#453: Loyalty Methods - A Unique Approach Powering Iconic Brands

Loyalty Methods is the platform powering some iconic loyalty programs such as 7-Rewards, MGM Resorts and Western Union, and they have developed a unique approach to implementing mission-critical programs for huge programs like these.

Joining me today to share these insights, as well as their background, methodology and some key success stories is Emil Sarkissian, CEO of Loyalty Methods.

Emil share some fascinating insights on their methodology and approach to de-risking a loyalty program that has decided to replace its underlying platform, as well as the way they think about their product roadmap.

This episode is sponsored by Loyalty Methods.

Show Notes:

1) ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠ Emil Sarkissian⁠

2)⁠⁠ ⁠⁠⁠⁠Loyalty Methods⁠

3) Loyalty TV

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 and Loyalty TV, featuring a platform which was described to me as one of the best kept secrets in the industry. Loyalty Methods is the firm behind such iconic programs as 7Rewards, MGM Resorts and Western Union Rewards. And I think they have a very unique approach in a number of key areas that I think are incredibly important to those of you listening who run huge programs like these. The two areas I found most fascinating are their methodology and approach to de risking a loyalty program that has decided to replace its underlying platform, as well as the way they think about their product roadmap. Joining me today to share these insights, as well as their background, methodology and some key success stories, is Emil Sarkissian, CEO of Loyalty Methods.

I hope you enjoy our conversation. And if you’re listening today on our podcast channel, I want to encourage you to take the opportunity to also watch our conversation on video on our new channel, www.loyalty.tv. Thanks for watching.

So Emil Sarkissian, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Emil: Thanks Paula. Great to be here. 

Paula: It’s really wonderful to have you here. I feel like we need to credit our mutual friend, Phil Rubin, actually for connecting us. 

Emil: Yes, I would say so. 

Paula: Absolutely. Sometimes I feel it’s a very small world and loyalty, and then I discover guys like you and you’re doing such incredible work and we haven’t had a conversation. So we’re here to put that right. Lots to hear about. I know you’re doing some incredible work. 

So first of all, I’m going to kick off with our usual opening question, Emil, which I know is quite a sensitive one for somebody who is working so extensively in the industry, but nonetheless, that’s what makes it interesting for us. So, first and foremost, Emil, tell us what is your favorite loyalty program? 

Emil: Oh, dear. Yes, it is. It is a loaded question. So before I answer it, I will just prefix this answer with just you have to keep in mind that, you know, I actually exist in the loyalty world in three different roles. One  is the consumer, which just enjoys the loyalty program benefits. And one is the marketer who kind of thinks about how to do this and from the marketing side, from the brand side, and also the technologist who actually tries to bring it together technically. 

So when I look at a program I sort of appreciate it in many different ways. And so, again, I generally have a lot more knowledge about the problems we’re working with and how they are internally set up. So I would say that you know, I would reference one of our customers and it’s going to be the 7Rewards. And the reason, yeah, I have lots of reasons to say that this is a really interesting program and very well done because you know, we’ve been on this digital you know, journey with them for a while now for about five years or so.

And you know, the amount of stuff that they’ve done is amazing. They are basically have created a rich experience for their customers. There’s a lot of mechanics and a lot of tactics that they can utilize like streaks, clubs. They’re using a lot of you know, they have the, now the digital wallet, so they’ve made it frictionless, they’ve made it very easy for consumers to engage and they’ve made it very interactive.

So everything that you do on this program is sort of, you know, sort of giving you feedback and sort of driving you to do more and brings brand to, to, to your mindset and all that, and technically they’re also very proficient. We work with a very agile, very fast paced team. And so I would mention also one other thing is the velocity of this program, how quickly it changes and to react to market conditions and to exploit opportunities and to counter any trends.

It’s just amazing how fast it works. I mean, it changes literally almost daily, right? And they can roll out changes daily on our platform and make really fast adjustments across a very large number of stores, you know, something like 10, 000 stores or so between the U S and Canada. Right. So again, an amazing at scale, you know, technology wise very tight you know, a large, huge volume, lots of velocity on the program. You know, hard to do all these things at once. Yeah, definitely. 

Paula: Yes. You’re it’s an exceptional example, Emil. So absolutely. Thank you for raising it. We’ve had 7 Eleven once on the show before we’re actually back on again, but I do remember having a little bit of a glimpse into the genius of what you guys are doing together, to judge genuinely The International Loyalty Awards. And of course, you know, I’m bound by confidentiality as are you in terms of really the some of the performance. But as a judge, I did get to see a little bit of the incredible deliverable returns on investment for the 7Rewards program. So yes, we can only continue to wish them well.

And when we get into some of your US piece, I guess, as a platform, I also remember last time we met you know, when you did take on that program, you actually did have to build a, you know, literally, I guess, in parallel with their previous program completely. So, so we’ll get into that story in a bit more detail, but yes, well, congratulations to you guys for getting the 7Rewards business, both in the US, and I think internationally as well, Emil. 

Emil: Yes, absolutely. Yes, we have the US., Canada and international across, you know, the world. So, it is, yeah, it’s getting all of the different pieces. 

Paula: So tell us on earth, how did you get here? I mean, that has to be one of the, you know, programs that every tech platform wants to build and run. But take us back to the starting point, Emil. Where did you come from? I suppose both, you know, personally and professionally to get to where we are today. 

Emil: Right. So yeah, it’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. I was born in Bulgaria and you know, I was always you know, since I was 12, I was trying to write computer games and things, and so I was  always in it to begin with.

And then fast forward, you know, to college I went to the University of Teesside in England in Middlesbrough. And did my information technology undergrad there. And then came to the US. You know, just around the Y2K, you know, and everything and sort of, you know, ended up staying here with and doing an MBA and so on.

And so it’s essentially my, my, my trip was sort of several countries to come here, but when I finally sort of started my career here, I was working in CRM at first at a very large bank, and I was, you know, essentially drawn to the idea of doing something interesting with not just CRM, but also combined CRM and marketing and sort of drive engagement, you know, in an interesting way. So when the opportunity for loyalty came around and actually the platform we were working with at that time was Oracle Siebel, you know, rolled out loyalty. I saw the opportunity along with my business partner at the time to, to create this company to actually help companies build these programs.

Now in those days, and that was 2007, 2006-2007, you know, loyalty was just really a thing that airlines did and hotels did. And it wasn’t really big in retail or elsewhere, at least not as visible as it as it is now in so many industries. And so, at that time we started with Alaska Airlines as our first plus customer and their mileage plan and that was successful in 2008.

And shortly after that, so we were basically a service company at the time, just doing the integration piece. And so we realized very quickly how difficult it is actually to make that kind of change in any company of any significant size. And so, so that, you know, that service business was going on and we were working with all these platforms that were somebody else’s platforms and cloud was just beginning. I mean, Amazon was, Amazon Web services and those kinds of things were just kind of revving up around that time. 

And so a few couple years into it, and by the way, I should mention that we were based out of Seattle. So I knew some people here that were working in AWS. And we sort of started understanding that this was going to change things quite a bit in that the platforms that were built you know, before cloud really not easy to put on cloud. We tried that on the, you know, it worked up to a certain point, but we really thought that, you know, if we wanted to make a truly engaging cloud ready sort of cloud first solution, we’d have to start from scratch. And so that’s what we did with our reactor CX platform. And that was the, you know, the genesis of that, you know, is really to try to move the technology along with the available infrastructure that was beginning to be very prevalent at the time. Yep. So that’s our kind of story. 

And again 7Eleven was an early adopter for reactor CX, our platform. And I’m glad they were because a lot of engagement with them. And in the beginning drove a lot of our thinking about what matters and how to scale, you know, early on so that we can build this in from the start, rather than, you know, you have it as an afterthought or worry about it later when we bump into some huge customer. It was the biggest, which actually pretty much started with the biggest thing that was out there in retail. So, which was very lucky, I think, but also very challenging. Right. In a good way. 

Paula: Well, lucky and challenging, Emil, I think you’re being very humble in fairness, something they saw that was unique. And as you said, I mean, I certainly know nothing about technology as you know, but I’m interested in your approach and the sheer fact that a brand like 7 Eleven chose to partner with essentially probably a startup at the time and I suppose build a partnership and a technology solution together that evolved at their incredibly fast paced needs and based on a vision that you had, I mean, it’s a remarkable story. 

So given that I don’t understand technology and you know, we don’t really talk about features on this, I think pretty much everybody can guess that you do all the basics, earns and burns and whatever we needed to, but I think what impressed me in, you know, I suppose on the business side of somebody who’s run programs was two particular things, but the first one was this idea of how to de risk what is a very complex implementation. And this is the story we alluded to in terms of 7 Eleven, it already have a platform in place. But will you just talk us through how you decided to implement that? And given that, you know, obviously the business has to continue, loyalty program cannot stop and start. So how did you decide to de risk it for them? And I know that’s part of your framework and methodology now for the clients you work with. 

Emil: This is a very good question, and I will start with, you know, the only way that we were able to so, of course every startup or every sort of early product set has compelling features that look great. And it’s like, hey, you know, this would really be cool to have. But then, you know, as you know, these large enterprises, you can’t make a decision on something like that lightheartedly without thinking about, hey, is this company, has they, have they seen scale? Do they, will it work? You know? 

So, so I think the big thing that we offered them that actually completely changed their thinking about that was that we were actually, able to give them a plan and also supporting tool set that would allow us to run our system in parallel, in the background without anyone else seeing it and clone all the traffic everything that they’re doing. And sort of run it in the shadows kind of you know, and let them experience our system In parallel with real production traffic, you know with all the volume across all the stores. Without actually having to switch to it unless they’re absolutely ready and sure that this is great. And that, you know, and that it’s equivalent, that the balances are matching, that everything is working right, all the things that, you know. 

So essentially the ability to stand up a parallel solution like that and to to run head to head with the current system over a period of time. You know, is allowing them to, so it’s also try before you buy kind of deal, you know, where you just, you can walk away if you decided that, hey, this isn’t working for us, or, you know, it’s not scaling enough or it’s falling behind or, you know, it’s inaccurate or any of those things.

Right. So, so giving that confidence and providing the methodology. And again, there’s a tool set that goes with it that allows this this to happen. I think completely removed that risk mindset from their consideration and said look, if it works, we can run it for some time, weeks, months, whatever we need to. And whenever you’re comfortable, you make that decision and we make the switch. And as a matter of fact, I remember, I’ll never forget that night when we did the switch and it was really interesting because, I mean, it literally did, nobody saw anything happen really? Because it was been running for so long.

At the and it’s funny ’cause after we did this you know, later customers like Western Union, when we switched I think the US and Germany were their biggest markets. And when we switched them over people actually, did we actually do the switch? Cause we didn’t see anything happen.

Like, no, because it’s so seamless by the time we have tested everything and ran in parallel for so long, it is so seamless. Yeah, it’s a non event like the go live is not a, the usual, Oh my gosh, will it work? Won’t it work? It’s almost guaranteed. You know, there’s no going to be any impact at all.

So, so we were very excited because that was the first time we actually proven our thoughts in our tools that we built to do this because we realized that no one will sign up for this bigger change without risk controls of some sort. 

Paula: Absolutely. Absolutely. And again, you know, I know obviously, you know, 7 Eleven were the ones that identified that they wanted this to happen, you know, with full peace of mind and give them the time I suppose to, I think what you explained to me is that anything that could have arisen in terms of always the inevitable minor bugs that came up when it was running in parallel. So it was fixed in advance of go live. And as you said, going live is a non event then, which I think is an incredible achievement. 

Emil: Yeah, it’s essentially transferring the risk from go live to, to well before go live before anyone sees anything. And that is still risk. I mean, we still solve problems, but we were able to fix them. And by the way, I should mention another thing is that as we go to run in parallel, what’s interesting is that, and I’ve done this several times now, you know, across different industries, I’ve never seen a program where people actually, and then the, you know, what the publisher will say is actually exactly the same in production.

In other words, our parallel run actually has two functions. One is to risking. The other one is actually auditing what’s going on in production, because if we see any differences, sometimes they can be explained simply by what you think is happening in production is really not quite what’s happening production, right? So in your own system, right in the original system, and so it has a lot of benefits that it brings out all the you know, the nooks and crannies of a system that may have been running sometimes for decades, you know, and being patched and so on, and people have left the company and nobody knows what happened. And suddenly there’s stuff running in production autopilot that everybody forgot about, you know?

So, so we ended up seeing that because we’re comparing two systems that we think one should be according to the current published rules, but what’s in production sometimes it’s a little bit off, you know, here and there. So again, great way to audit your current implementation and fix up any sort of things that have been struggling like that.

Paula: Yeah, I love that insight, particularly because I think you’re right. You know, there is so much turnover, particularly in big and nobody has a full picture of exactly how the program is running. Because as you said, it’s been built over time and things have been changed and fixed and nobody remembers what happened years beforehand.

So the fact that somebody is long gone, but there’s something they built that now you suddenly discover, as you said, in that preparation phase is quite I suppose hilarious, but again, only hilarious because I don’t have to deal with it. So. 

Emil: Well, I mean, it’s people are usually thankful and we’re able to reconcile this pretty easily but again, it’s just has that function, which is an added benefit to this whole thing. You know, is that it’s more than just risk controls. 

Paula: It’s amazing. Yeah, no, very reassuring. I know that’s how you explained it. So thank you for explaining it so clearly again today. The second piece that you explained to me, Emil was just how you think about, I suppose, the future of developing a technology like loyalty methods.

Again, none of us ever stand still. The industry’s moving now at a phenomenal pace and a lot of RFPs, I suppose, would talk about the technology roadmap. And, you know, exactly how do, you know, platforms think about that. And again, I think you about that, which again is clearly working super well. So just explain to us my summary, a recollection is you described it as actually reality is the roadmap. And that to me, again, was was a very unique perspective. It was brilliant. So tell us, how do you think about the feature set of how you evolve it? Yeah.

Emil: Right. And again, that’s, you know, that’s a good way. It’s in fact, I have to credit Phil with that. But you know, realities that roadmap, but it is true. Go ahead. Yeah. 

But you know, essentially what it’s interesting about roadmaps is that this idea that we are yes we do see a lot of industries. We do a lot of research and understand, you know, what’s happening with these programs to, in order to implement them. Right. And so we do know a lot about what’s going on but to think that somebody can sit in an ivory tower and sort of invent, you know, a roadmap and say, we’re going to do this for the next five years or two years, or even one year, you know, is is a little bit it’s risky from a business standpoint, because we don’t know if that’s really what’s going to be needed, you know, and it’s sort of, you know, you know, it’s difficult to imagine the kinds of things people would do with our platform and where they will fall short in some areas where they need help with features and general ideas that would be implemented.

So what we think about when we think about road map is we basically almost I would say there’s a waiting there but we based it a lot of it on what’s happening in reality in production today and what people are struggling with on a daily basis and how their ideas about what they want to do are changing.

And that’s an interesting thing, because as, you know, you know, as Ford said, once, you know, if I asked people what they wanted, they would say a faster horse. Not a car because they couldn’t imagine that. Right. So the thing with the, you know, the thinking of our clients evolves once they get on our platform. That’s when they start really start to think about things proactively. And again, it is the nature of this complex world that until you see something you don’t know you know what you actually need to do, you sort of have to have some physical experience with the product, with the platform, with with the loyalty space itself, you know, and how it’s changing.

So the ability to make these quick changes is really what we’re trying to focus on rather than sort of have these grand ideas that sort of invest massively and then sort of, you know, find out that the market’s moved on and nobody cares, or it’s a big other problem that has to be solved. So I think reality again we are very much grounded in the field, trying to understand what people are really struggling with number one, if they’re struggling with anything.

And secondly, is there something that they’re realizing after using the platform and after rolling out a lot of promotions that is suddenly a realization that we can leverage to build new features that, of course, we take them and we generalize them and make them, you know, a little bit more broad, usually to be able to capture all of the you know, related use cases but that’s the majority of our roadmap revolves around making sure that we can respond quickly to the needs of like next month or, you know, something like that. And not the needs of like two years down the road that we might think we know what they are but a lot of times that’s not, you know, it’s not very accurate and not, there’s a lot of risk in that decision to to go that far. Right. 

Paula: Well, you know what? I’m also hearing a meal coming through, but just coming to mind as you’re explaining it, I often hear brands really, you know, when they’re maybe dealing, you know, with a particular platform, they sometimes feel that there’s a very long time that they have to wait to get something that, as you’ve just described, they’ve realized they need to get that development roadmap, but it sounds like you are doing that every single day, that it’s actually you.

But that is the overall approach. And I love that because, you know, fundamentally, you know, how else can I be sure that the problems that arise in my business today, which are going to arise are going to be something that’s taken on by a partner and solved rather than again, put onto a roadmap where, you know, it might have to wait a very long time to come into production.

Emil: Right. Absolutely. I think, and I think that’s the that’s, I think what you’re saying here is yes. The, that’s the the time to market on these ideas and features is cannot be like six months or a year, which is a lot of times what happens with platforms is that they put it on a backlog.

Again, yes. There, there has to be a process. Absolutely. But what we try to emphasize is the agility of it. And so talk about weeks versus, you know, six months or a year or something, you know, and again, it gets tougher as you get more clients. I see that too. And as we have a broader you know, you know, we have different industries, so Western Union financial, 7Eleven retail, you know, we’ve got BP, we’ve got Speedway we’ve got MGM gaming.

It’s just a lot of different pieces now to this puzzle and so what are challenges is a business is to allocate resources, especially the ones that are building product out. In such a way that we shift the emphasis on to current, you know, current understanding of the field and what that means in the next few weeks to, to even a quarter max, you know, so I think that’s our thinking about that it’s to get emphasize agility and try to use our resources to to deliver that to the maximum we can.

Paula: Absolutely. Yeah. Agility combined, I think, with quite a bit of speciality, if I’m not mistaken, as well. And the one that really impressed me, and I know we’re going to have them on the show at some point soon, is MGM Resorts. Gaming is a heavily regulated industry. And again, it was only when we met that I really started to understand that every time somebody uses the slot machine, it’s transaction that you’ve got to capture, you’ve got to recognize, track, and obviously reward. So anything that you can share in terms of the gaming industry, I feel that’s a sector that it must be so sophisticated, so complex, and super exciting to work in. 

Emil: It absolutely is. In fact it’s one of my favorite places to get personally involved, you know, with things. There is a large, especially MGM owns, you know, I would say about 60 percent of the strip or so. You know, it’s a pretty, pretty good, yeah it’s huge. And it’s so, the amount of as you said, regulation and complexity within the gaming business to begin with, which then combines with food and beverage and hotel you know, spa and sort of all these other things that, that go with it different business lines essentially.

And so you’re mixing several lines of business. So, I think what’s interesting about that is it was able to leverage our ability. So to to ingest activities that we call polymorphic, which really means can assume many shapes. So in other words, I can have a hotel transaction and the next one could be, you know, a slot machine, the next one could be a table, the next one could be a restaurant bill, you know, all these things come to us and we are platforms polymorphic activities are able to sort of shape these transactions in a way that the platform can, you know, ingest them and sort of organize them without getting confused between the different lines of business and allowing some control over how this is done.

So, so for the gaming side, you’re right. One of the interesting things we noticed on the gaming side is how granular it is. As you said, you know, some active player can go and do, you know, hundreds of transactions a day, right? Which doesn’t happen with 7Eleven, which is quite frequent, but they don’t go, you know, to 7Eleven, you know, a hundred times a day.

It doesn’t it doesn’t resemble any other thing that we’ve seen. And also the earn is very granular. Every single transaction gives you a little bit of currency, not a lot. And so when you try to do redemptions and things and try to, you know, track all the behind the scenes, all the accounting there’s a lot of granularity to that which is something that is very different from other industries.

And so we found that, yeah, it was a good test for a platform in terms of granularity and ability to handle, you know, a redemption that covers maybe hundreds of accruals, maybe even thousands in some cases. Right. So, so that’s one of, one of the most interesting things about this world.

Paula: Yeah. Indeed. And of course you’re predominantly there talking, I suppose, about the mass market in terms of what MGM Resorts is doing, but I guess the top tier as well would have its own, I’m sure, extraordinary insights, which again, we won’t get into today, but I can just imagine again, the scale of the, you know, the big rollers, you know, in terms of what. 

Emil: Yes absolutely. I would say that this is, you’re right that this is actually a variability is what customer base you’re serving and their tiering system does a great job of managing that, you know, in terms of like, who is what level? And of course, the noir is the best level, the top level. And that’s where, as you said, the big rollers come in and they have to be you know, things have to be done there that, that are really very personal. You have the host and dealing with them and so on. 

And so the concept of loyalty there, there becomes very personal very close as a relationship. And so we have to support that with our technology in ways that are not the same as what we would do for mass you know, marketing and things that are larger segments. I wouldn’t say mass market, the largest segments, you know, that are of the population that are lower tiers. Right. So, very good point actually. 

Paula: Yeah, no, can’t wait to talk with them. So listen, you know, I suppose what I, you know, tend to hear a lot from the brand side of meal is, you know, there are so many platforms out there. It is a very crowded and dare I say it confusing place. So, you know, if you were sitting on the brand side, you know, how would you be thinking about evaluating a platform? So if you were sitting opposite to where you are today, this gives you a chance to maybe shine a little bit in terms of how you think about it.

But genuinely, most of this audience are brand side and it’s their opportunity to go, well, why would I think about loyalty methods versus any other tech out there? So what’s your pitch? What would you say they should be thinking about that you guys can support them with that that you’re super proud of?

Emil: Right. It’s a very, very good question. I think one of the things that we have realized very early on, even starting with Alaska airlines is just how many systems participate in a loyalty and customer engagement execution for any kind of program. And so, one of the things that I think really matters is to, again, you’re right about the marketplace. It is confusing. There are a lot of very cool looking products that do somewhat different, but sometimes overlapping things, right? So it sometimes becomes very difficult. And of course, all of them want to be, you know, front and center in a brand’s world, right? That’s natural, right? They want to, you know, to be so they will tell you that, you know, we do this and that. And so they expand their, you know, their use cases as much as they can. 

And so it becomes very difficult to put together a picture that says, hey, what, how do we organize all of these tools? Into a system that works that actually produces the kind of experiences for our customers that they can benefit from and we can learn from as marketers. Right? So so so that I think is a key challenge for a lot of company. And it’s very noisy in the marketplace. Of course, sales and advertising. And just a lot of things happen that confuse people. So I think what we have done basically from our side, and I think that’s how we approach just about any project, is we have a model.

We call it the CX machine, the customer experience machine. And essentially that model tries to categorize all the systems that exist in the company, including Reactor CX, if they’re our client. And where do they fit into the landscape? And so, there’s a channel. You know, there’s a bunch of channels like P.O.S. and kiosks and, you know, front desk and so on and call center and I guess. And then there’s operational systems like our platform, but there’s also tools like customer service tools and other things like that, that are operational.  Then there’s data, a data layer. That does purging and archiving and enrichment and so on. And then there’s the BI layer, which these days is probably the most important layer for modeling and reporting and so on. And so those layers of this picture, and you can see it on our website. We have that model actually published there. This is what we use to actually understand anyone’s landscape.

I walk into a company, I want to basically, it’s almost like putting together an outfit. You know, for somebody and you say, you know what, let’s see what you have in your wardrobe, you know, and how does that fit on your person? You know, like how would you look if we put all these things together? Would it look terrible or can we make it flow nicely, you know, and if you don’t have something, you know, maybe you go at it, you know, you get another accessory.

But the point is that we trying to take our model our way of thinking about the landscape and then translating that to you know, how would your company use these tools together and integrate them together to deliver a connected fluid customer experience, but also marketer experience.

In other words, the marketer has to be able to make sense of how this machine works and what it offers to them for learning from the customer. Because I think that’s really essentially I think this is something that we’re very big on is that, you know, just having our platform doesn’t make the loyalty program great.

You know, what makes a program great is the ability to learn quickly and change it in ways that increase the value for consumers, and that could only be done in production learning from the actual behaviors that you see. So, you know, essentially we see ourselves not so much as just giving you a thing that will make your loyalty program work as much as also giving you a learning tool that can quickly tell you what kind of program you really need to be putting out there. Right. And how to change your current offerings based on actual production, validated learning from your own customers. And that’s different for every business, you know.

Because let’s face it, if I had a tool that could make a better loyalty program than 7Rewards, for example, automatically somehow, then I’d be a competitor for 7 Eleven or something. You know, it’s hard to know what matters unless you actually tested with customers and see what they think and how they behave. 

Paula: Yeah, no, and that’s really useful. But even I also wanted to go back to something that you said last time as well, Emil, which is, I think a lot of program managers, when they do replatform, they often gives us the opportunity perhaps to also launch a new proposition and trying to do both things at one time can probably, you know, stress everybody out. 

Like, so I think your advice seems to be, you know, let’s get the, you know, the de risked, you know, platform proposition up and running and then evolved new propositions to get those enhanced returns once the existing program is absolutely optimized. Have I captured that correctly, you know, from what we’ve talked before? 

Emil: Absolutely. Yes. So that’s a core concept that especially when there’s an existing loyalty program, it’s not new. If it’s new, then there’s no replacement, but most of the things we do are replatforming, replacing, enhancing. Right. And so I think it’s very crucially important that you, before you, you start, you know, running huge improvements on the program that the program be transformed from the existing infrastructure and technology and platforms into its new platform. Right. And so I think that is key to begin with, because it also enables comparability, right?

Our whole methodology relies on first, do no harm, you know, take the existing piece that is running in production and do something with the new platform that mimics that enough that we’re confident we haven’t broken anything, right? And it’s operating the same way, but now on a much better tool set, right?

That immediately allows you as soon as you make the switch, then you can make rapid improvements and customer centric innovations that you want to do. At that point, and I think it’s what’s interesting is that I’m glad you brought this up because a lot of people, it’s sort of, of course, impatient getting a new platform. Why are we doing the same thing? You know, that’s, I think the first question we get asked. And I also have to always have to explain the same thing over and over is that, okay, if you have a person that’s got a weak heart and you’re going to do a heart transplant to, because they’re walking on it and you want them to run and sprint. Right. You know, you first have to focus on getting them walking with the new heart and then they start running. Right. So, and so there’s a lot of complexity and risk to mitigate in just doing that. And so I think our, you know, our way of thinking about this is that once a new platform is in, it can get, you can accelerate very quickly.

And that’s happened to all of our customers, they can attest to that. You can start doing things that were previously impossible, you know, very quickly, within weeks after launching, right? So it really pays to just sort of be patient. It’s okay. Let’s get it off the old, the old infrastructure and let’s put on the new, and then we can go crazy on it. So, to put it. 

Paula: I love the analogy of the new heart, Let’s get walking with the new heart and then we’ll try it out. So, it makes perfect sense. 

Emil: Yeah, I mean, you’re disconnecting a lot of things. The heart has a lot of connect, you know, a lot of things that you have to reconnect after you disconnect by the old one. So, the same thing is with these systems. It’s talking, loyalty talks to so many things, all these channels, and you have to disconnect and sort of reconnected back and so that in itself is a pretty you know, challenging thing to do, right? It’s huge.

Paula: Absolutely. The final thing you told me, which again, as a non techie person, you know, coming business perspective, what it did resonate with me was this idea that there are levels of ability, I guess, even on the client side, always where your platform needs to be available for a junior campaign manager to immediately switch on a new promotion. But also you might have something super complicated that you do want a developer to be able to kind of plug in, customize something.

So just, I suppose that scale of I don’t know whether agility or sophistication maybe, perhaps is a good word, but I like the fact that you want to cater for the actual user’s ability rather than a standard interface where everybody’s either overwhelmed or underwhelmed, you know, cater for what the actual needs of the individual users might be, you know, a different stage program.

Emil: Absolutely. That’s a very good point. So it’s yeah, I think you, you put it exactly right. Is that, that a lot of times there are, I mean, you know, their campaigns and their promotions and things that run all the time and they change, but they change very slightly, you know, you just change the percentages or whatever it is that the reward a little bit but it’s frankly the same promotion, right?

You’re saying buy three things of this kind and in a month and get a bonus and just varying the bonus or the things, but you’re not really varying the type of promotion, right? So those are run of the mill and people like 7Eleven, you know, they rolled them out by the hundreds, you know, every six weeks or so there’s a marketing period.

So, so you need volume there and you need people that do not need to be super users or highly skilled to produce these kinds of you know, marketing periods that, that launch every six weeks. And so, so for those people, you want something that is easy and just copy and paste kind of thing, and it’s fairly risk free and does not require, you know, any kind of significant technology, technological experience, right? To do that, but then at the same time you want to also innovate and not just repeat the same promotion types all over and over again, because customers are always interested in new types of engagements and, you know. 

So then there’s the need to be able to have you know, customizations, as you mentioned, to the point where our platform is fully programmable. In fact, you can go really deep and do a lot of things. Yeah, to the point where you’re basically building your own plugins for it and sort of building, building a system that sort of you know, adds your own functionality to the platform in the form of these plugins and functions and so on. So, again, this is technology speak and again, nobody really says that you have to do that for everything.

And I think the other thing that platform is able to do is once you do these sort of highly technical tasks, there’s ways to package it and templatize it so that then they can be used the same way that the existing simpler promotions were used. Right. So that’s the whole idea is to say, Hey we let your you know, your users work with the simple ones and without having to have a lot of technology experience, but we also opened a door for you to go in and do something really interesting and then package it for your end users that are not as technology savvy that they can use it. And so I think that’s the balance we’re always trying to strike to make that trade off that it’s not a black box that has free switches on it, that you can only switch these three things.

And it’s not a, it’s not a programming language that you have to learn just to do the basic stuff. So, it’s in the middle, it’s like where you’re trying to balance it. You know, and say some things are easy a few clicks away. Some things are not so easy, but they’re possible. 

Paula: Yeah. Amazing, amazing. Wow. There’s so much coming through a meal. It’s certainly a very exciting time for you. Want to congratulate you all your recent wins. I know BP was another recent one. So, so an incredible client portfolio.

I guess my final question, if you were to think about what you’re most proud of in the I guess, relatively short life of loyalty methods what would you point to, what is it that you’re particularly proud that you guys have achieved?

Emil: Yeah, I think we’re talking about Loyalty Methods. We’ve been around for 15 years, but the platform itself more about six I would say, right? So the last six years have been prominent. But you’re right about that part. You know, if I had to be honest, I think the most the thing that I’m proud of the most is that we are actually able to not just bring a platform to the place where we’re trying to work to the company that we’re trying to work with, but actually build, bring a methodology for implementation and something we call thread sync.

And it’s something that you know, most people under appreciate when they’re looking at platforms, they’re just looking at features and how the U. I. Looks and how easy it is to use and all that, which are all important things. But the real thing that is very difficult, which we are, that’s our differentiator, essentially, is that we can walk into a very large organization that is very complicated and people are very busy doing their daily jobs and put in a change that impacts almost all of the systems, right? Including back end finance and everything liability. And we’re able to do that with our process in a way that does not enormously disrupt their lives, right? Because, you know, it’s a very big change. So how do we compartmentalize it in a way that, that, that produces that change without creating a lot of risk, first of all, or any risk at all, for that matter. 

And doing it at a scale and doing it across all of these different departments and systems that have to be impacted and coming out with a success story that is beyond just RCX is now in there. It’s actually you know, fully integrated with all the other systems. And so I think that methodology, I think, is something that I’m proud of. And I think it goes well beyond of just being a SAS provider. I think we’re able to help customers actually succeed versus just acquire a platform, and that’s there’s a difference.

Paula: There is a difference. Absolutely. And again, you said last time, Emil, it takes a village and you’re absolutely right. I think we all know that as loyalty practitioners. It can look easy on the outside. It’s certainly not easy on the inside. So thank you for sharing the story. I don’t have any other questions for you today.

Emil, is there anything else that you wanted to mention before we wrap up? 

Emil: I think we’ve covered most of the interesting aspects of our business and what we do. I think we’re again the key thing that I think we generally want to, when people think of loyalty methods, we want them to think that, you know, things get done quickly and it’s not risky.

And essentially they can be done at scale and that we understand large, the large clients that we work with is giving us the understanding of what it really takes to do that. You know, it’s, that’s, I think the key thing is we’re experts in large enterprise implementations and Yeah, I think that’s our biggest strength.

Paula: I think so too. I’m hearing it coming through Emil, immense crowd. And again, congratulations. We’ll of course, make sure to link to both you and loyalty methods. com in our show notes. And of course, if anybody’s listening and wants to be connected with you, they can reach out to me or reach out directly to you.

So listen, I hope we can stay in touch, Emil. I feel like you guys are just starting now to come on the radars. We said no longer a well kept secret. So from my side, delighted to be working with you. Emil Sarkissian, CEO of Loyalty Methods. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Emil: Thank you very much, Paula. Really great. Thank you so much.

Paula: This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer. The world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which is already certified over 500 executives in 38 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals.

For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com and loyaltyacademy.org.

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