incredibly popular. 

And so now we’re seeing nearby Albania become the new hotspot and the new destination. We’re also seeing growth in Turkey as flight traffic is changing these sort of lesser traveled beaches that are equally as beautiful that people are discovering through social media channels and inspired by something that may not be as crowded and maybe a little bit more off the beaten path.

Paula: Incredible. Albania. Wow. 

Kate: Albania.

 Paula: Okay. I will put it on my bucket list, Kate. There’s another one for the to do list. 

Kate: The other place that we’re seeing influencing and inspiration changing is, of course, AI. What an exciting use case for AI in travel planning. And we’re seeing a lot of really interesting ways that people can tailor their experience and personalize their experience through AI recommendations. And I think this is only growing and we’re seeing it really influence how people are learning and discovering pieces of a destination. 

Paula: That I think is probably the one that’s going to just become like the extraordinary example of what AI can absolutely do. For me as a non techie, very definitely, like I worked in travel, as I said, a very long time ago. And I remember we always had this idea about like a recommendation engine. Like I wanted the expertise of a travel counselor, but without having to go and spend a lot of time or the cost of, you know, what I perceived a travel agent might be. But now we all have our own personal travel agents available, I guess.

If AI can understand that I’m looking for maybe a slightly less you know, crowded destination, as you said, but with these specific factors, and this is all being generated by these emerging technologies. I just think that’s that’s the use case. That’s going to be the killer case, dare I say it.

Kate: Absolutely. And what an interesting use case it is for brands. And especially if you think about a small business, right? So, if you are, have a particular dietary preference or restriction. You can use AI to discover new restaurants in a destination, right? If you have young children and you’re traveling and looking for lodging that can accommodate adjoining rooms or travel cots, these are ways that AI can really bring small businesses and consumers together in otherwise a very crowded space to discover. Right. And I think it’s really exciting. I do think it’s going to transform how people plan travel. 

Paula: There you go. And I’ve just remembered the buzzword. I think killer application, if that’s the appropriate trendy terminology, huh? 

Kate: Yes, exactly. 

Paula: Amazing. The other one that came up recently, Kate, I think I mentioned to you, I did an airline loyalty panel session at a conference here myself and I was delighted. I had Aer Lingus. It’s my home carrier and I had Qantas who are, you know, world renowned for their kind of loyalty and expertise and just the sheer scale of what they’re doing down in, in that market. 

But something that came through, I think is something that you said to me is something you’re also seeing in your data. And it’s about a topic we’ve talked about a lot, like gamification. You know, this is something that loyalty professionals have haired for, I would say at least a decade. But I almost feel like it’s having a renaissance because there are so many fun ways, whether it’s the AI tool, to me, that’s gamification right there, you know, I’m actually going to start now experimenting with that after today’s conversation.

But do you think gamification is also something that you’re, you know, that you’re seeing coming through as something that, you know, consumers are looking to engage with as they start to to travel over the summer or over the year?

Kate: Absolutely. Gamification is critical for engagement because it allows travel providers in particular to stand out from other programs. So if you think about the average consumer being a part of maybe 17 loyalty programs on average, they’re only aged in half from our research and gamification helps a brand cut through the noise and become relevant day to day. So even if you aren’t an everyday brand that somebody is engaging with every day, gamification allows you to do that. There’s ways to deliver creative rewards to surprise and delight and engage in a new way which I think is really powerful. 

The other piece that gamification allows is capturing more time spent with your program or product. And capturing that time and share of mind is a goldmine for brands. It allows them to better understand consumers. It allows them to get data that can be used to personalize. I think gamification is a really important tool. And there’s a lot of different ways to employ it to make it relevant and interesting for consumers.

Paula: You know, I think that’s brilliantly said Kate. So thank you for mentioning that you know, again, on stage at the conference here a couple of weeks ago, there was, you know, lots of airlines, not just the ones I was speaking with and even, you know, hotel brands saying, you know, at best, you know, their average member, even a, an elite member, for example, might be in their hotels, maybe 30 nights a year.

So what are they going to do to engage with those members? The other 330. So as you said, if you want to be top of mind, if you want your loyalty program to engage, it is about building that lifestyle proposition and not just focusing on the in property opportunities, but creating that brand engagement and brand loyalty all year round, not just on the times they’re traveling.

Kate: That’s right. And some of it is around the inspiration that we’re talking about, create, you know, sharing inspiring ways to dream and plan. But another way is really creating partnerships that keep you top of mind. Right. We’ve seen hotel brands partner with more everyday rideshare brands to be able to be top of mind and earn loyalty through these partnerships. I think that’s really powerful and it is a form of gamification to keep consumers engaged. 

Paula: Yeah, for sure. And I’ve seen a couple of airlines, certainly in the US and even here in this region as well, Kate, where, you know, they’re launching secondary applications actually. So there’s the core airline app and that’s brilliant for booking flights to and from, but then there’s an everyday application so that there is that kind of strategic focus on engaging with those members again on those non travel days.

Kate: Yes, the airlines have been so good at that they create offers programs so that every day you’re able to earn and spend through the airline in a way that you may not be able to transact with an airline every day, unless again, you’re a massive road warrior, but you’re able to keep your airline or your preferred airline top of mind when you’re engaging through offers and other types of everyday interactions.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. My goodness. So I’m going to recap what I think I’ve picked up. I know it’s absolutely been so much we’ve talked about Kate. So work life blurrence we’re claiming that Paula is leading that one. So that’s good for me. 

Economies of convenience. I think you’ve absolutely identified that people want to maximize every single possible thing out of their trips and experiences. And there’s industries popping up to support that. 

AI as the killer application. I think that’s my favorite. Capturing the mindshare and then as you said, partnerships, there’s a, there’s an awful lot going on for us, huh? 

Kate: Yes, it is a space full of so much opportunity. Who doesn’t love loyalty?

Paula: You know, the word we were talking about at yesterday’s conference, it’s clearly conference season here in Dubai, Kate, but the word that was coming through exactly from the fabulous lady from MasterCard Economics Institute was exuberance. And I loved it. I’m like, and that’s a particularly strong in this part of the world, but I can hear it’s coming through exactly where you guys are focusing and doing your research as well. So, lots of exuberance. Anything else that you think our audience would love to hear about Kate, before we wrap up? 

Kate: Look, I, loyalty, personalization, evolving technology, it’s changing the way we travel and it’s creating more seamless and connected experiences. So really exciting to see what’s happening in this space and be a consumer and a professional in it.

Paula: Amazing. Okay. So listen I’m thrilled to to learn about this Economics Institute. Again, I had no idea you had that level of expertise in terms of presenting that data for your clients. So, big shout out to you guys for all of that. I guess LinkedIn just as a place where people, if they do want to connect with you, Kate and access or request copies of the report I guess we can put that in the show notes as well for the podcast, most importantly, but are you happy to connect with our audience on LinkedIn if they want to reach out with questions

Kate: Of course, absolutely. Thank you for that. 

Paula: No problem. Like it’s, it to me that’s the single most important thing actually is there’s going to be more questions that I didn’t think to ask you that our audience are going to want to to ask you about. So, so that’s amazing.

So listen, on that note, I’m going to wrap up. So Kate Mescal-Pevzner, Senior Vice President of Global Cardholders Services at MasterCard. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Kate: Thank you, Paula. 

Paula: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty. If you’d like us to send you the latest shows each week, simply sign up for the Let’s Talk Loyalty newsletter on letstalkloyalty.com and we’ll send our best episodes straight to your inbox. And don’t forget that you can follow Let’s Talk Loyalty on any of your favorite podcast platforms. And of course, we’d love for you to share your feedback and reviews. Thanks again for supporting the show.