#345: Loyalty and Customer Engagement Insights in APAC with Collinson Group

Today we hear some super perspectives on loyalty in the APAC region with our friends in Collinson.

Our guests are Thomas Dornis, Vice President of Data & Insights, and Rohan Bhalla, Vice President of Business Solutions, both based in Singapore.

Listen to hear their latest research on just how passionate customers are to travel again in 2023, and some great work Collinson is doing in the region to help brands tap into that incredibly popular reward category to drive customer loyalty.

Rohan and Thomas also shared some deep insights on the importance of “reward innovation” as a key idea for loyalty professionals to be focused on, as well as other key customer engagement strategies that can be used by brands to differentiate themselves in today’s increasingly competitive markets.

This episode is sponsored by Valuedynamx ( Part of Collinson Group)

Show Notes:

1) Thomas Dornis, Vice President of Data

2) Rohan Bhalla, Vice President of Business Solutions

3) Collinson

4) Priority Pass Global Traveller Sentiment Survey 2022

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.

This episode is brought to you by Collinson, worldwide leaders in customer engagement and loyalty. Creating an orchestrating customer engagement and loyalty initiatives and programs for some of the world’s biggest brands in travel, retail, and financial services. Doing it globally for over 30 years. Want to know more? Go to CollinsonGroup.com.

Hello and welcome to episode 345 of Let’s Talk Loyalty. Today we’re catching up with our friends in Collinson and in particular, their perspectives on loyalty in the Asia-Pacific region. My guests are Thomas Dornis, Vice President of Data and Insights, and Rohan Bhalla, Vice President of Business Solutions, both based in Singapore.

As you’ll hear today, both Thomas and Rohan are particularly excited about just how passionate customers are to travel again in 2023. And Collinson is doing some fantastic work with their clients in the region to help them tap into that incredibly popular reward to drive customer loyalty. Rohan and Thomas also shared some deep insights on the importance of reward innovation as a key idea for loyalty professionals to be focused on, as well as other key customer engagement strategies that can be used by brands to differentiate themselves in today’s increasingly competitive markets.

I hope you enjoy my conversation today with Thomas Dornis and Rohan Bhalla from Collinson in Asia Pacific.

Paula: So Rohan and Thomas, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Rohan: Thanks, Paula. Great to be here.

Thanks for having

Paula: us.

Not at all. I am delighted that you are on the road back traveling. Super excited. I think you’re joining us today from Hong Kong.

Rohan: Aren’t you?

We are, we’re both based in Singapore, but today we’re, uh, in Hong Kong, both of

Paula: us.

Fantastic. Great. I know Collinson does amazing work in Asia Pacific, and it’s one of my key topics and one of the reasons I’m super excited to talk to you today. And before we get into all of the, uh, big ideas that we’re going to discuss together, as you know, we always start this show talking about our personal favorite loyalty programs.

So Rohan I might come to you first as a loyalty industry professional working with Collinson. Tell us what is your personal favorite loyalty program?

Rohan: So for me, uh, I, I think travel programs are really exciting, right? They’re, they’re always doing things and within travel. Um, I, I have personally really enjoyed being a part of the Qantas, uh, loyalty program, uh, for the airline out of Australia.

Um, I, I just feel they do a really good job from a customer experience point of view. And, and I’ll give you an example, right? So, um, booking a redemption flight is not the easiest thing. Sure. Um, and, and a lot of airlines actually make it hard, so you can’t, on a lot of airlines, you can’t book a multi-city redemption.

You need to book it, uh, single, uh, you know, point to point. Yeah. And then you go in again and book again. But on Qantas it was fantastic. We were booking a one-way flight, uh, sorry. We were booking a return flight for two of us and an infant. Uh, and we could do all of that within one screen. Oh, wow. , the customer experience side of it.

Uh, I, I just feel it makes it so much more pleasant. Yeah. Uh, and I know, you know, programs have their ups and downs and, you know, do they give points? Not give points how they manage it. You can’t please everybody, but I think just making the experience seamless Yeah. Uh, you know, really elevates that program for me.

Um, so that, that’s one of my favorites as a customer. Putting on, you know, professional hat. I think just the way the Qantas program is structured, right? So they’ve, they’ve taken the program out, created its own PnL, um, you know, it’s, it’s, um, it’s run at multiple levels, right? You have the traditional program with tiers.

You have, you know, paid program with the Qantas Club that you can buy into their experimenting with sustainability and green tiers. Yeah. Um, so there’s lots that’s happening, in that program, uh, continuously. And, and you know, I like to see that innovation. In fact, when I’m looking for inspiration and ideas, when we are, you know, consulting and, uh, looking at the market, it’s always good to go and see, okay, what is Qantas doing now?

And then say, okay, you know, maybe there are things we can learn from there. Um, so yeah, that, that’s, uh, a personal flavor to mine.

Paula: That’s amazing. And actually, you know what, Rohan, when I very first, I suppose, started trying to learn more about loyalty, I was already working, um, for a loyalty brand in telecommunications.

But I remember going to a conference in London and Qantas was exactly the case study. And I’ll never forget the mc mentioning that Qantas was making more money selling miles, than it does from its international flight sales and commercially, I was blown away. And I think that’s what I kind of fell in love professionally with the loyalty industry.

I’m like, oh my God, this stuff works. So totally share that, the Qantas does an amazing job, bro, and both professionally and personally. So thanks for that example. So, Thomas over to you. What are you gonna share with us?

Thomas: So, I mean, I’ll stay in the travel space. Uh, I think my personal program, uh, is Marriott Bonvoy.

Okay. And think kind of two reason ones from a personal perspective. You know, I’ve been a member for over 20 years, I’m a lifetime titanium member. I think. Wow. I’ve spent somewhere like seven or eight years of my life in Marriott Properties, so, oh my God. Uh, I, I’ve known them very well and being a road warrior for over two decades and, and basically traveling a hundred percent of the time.

Yeah. Uh, that’s been my, my second home and it’s just, you know, a very rewarding program. I’ve had many experiences, uh, in terms of traveling to destination that I probably would’ve never had a chance to, to visit. Yeah. It wasn’t for hotel points and being able to redeem trips and some, some really interesting experience.

So, really been a great experience for me personally. And I think it, it’s shown to me how valuable a loyalty program can be and, and, and how you can engaged if we can come with a brand. Yeah. Uh, if it’s really personal and, and meaningful to you. Right? Yeah. Um, from a professional perspective, you know, I think it’s also, you know, it’s a program that’s really well executed, right.

One, it’s a huge scope. I think they have over 3,800 properties now, 30 brands. Everything from super luxury. Yeah. Uh, the, the St. Regis and the, uh, you know, Ritz Carltons of the world, to keep, uh, tailoring tub, which backpackers with, with some of their new brands that they have, right? Yeah. Uh, they do a lot of partnerships, whether that’s just financial services, companies around credit cards, partners with airlines.

They just launched Singapore Airlines about a week ago. Uh, they, you know, Marriott now has a cruise line with the Ritz Carlton Cruises. Uh, and then, you know, a lot of partnerships around retail and other things, and, you know, some really interesting, experience that you can’t buy with money, such as, you know, I’ve attended a, a movie Premier in, in Los Angeles before, or just like a, a Marriott moment where you can, uh, visit your favorite soccer team or have, you know, back sick access to a concert.

So just, you know, Yeah, there’s something in there for, for everyone. And I think it’s a, you know, great way of showing how you can grow a loyalty program beyond just the hotel brand, but you know what’s going on outside of your hotel and how you provide an experience that’s integrated with partners and caters to the whole, whole traveling journey.

And I think they do that really well and there’s a lot of leading practices, but we recommend to our clients that I’ve seen Marriott already tackle and, and do really, really well.

Paula: Yeah, that’s incredible, Thomas. Um, I’m not sure I’ll ever make it to titanium tier in any program, so it’s love to hear, lovely to hear the, uh, the reflected experience.

And I think what I’m hearing coming through is, you know, it isn’t the, the points and, and, and just getting, you know, free hotel nights. And I totally agree. The execution of Marriott Bonvoy has been absolutely extraordinary, like if I could actually like wave a magic wand, I’d love to just know the marketing budget that’s gone into it because, to me Marriott is a brand that is investing in what matters for people, but also investing in building the brand.

So there’s pretty much every frequent flyer and like you the road warriors, there’s nobody that has missed the Marriott Bonvoy execution. You know, there’s every reason to join, every reason to engage, uh, with those kind of experiences coming through to engage you. Uh, I think it’s a brilliant example, Thomas.

So, so maybe tell us a bit about the road warrior stuff. Um, you know, what kind of work have you been doing, um, in your career in order to, uh, to get this incredible, um, lifestyle and career with, uh, this titanium status?

Thomas: So I’ve pretty much spent all of my career in consulting. So out of graduate school, I, I joined the Big Four and have spent over 20 years, uh, working in consulting, uh, primarily in the data space.

Um, you know, working with, uh, companies to really enhance their, uh, marketing, sales and customer service almost all of my work has been around customer data and leveraging that to improve customer experience operations. Yeah. And just make company more effective. And, uh, you know, if I look at back at all the clients and all the industry that work with, uh, travel and loyalty were always the projects that were most exciting, and that’s how I ended up in Collinson because now I can do this a hundred percent of the time and , it’s just the, the most exciting and, and fun work, uh, personally and, and, and professionally. And, and, and that’s why, you know, yeah, I’m, I’m really call myself very fortunate to be focusing on this a hundred percent now. For sure. And, and through that and consulting, you know, we were on the road a hundred percent of the time. It’s, I think it’s shifted a bit with, with Covid and, and people realize that we can do a lot more remotely and we don’t have to be on the road 50 weeks of the time, which is fine with me as well.

Yeah. Uh, but it’s still nice to, to be in front of clients and, and, and, and visit, uh, yeah, to people that we’re working.

Paula: For sure. And I do think capturing data and leveraging data are two very different things, Thomas. So we’ll be definitely excited to hear exactly how you’re doing that, uh, for Collinson clients.

So, Rohan tell us a bit about your, uh, career and, and life with loyalty.

Rohan: Uh, so yeah, my, my experience has been, um, primarily around driving customer engagement from a retention, marketing perspective and loyalty has been a heavy part of that. So, uh, spent most of my career on the agency side. Um, nice.

Working across different marketing brand agencies, uh, building CRM propositions, uh, working around loyalty design, uh, and, and, you know, taking that to market. It’s, it’s been mostly in the, in, in APAC, I haven’t been on the road as much as Thomas. I don’t hold status in , in . I think any program, uh, okay. Uh, really.

But, um, but yeah, working across, you know, Australia, Singapore, India, uh, these are three markets that have been based in over the last probably, you know, 15 plus years. Amazing. Um, and yeah, and then that’s, that’s been, uh, the background.

Paula: Yeah. Wonderful. And yeah, I suppose when we think about, uh, global populations and where travel is, I guess exploding, um, Asia Pacific, particularly with China reopening.

I mean, it’s just extraordinary. I think this moment in time, particularly obviously early 2023, for me, the single most important thing and the most exciting is that we’re, we’re coming out now, um, obviously really properly, I think fully out of the, the other side of the pandemic, and I know you guys have some amazing insights in terms of consumer interest in returning to travel, um, relative to what it might have been before the last, you know, few years where we’ve been dealing with them, such dramatic industry issues, um, and I guess just, you know, economic and, and all sorts of issues as well, of course. So let’s get into talking about the return to travel.

Um, Thomas, from your side, perhaps you’d give us some perspective. I know there was a travel sentiment survey done by Collinson, uh, which is absolutely fascinating. And again, I think I said to you all air, I’ve been busy planning my own travel for the year cuz I’m totally addicted to being on the road personally and professionally.

So what are you hearing from consumers and what’s the data showing you?

Thomas: So, yeah, I mean, uh, you know, I think it’s, travel is really high on the priority for, for a lot of the consumers that we’re interacting with, like when we did surveys, I think 80% of of consumers said travel is ranking really highly.

That’s what they want to do going forward. Sure. You know, even with the economic downturn and uncertainty that we’re seeing right now, when people are being asked, where are they cutting? We would rather reduce, uh, other spending, like restaurants or shopping. But, you know, travel is, is very high on the list and, and people wanna kind of make up for, for lost times.

You know, there’s, uh, some of our colleagues have been locked up in the same location for three years and, and people want to go out and, and do experiences, so, you know, again, a lot of people want to travel. They rank it really high. That’s the spending that they’re wanna protect most. Yeah. And then I think also from a loyalty perspective, we’re seeing like if we’re asking what people are interested in, whether it’s it’s products or services, again, travel ranks really, really high in terms of, uh, yeah, that’s what people wanna see in, in loyalty programs.

I said top rewards, uh, that they want to, you know, basically for use.

Paula: Yeah, and what I actually really love and, and maybe Rohan you can touch on this piece, you know there are so many people listening to this show who don’t work in travel loyalty. They work in banks and they work in telecoms and they work in lots of different industries.

But what I think Collinson has done really well is make, travel rewards accessible to loyalty brands and propositions across all of those sectors. So I think you have an unique opportunity to bring that appeal that we talked about in terms of what customers actually want and make it, uh, a possibility for any loyalty program through partnerships and all of the various different ways of working.

So I’d love you just to talk about how other brands that are not travel can start to leverage, that customer appetite for getting back out around the world.

Rohan: Yeah, absolutely. And, and, and I think, uh, so Thomas did touch upon it so good. Travel experiences and travel benefits are always perceived as the highest value.

Totally. So, uh, you know, when when someone receives, you know, something related to travel, you get so excited. Uh, yeah. And, and you know, even the, the actual cost of doing that may not be that high for, you know, the brand that’s giving out the benefit, but the perceived value of that is significant from a customer perspective.

So it just makes it that much more exciting. Um, at, at Collinson we’ve been, uh, you know, working to really build out a travel experience and ecosystem that comprises of all the different aspects, uh, that a customer would go through from a travel journey. So, you know, whether it is, uh, you know, about, uh, getting to the airport, uh, and you know, making a way through the airport, faster through a fast track or, you know, waiting in the comfort of a lounge rather than, um, you know, having to, to stand in, in lines for food and so on. So just making the airport journey and the entire experience more comfortable is something that we’ve been focused on at Collinson, um, and when this is packaged up as a loyalty benefit that you add to your program, be it, you know, a credit card, be it, uh, you know, uh, a hotel that, you know, you get a booking, uh, and you know, now you know customer’s gonna be arriving on such and such date.

Yeah. Uh, you know, do you, if you know where they’re traveling from, you can immediately start their entire hotel experience even before they leave the house. Right? Yeah. And, and empowering all of that is something that we are really focused on doing from Collinson. So, so getting those travel experiences together, packaging it, uh, providing it as, you know, loyalty benefits,

that enhance the program value. Um, and the other side of it is how it gets distributed. So, you know, you can have, you know, the titanium members that already have access to a lot of these, uh, benefits, but then you also have those that have potential and lifetime value that you want to target, right?

So they may not yet be your titanium, but can you start engaging them early? Can you start, you know, getting them into your ecosystem through some of these things? Um, which is where how we position these benefits, how we model it out, working with our partners becomes really crucial. Yeah. Cause that allows us to make sure, you know, they’re in line with the future opportunity from, uh, from those customers.

So, so. There’s good point. There’s a, a couple of things that we, they work on from a collinson perspective. Yeah.

Paula: Um, and pretty uniquely as well Rohan, you know, certainly, you know, from my many years, um, working in loyalty, that there’s probably not many propositions available to loyalty professionals. In the same way that you guys do it.

And again, my background is telecommunications. Um, so that was probably a sector where we didn’t realize maybe the power and the importance of having a travel rewards proposition. So exciting times and you guys are obviously continuing to grow and, uh, invest further in doing more and ma more of that in the future.

So I suppose I wanted to then also understand what other trends you are seeing? You know, we talk so much here about, you know, all the big sexy topics, whether it’s Web 3.0 or the Metaverse AI machine learning. So from a Collinson perspective, maybe Thomas, you would tell me, what are your kind of thoughts in terms of what are the trends that loyalty professionals need to be thinking about, particularly in the context of, you know, 2023?

Thomas: Yeah, I mean, I think that one thing that really stands out to me is kind of the how do we enable the ecosystem, right? And we’ve touched on it in terms of, uh, going beyond just your brand, right? Your, your telecommunications provider. But you can think about other things that you can provide. So it’s really to me about the partnerships and, you know, figuring out ways to share data, right?

Because if we look at Collinson, we don’t control the entire travel journey. We know when you’re in the airport, okay, we’re operating lounges and, and we know when you are in an airport lounge, right? But we need to partner with. , um, with airports, with transportation companies, with other service providers to being able to manage that day of journey end to end, right?

So how do we, how do we share data, right? Once I know you’re in the lounge, once I know where you’re traveling, because I scanned your bording pass, I now can enable, enable a number of travel experiences in the airport. If you’re transferring somewhere and you have a long layover, maybe I can make a recommendation on what you could do at that destination.

Right. And I need to be able to do that with my, my partners that I have, whether it’s, you know, airport alternatives like food and beverages that we’re partnering with. It could be, you know, sleeping pods, airport hotels, uh, that are in our ecosystem. So how do I share that data to really understand, you know, what’s gonna potentially happen to this customer or vice versa.

You know, going back to the telecom, uh, example that you just mentioned, uh, once I call in and I sign up for, the international plan, because I’m going to Europe. I now know you’re traveling to Europe. This may be something that you wanna share with a partner. Now you can enable a journey to say, you know, as a provider, there’s other services that we have.

Uh, now that I know that you’re traveling to Europe, maybe there’s some discounts or special products and service that I can offer. So kind of how do I enable that data sharing. You know, if we combine the data from multiple providers together, we have a much better understanding of the customer. Yeah. And that enables that next level of customer experience that I cannot do within my company, um, you know, in, in one of my previous roles, uh, we did the survey and we found that companies that do share data between partners, um, you know, they typically three or four times as profitable on the investments that they make. Uh, wow. You know, with data.

Paula: Okay. And just for people not familiar with that concept, Thomas, I think the key is obviously that data is anonymized. Um, all of the GDPR global legislation, of course has to be respected. Uh, but there are ways, I guess as tech gets more sophisticated, to be able to create that data sharing to enable, as you said, the personalization, total customer engagement across lots of different areas and different merchants, I guess, but without having to say it’s Paula Thomas, for example, that actually needs this particular idea or, or opportunity.

Am I right? ,

Thomas: Yes. There’s a, you know, technical, uh, abilities to do that, whether that’s the clean room technologies to share data. What you mentioned in terms of anonymizing it and then it’s also, you know, oftentimes just getting the permission of the, the customer, right? If I want enable, uh, service, like, uh, and meet and greet at the airport, obviously I need to tell, uh, the person meeting you, who you are and when you’re arriving. So at this point, I’m sharing customer data, but if you’re giving me permission to do that, and I share with the, a customer what data’s being shared, why it’s being shared, when it’s being shared, and I get the permission to do that,

nd do that within the data privacy frameworks, whether that’s, uh, you know, GDPR and Europe. There’s one in the us there’s I think 15 in Asia that we need to be aware of, right? I’m sure. But as long as we, you know, uh, it, it is, it is all possible and really, it’s, to me it’s mostly about getting the consent, consent of the customer themselves and then, you know, making sure that they understand how data’s being used right. And today I think we’re all sharing more data about ourselves than we ever did. Right. Yeah. It’s just giving, giving control to the customer. Right. Totally. And, uh, and enabling them to say, this is how I want my data to be used, right? And as long as we do do it, that I think there’s a lot of opportunity in this space.

Paula: Yeah, certainly my experience is that I actually do want the benefits. Yeah. I want the cross-sell, I want the upsell. So I am happy for that data to be, to be captured, uh, but only if it is actually gonna be used in a way that I kind of feel it. So I do think, to our point earlier, it’s one thing to capture the data, another thing to leverage it in a way.

Meaningful, and you quoted some incredible statistics there, Thomas, in terms of the commercial opportunity, but I think individually as consumers as well, I think we’re pretty savvy now in terms of the value of our data and when we give it over. I think that sets an expectation then of what that brand can do and therefore should do.

So I think it brings probably more pressure, again, for loyalty professionals listening to the show, more challenges to make our loyalty programs even more compelling. So Rowan, I wanted to ask your thoughts, I suppose, from all of the kind of clients that you are dealing with. What would you say that loyalty professionals are, are being faced with in terms of challenges as, uh, as we get into, uh, this year’s?

Yeah, I

Rohan: think, um, a key challenge that people face right now is differentiation. Um, and, and we all hear the term bland loyalty, right? Oh, yes. Um, and, and, and, you know, we’re all part of tens and 12 and 15 loyalty programs and you have all these cards, but what’s really the differentiation in how you drive that?

And, um, so I think that that is a key challenge. Are marketers cognizant about that? I think so. I, I think people realized that we’d done a survey of, uh, marketers across the PAC region, um, recently, and, and one of the, uh, I think the highest rated thing that they said that they wanted to change in their program was drive reward innovation.

Okay. Um, yeah. And, and so I think. People are cognizant of that. What does that mean? Right. So, yeah. Um, typically we’ve had point programs, uh, discounts, uh, you know, things like that, which is the typical transactional rewards, which, which is still gonna be there and it’s gonna stay. But I think what we are seeing is there’s a move towards more emotional, uh, experiential engagements that brands give out.

Mm-hmm. , um, which, which have a stronger linkage with, uh, with customer sentiment and loyalty. Yeah. Um, so I think it’s getting the balance right. , what is transactional, uh, that, that we wanna give out and where do we drive more emotional engagement with the, with the program and with the rewards that you get?

Um, so, so I think that is one thing we’re seeing more and more of. Um, it does fit in well with what we do from travel experiences perspective. Yes. Um, but, , but there is, there’s a lot more, uh, that brands are trying, right? We, we think talking about, uh, you know, one off, uh, money can buy experiences and events that you create mm-hmm.

um, you know, you hear of brands going into the metaverse and, you know, creating these lounges and spaces and, you know, if you could meet, uh, Roger Federer, uh, in the Metaverse lounge of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, um, you know that that’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else. And, you know, to get into that, you need, you know, a certain kind of an.

Which is exclusive to the hotel. Can you sell that nft? I mean, the, the ideas just explode, right? Yeah. Um, but, but I think we’re, we’re finding that reward innovation is, is going to be something that brands are going to constantly look at. Yeah. Um, how, how innovative we go, how, how much we adapt, use technology, uh, to do some of those things.

Uh, where do we use, you know, real world, uh, spaces and experiences and blend that with digital. Um, we, we’ll see more and more of that happening. Um,

Paula: I, I like that. Absolutely, Rowan, because I think what a lot of loyalty professionals are facing is of course the ongoing internal justification and proving that their loyalty programs are driving value for the organization.

And as you kind of mentioned, there are so many programs. You know, I think I’m a member of 16 different programs last time I checked. And I know that’s actually an industry average, certainly in the. But you know, the ones that I actively engage with are, are few and far between. So I, I do think there’s this very big problem in our industry of saturation, but almost lower quality.

So there are so many programs that have the kind of same kind of points and redemption, uh, solution as you said. So how do you actually cut through? Like, I think every loyalty professional who listens to this show wants to have the most compell. The most exciting rewards, and they totally get that as individuals.

They know what makes a difference, but it’s actually quite difficult to be that innovative. I think technology is giving us the opportunity to kind of do that. Um, and that’s certainly something I know. You know, we, we always talk about what can we do with other technologies, what we can do with the likes of Alexas and all of these kind of like fun ideas.

But on a kind of practical basis, I. . The mindset is probably something that, for me, is something we as loyalty professionals probably need to be talking more about, maybe with senior management in terms of kind of almost flipping the focus from, you know, the commercial KPIs and what we expect from our members, but almost being loyal to them, as you said, giving them super exciting rewards to basically go, oh my God, these people are gonna be so loyal to us because they’re genuinely excited.

Does that make. Oh,

Rohan: absolutely. I think, I think brands that can show loyalty back, uh, are, are the ones that’ll have the biggest loyalty opportunity in the future. Yeah, right. So yeah, totally on board. Um, the other interesting thing that you touched upon was the commercial opportunity. And, um, I, I dunno if you are also seeing this, Paula, but we are finding that loyalty’s moving out from being, you know, a silo within marketing to something.

Starting to be owned more by the chief commercial officers mm-hmm. within organizations, which means it’s now starting to become more fundamental to every aspect of the organization and not just, you know, one department that was running it. Um, and I think that that is a very interesting change because it, it starts then coming into the organizational d n A rather than, you know, just being run from one place.

And that’s, that’s really when true loyalty can start to build between organizations and brands. Uh, sorry, brands and their customer.

Paula: Yeah, I think definitely Ron, my, you know, what I’m hearing from, from people we talked to on the show is that the loyalty, uh, focus has gone up the next level. So it has become a C-suite agenda item perhaps because of the, the, the crisis of the pandemic.

So I think there’s increased respect, uh, for loyalty marketing profess. Um, for the importance of retention and hopefully for the investment in what’s required to deliver it. Because I think what I’m seeing is there are so many technologies out there, but you know, again, there’s so many competing priorities within brands, so, You know, for, for customers to expect and you know, basically be saying in all of the research, yes, I want a closer relationship with you.

But then on the flip side, the loyalty professionals might not be able to deliver on that. Do you think there’s an issue in terms of the investment matching expectations from consumers?

Rohan: Definitely, I think, I think customer expectations are high, right? And, um, if anything post pandemic, they’re, they’re even higher.

We’ve been so, uh, used to a digital world where, you know, the click of a button, uh, your groceries get delivered within two hours. You know, you have, uh, you know, clothes and your shopping and whatever you need is at your doorstep. Um, and, and, and brands that are leading this charge, the likes of Amazon and, and and such are, are the ones that are setting the expectations now.

whether or not you compete with them directly, those expectations are there and they’re across the board. Mm-hmm. . Um, and I think with that expectation, what we’re finding is the reality doesn’t live up to that hype. So a lot of bra brands are still struggling with how do we, how do we deliver that similar expectation, right?

Going back to my customer experience example with Qantas, right? These are simple things that brands need to get right, uh, from a customer expectation, experience perspective. But, um, , there, there is a, a maturity, uh, path that they need to go through to get there. Yeah. And what we’re finding is, is um, it is slow.

Mm-hmm. and, and it takes time. Yeah. Um, but, but brands are cognizant of that. Uh, on the same survey that I was talking to you about that we’d run in apac, the number one answer is reward innovation on what you wanna change in your loyalty program. The second was technical innovation. Okay. So I think these are the top two things.

people realize, uh, yeah. And they’re working towards, uh, as, as, uh, you know, brand professionals.

Paula: Amazing. And again, I’m sure it’s not unique to apac. I’m pretty sure that that is a global requirement and expectation. As you said, consumers are getting ever more demanding and we really do want these brands to, to step up.

I guess with that in mind, Thomas, in your kind of data brain and your focus and perspective, I wanted to ask you about KPIs because I think it’s something that really does, um, I suppose, drive the direction, whether it’s investment, you know, or whether, whatever the focus is for the loyalty professionals.

Um, the KPIs, of course, at a senior level is what’s going to drive, um, the, the loyalty expectations and the outcome. So tell us a bit about what does success look like in your experience from, you know, what does Coon advise in terms of measure?

Thomas: I mean, that seems really identifying like, what, what is the burning platform in the business, right?

And what is the, the specific challenge that, that I’m trying to solve, right. I’m always looking for what, what is the, you know, the top of mind topic of the executives, right? And sometimes when we go into organization and do interviews with, with the leadership team, we ask them, you know, what are. Two or three things that keep you up at night.

Right. Nice. And very quickly, there’s two or three items that that pop up across the organization. If we can identify KPIs that measure progress against that. Right. So for instance, we’ve had several conversations this week around reactivation, right? People have not been traveling. For instance, now that uh, China’s opening up Hong Kong is opening up, people can be on the airplane again.

How do we reengage with customers that perhaps haven’t engaged with my brand for the last three years? And how do we measure that? Right? So if we can see if that’s our, the business school that we’re striving towards, how do we measure that in terms of whether customers are spending, what the customers are engaging with my marketing and email communications, for instance, right?

And then identifying, you know, how do we measure it? And then how do we. Whatever testing or experimentation that we’re doing. Yeah. How do we, you know, can show progression against the, the, the goal of reactivation, for instance. So that’s how we typically approach it. I don’t think, there’s not like a, you know, silver bullet here.

The, the K p that works for every organization. But as, as long as we can identify, you know, what business out outcomes are we striving for, and I would say what gets measured gets done, right? So if we can identify a few measurements against each topics and, and make that front and center in terms of our driving outcome on these measurements, that that’s typically

Paula: helpful.

Yeah. And actually you reminded me when we had, uh, Dan Contour on the Yeah. The show as well, uh, recently. And what I liked what he was talking about was this idea that it’s not just like the quantity of, of members in your program. We all love our big numbers and to show growth of the program overall, but I do think that quality of me.

Is something that is perhaps forgotten in the rush to, you know, again, present, you know, big numbers back to the team. So I think that quality focus and making sure that people are actually, I suppose, being focused on as consumers across. All segments. Um, one of the things I’m hearing from a lot of loyalty professionals is there might be just that focus on the titanium members.

So, you know, you might have a great experience as Thomas, but what about the, the upcoming tier? So I’d love to hear maybe just a thought or two, Thomas, in terms of, you know, where should loyalty professionals really be focusing in terms of all of those different tiers and the opportunity, I guess, for them, um, within their loyalty program.

So, yeah, I

Thomas: mean, I think we see this with many clients that obviously the, the top customers, the ones that have the status, drive a lot of the revenue, and obviously you want to keep them happy and, and make sure that they’re engaged, right? Yeah. And that they continue to come back. Right. But oftentimes there’s, you know, kind of that next level.

Mm, you know, can we increase the number of top members because, you know, I’m offering additional experience. I’m offering additional partnerships that create more earning opportunities or way more. To be engaged. So, so how do we grow that pie? Um, is very often an area where we’re focused, but then it’s not just the current membership.

Right. And we’re always really good about looking backwards and saying, who spent a lot of money with us? Right. But yeah. Uh, it could be what, what is the next set of members, right? I, I might be early on my, my career, uh, maybe I’m not traveling as much yet. Right? But can I identify. , who’s gonna be the traveler in, in, in one or two years that, that’s gonna migrate into those top segments, right?

Yeah. Uh, who’s gonna have the, the, the spending power in the future? Um mm-hmm. , is there, is there predictors? Can I identify, you know, the, the top members today? Yeah. What was unique about them two or three years ago to really cater to, to the members that have the future lifetime value. Right? Yeah. Um, that’s typically what I’d like to focus on and see, you know, you know, what are the data elements that help me predict.

Paula: Yeah, you’ve reminded me actually of a great, uh, learning that I had a big light mob bulb moment actually. Mm-hmm. and I worked with British Airways many years ago, and we had a whole conversation I remember, and a full presentation about what they were calling the rocket blues. , and this is exactly, I suppose, the kind of thing you, you find, you know, as, as a data person.

So, you know, everybody joins a loyalty program obviously at the base here, and the blue members were all being treated the same for a very long time. But then there was some analysis done around. Well, the speed of earning for a certain cohort showed a dramatic behavior change. So maybe somebody got a new job.

So they’ve joined the British Airways Loyalty Program and immediately they start earning very, very quickly. So why would you treat them the same way as somebody like me as a leisure traveler who was traveling as a blue member once a year? So I think you’re absolutely right. Um, there’s a lot of insights and data.

That we need to make sure that we’re looking to the future instead of to the past. So really nice insight on that one, Thomas. Thank you for that. And, uh, Rowan, from your side on the KPIs, what do you, I suppose love talking about in terms of advising your clients, uh, what success might look like for their loyalty program?

Rohan: in terms of KPIs, um, the key driver of loyalty is, is that you want to change or influence certain behaviors. And what’s important is as a business, you need to understand what are those key behaviors that you wanna drive mm-hmm. and where do you wanna take them? So, , you know, typically there are frequency KPIs that, that you look at in terms of, you know, visits and orders and, and the volume side of things.

So mm-hmm. , you know, are you able to increase those based on, on, on what you’re doing with loyalty? Um, the other side of it is the more value-based KPIs, which is in terms of, you know, average order values, the, um, you know, average, um, daily rate when it comes to hotels, you know, so are you able to influence.

those value-based metrics, uh, through loyalty. Mm-hmm. . Um, and I think, um, these are two of the things that clients really look at when, when they’re looking at their loyalty. The other is, uh, you know, from a, from a data side of things. , are you getting, uh, the acquisition rates and retention rates within the program that you’re, that you’re striving to achieve from a member engagement perspective?

Mm-hmm. , um, right. So that keeps, you know, in terms of the program churning, uh, is that working. And then the last part from a structural side is just in terms of how well is the program performing? So things like breakage rates and churn rates are used to look at, you know, if I. Redemption offer out there, how many people are actually picking up on that?

Mm-hmm. , uh, you know, and, and how engaged are they with the overall program? So, mm-hmm. So, you know, we look at it from maybe three dimensions, which is, you know, what is the volume-based aspects, uh, which is frequency driven? What are the value-based aspects, uh, that drive business value? Yeah. And then what are the programs, structural aspects in terms of, you know, uh, churn, in terms of, uh, breakage and, and so on.

So yeah, we, we usually, we. come at that with a KPI framework with the clients, but then from there it starts becoming very, very specific to Yeah. You know, what is, what is that one use case that you really want to activate? Right? What would success look like if you had 10% more attention? Right. Yeah. Is that, is that a number you’d like to hit then?

Then you start working towards how do we achieve that? Yeah. Um, so, so I think loyalty has to be, Behaviors and how you drive those. Yeah. But then it has to be very, very specific to certain business KPIs that you want to lock, lock it in with.

Paula: Yeah, and and what I was thinking as you were saying that as well, Rowan, is, you know, there are that the heart measurements of course, that are top and center and absolutely as you said, whether it’s quality or quantity.

But I also love the fact because you guys are predominantly in, I suppose, travel rewards and travel loyalty, I think there’s a big opportunity for the loyalty program owners themselves to, to try and measure that. Whereas, you know, fully acknowledging that those are kind of soft benefits and feelings of loyalty, extremely difficult to measure, but.

I don’t think we can underestimate the value of what has happened for, uh, a customer that’s had the full experience close to the loop. They’ve had that beautiful engagement opportunity. They’ve had the redemption, they’ve used the lounge, and you know, then to measure how loyal are they to the brand. As a result of that, you know, particularly compelling reward.

So I’m sure you’re encouraging all of your clients as well to do their own kind of qualitative research almost. Just to get a sense of how to put a value on what happens when people have been through the full cycle of the program.

Rohan: A absolutely. I think, uh, I think the, the softer measures are equally important.

Uh, yeah. And, and, and always getting in front of customers is, is key. So yes, we do encourage, you know, clients to be talking to customers, um, testing things out with loyalty, right? You have so much opportunity that you get by just talking to, you know, group of customers. You know, potential opportunities and rewards and just testing things, working through those is, is very important.

Yeah. Um, so yeah, we, we are constantly advising, uh, our clients to do that. We, we do a lot of research ourselves to see what the sentiment is like. Sure. Both in terms of, you know, qualitative, but e even some of the most softer aspects of, you know, loyalty and, and does. Part of loyalty, influence, uh, certain behaviors.

Does it influence your travel behavior? Does it influence your spending behavior because you’re a part of, you know, loyalty for a certain program? So, uh, that, that’s definitely something we do. .

Paula: Yeah. I think what we’re all experiencing is that we are totally overloaded in terms of content, in terms of competition for our attention.

So yeah, getting front of customers and members at any particular time and being able to connect to them in a meaningful way. I guess there’s, um, increasing need to make sure that we do that in a compelling way. So, super exciting insights. The other piece I wanted to ask both of you was around where you get your inspiration from.

You know, again, listening to this show, we’ve lots of people who are continually looking to, to be educated, to be inspired, and to look for, I suppose, innovative new ideas. So, given you guys, first of all, have access to incredible clients, again, particularly in Asia Pacific, tell us a bit about where do you get your loyalty insights from, uh, on a day-to-day basis.

let’s talk

Rohan: Loyalty .

Paula: Thank you all. That was very sweet .

Rohan: So No, it’s, it’s true. I mean, I mean, you have a great, uh, great list of, uh, you know, speakers that come on to this program and it’s always, it’s always good to learn from others. And I think case studies are, are probably the best way to get insights when you read about what others are doing or, or learn about what others are doing.

And, um, and I think, I mean the internet has lots and lots of those resources there, uh, you know, which give us that. Um, , one of the things we actively do is first party research. Um, so we run a lot of our own research and, and we do that quite periodically. So, uh, you know, we have about two or three researchers that we do annually.

Mm-hmm. . Um, where we are looking at, you know, from a B2B perspective, what is the sentiment? What are, uh, what are businesses thinking when they think about loyalty, travel, and experiences? Um, we run, we run the same on the customer side to see. Where is the customer sentiment going and, you know, how does that tie in with the b2b, uh, with the business, um, side of things?

Yeah. Um, so there’s a lot of first party research that we do mm-hmm. , um, around this. Um, and, and then, um, we, we, um, you know, of course have, you know, all our colleagues and, and people across across the world who have a lot of depth of experience and, and different brands that we are working on. So we are constantly.

Leveraging off one another as we, as we go into, you know, opportunities as we, we are building something, uh, you know, for, for a airline or for a hotel. And then, you know, we have, uh, similar cases that we’re doing. So, yeah. Uh, you know, there’s just a lot of sharing across that.

Paula: Fantastic. Yeah. And the one I particularly want to go on, certainly read in more detail, Rowan, is that Collinson traveler sentiment survey that, uh, we talked a bit about earlier.

So I’m gonna make sure to link to that in the show notes so people can go and get direct access to, to getting an understanding of, uh, exactly what you said, what customers are saying. And Thomas, from your perspective as a loyalty professional, where are you listening or learning from? .

Thomas: No, I mean, to me I think it’s really like looking at case studies and, and like specifically identifying use cases that deliver value.

Okay. Like I’m, I’m a big believer in, in doing a lot of experimentation and trying, uh, fail fast works really well. Right. Okay, cool. So, so, you know, what are snippets on where people, uh, leverage certain pieces of data and showed some progress, right? Mm-hmm. , and if you do that over and over again and you’ve done.

20 or 30 use cases that allows you over time to build a capability and a maturity around your data ecosystem, around the technology. Right? Yeah. Because there’s so much going on there, so many vendors, things are moving so fast. Yeah. And it’s constantly accelerating. It’s, it’s really hard to cut through all of that, right?

Yeah. But if you have. Good examples in your own industry and other industries and, and you can replicate that mm-hmm. and you can try out different things and show incremental value by delivering use cases and just making the ex customer experience a little bit better. Yeah. Or solving small problems in the organization.

over time, that builds the capability. Yeah. And then it gives you the expertise and the, the confidence to then say, what are the right technologies? What vendors work well for me? Where should I, you know, invest in, in my company? Mm-hmm. . And then over time that, that really drives results. And that’s how we also try to approach it with our clients in terms of identifying what are some quick ones that we can identify quickly, deliver mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm. and success breeds success. And we built on, on top of.

Paula: Absolutely. And I remember last time we spoke as well, Thomas, you gave me an amazing statistic that, uh, you guys are essentially supporting 500 million consumer interactions on a daily basis. So when it comes to data, you’ve got it at scale. So, uh, that’s where insights come from, is actually looking at, as we said, profitable behavior change and what people are actually doing day to day.

So, um, superb insights. So you guys have amazing access to it. So thank you for sharing. Um, my final question then is I’ve asked all of the, the kind of detailed ones I wanted to get into, but are there any other, I suppose, closing comments that you guys wanted to share with our global audience before we

Rohan: wrap up?

From, from my perspective, I think, um, I think this is a very exciting time to be in loyalty. Um, uh, you know, like you mentioned, I think the focus has shifted quite significantly on re. . Uh, I, I used to work, um, as, as part of the loyalty work I did, I was, uh, in a, in advertising and media agency. And, uh, you know, there was so much money that used to go into acquisition.

And then we’ve seen that shift that, that acquisition budget, the, uh, programmatic spending budgets, uh, Starting to shrink, getting more focused with a lot of that money moving into being more retention oriented. Mm-hmm. . Um, and I think that is a really exciting time. Yeah. Uh, to be in this industry. We are gonna see a lot more innovation coming out of brands as they do loyalty, as they bring, you know, as, as they blend the digital and, and the real world with what they’re trying to do.

And I think that’s a really exciting space. I’m looking forward to seeing, you know, what brands are doing with. With, uh, you know, web three technologies. Right. I, I’m really excited to see how crypto plays a role in loyalty. There, there are so many little Yeah. Use cases happening out there that it’s always fun, uh, to just keep watching, reading and, uh, you know, seeing where that goes.

So, so it’s an exciting time. It’s a, it’s exciting direction. Mm-hmm. , uh, and lots of activity would be happening in this space.

Paula: Absolutely. And I think we all know that cookies are disappearing as well, so absolutely. Like we just can’t rely on acquiring new customers. They’re just not gonna be there to acquire.

So you’re absolutely right. The budget has to focus on, on retention. So thank you for that. And Thomas, from your perspective, any closing words of wisdom? . Yeah.

Thomas: I mean for me it’s really, I mean, a, a lot of times to me, loyalty is enabling us to collect the data about customers. Right? With all the restrictions coming in place, first data, uh, first party data is becoming a lot more important, right?

And the loyalty program is the perfect platform to collect that. Mm-hmm. , right? And if we do a good job doing that and design the program properly, we’re gonna get the type of data that allows us to really. Provide that digital experience, provide that personalized experience that customers are craving for.

Right? And that’s what’s gonna allow us to set us apart, uh, compared to competitors. Right. And we, we talked earlier, cutting through all the loyalty program and getting that attention, right? Yeah. , the more personalized you can make it, the more relevant you can make your content because you know your customer really well.

Yeah. The more successful we’re gonna be. Right. And so it’s, it’s very critical to, to collect as much data as we can about the customer. Collect the right data. Yeah. Be really intentional about how we’re designed, the loyalty program. Mm-hmm. , so we have the understanding of the customer to. Create this great experience to have these rewards that really get people excited, you know, to create the customer experience mm-hmm.

that, that people now expect with, you know, digital acceleration, uh, that we’ve seen, especially to Covid. So that’s kind of like where yeah, where my focus is. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity, uh, for constant is for our clients.

Totally. Yeah. And I know you guys use the term bland loyalty and certainly something we’re all very aware of and very keen to make sure that we do find these super exciting, as we said, very relevant and, um, incredible rewards that we’re all super inspired by and drive our businesses through.

So listen guys, I really enjoyed the conversation. Uh, hope we can continue and look forward to seeing how Collinson grows, um, in the months and years ahead. So I want to say Rohan Bhalla and Thomas Dornis, thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Rohan: Thanks Paula.

Thomas: Thank you very much for having us.

Paula: This show was 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 has already certified over 500 executives in 38 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals. For more information, check out, TheWiseMarketer.com and LoyaltyAcademy.org.

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