#378: Loyalty Strategy Insights for 2023 with Epsilon's Shannon Ottinger

This episode features one of the loyalty industry’s leading strategy experts!

Shannon Ottinger is the Vice President of Loyalty Consulting at Epsilon, based in Atlanta, and in this episode, she shares some extraordinary experience and insights on the key loyalty concepts that brands are excited about in our industry in 2023.

Listen to hear how Epsilon is helping clients begin to measure *emotional* loyalty, a concept we all know is absolutely critical to focus on with our members, but it can be extremely hard to create emotional loyalty and even harder to measure it!

Shannon also shares how brands are thinking about localizing their global loyalty strategies as well as other exciting examples of some exceptional loyalty programs she admires around the world.

This episode is sponsored by Epsilon.

Show Notes:

1) Shannon Ottinger

2) Epsilon

3) Forrester Research Report: Epsilon named a Leader in The Forrester WaveTM: Loyalty Technology Solutions, Q1 2023

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, featuring one of the loyalty industries leading strategy experts. Shannon Ottinger is the Vice President of Loyalty Consulting at Epsilon based in Atlanta. And she has some extraordinary experience and insights on the key loyalty concepts that brands are excited about in our industry in 2023.

In our conversation today, I loved hearing Shannon’s insights firstly, on how Epsilon is helping clients to begin to measure emotional loyalty. It’s a concept we all know is absolutely critical to focus on with our members, but it can be extremely hard to create emotional loyalty and even harder to measure it.

Shannon also shares how brands are beginning to think about localizing their global loyalty strategies, and she shares a fascinating insight on how some of Epsilon’s clients are achieving this. I hope you enjoy my conversation today with Shannon Ottinger from Epsilon.

So Shannon, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Shannon: Thanks so much, Paula. I appreciate you having me. I’m excited to be here. 

Paula: Well, I feel like we, we should know each other so well. I feel like our paths have been crossing like for so long, so it’s a long overdue conversation and I’m super excited to have you here.

So, yes you are. I’m going to use the word loyalty veteran Shannon, if that’s, if that’s one that you would welcome.

Shannon: Absolutely. Absolutely. 

Paula: I think, I think so. So for me, I think I said to you before, Shannon, you do what I think is all the really fun stuff in terms of loyalty on the strategy side. So I’ll be dying to get into your role and your work with Epsilon, of course, and even some of the clients you’ve worked with recently or, or along the way in your career.

So before we get into all of the wonderful loyalty strategy work, Shannon, as you know, we always love to ask our guests what is their personal favorite loyalty program so we can get behind what it is that inspires you as a loyalty professional. So go for it. Please tell me what’s your favorite loyalty program?

Shannon: Absolutely, and that was a tough one to really narrow down. I had to give it a lot of thought, but I think what I came back to where two that really speak to me personally, Nike and Adidas. I think part of that is that I’ve had the privilege to work with them in the past before Epsilon on their loyalty strategy. And they both hit on really two of our core beliefs for success in loyalty.

One is this idea that loyalty is really enterprise strategy when it’s done right. It’s how you create competitive advantage. You have to use it to amplify the brand and really bring the brand to life for the individual. It’s gotta be driven by the C-Suite, so it’s integrated throughout the business to really deliver on that brand. Promise. 

And for Adidas, this is really their own the game strategy. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that. That was actually something that they announced in March of 2021 in their investor conference. Does that ring a bell? 

Paula: No, I did not know that. 

Shannon: It definitely check it out. It’s really neat. It’s their commitment to customer centricity.

And the fact that they choose to announce that at their investor day really speaks to that level of commitment and how they really see loyalty in customer centricity as that enterprise strategy. So, and, and it really kind of, echoed what Mark Parker was talking about, when he set his goals around 2020 for Nike, way back in the day probably around 2015, 16, so quite a while ago. 

So I love that they both really speak to this idea of an enterprise strategy around loyalty. One that’s integrated throughout the business, but also they both really seem to understand that value is three-dimensional. And at Epsilon we talk a lot about value being head, heart, and wallet.

In terms of the value that you provide to your customers and why they would choose to ex to engage with you, it’s so much more than financial. Loyalty really had its roots in financial transactions and transactional loyalty. But they both use access in a really interesting way that’s specific to their business.

We used to talk to them about access to product being kind of three, three ways of looking at that early exclusive or guaranteed. And they really kind of started with the sneakerhead when it came to access because that spoke so much to the sneakerhead, it was all about getting that high heat release.

Right. And over the years, as they’ve evolved to the programs, they’ve looked at how to expand that to the rest of their base as well. So they have sort of member exclusive products and those kinds of things. So I love that they get that idea of value being more than transactional. And access is a key piece of it.

But also, again, the tie to the brand, and this is where I like Adidas, and this is why I had to pick both of them and I couldn’t really narrow it down to one. 

Paula: I get it, yeah. 

Shannon: Cause, they’re, they’re doing similar things, but in a slightly different way. So for Adidas, it’s the way that they tie to their brand commitment of sustainability.

If you haven’t seen it, I say check out their Run For The Oceans campaign. It’s a brand activation. That’s really driven at the brand side, out of the brand side of the business, but it comes to life through the, through the program in a, in a couple of ways. And that’s why it’s my favorite example to use cause it shows that integration between brand and loyalty.

So often clients struggle with running loyalty in the little silo within the marketing department. And I love how they’ve really tied it to the brand and it hits on several value drivers because they’re, they’re creating this sense of belonging and community, bringing their members together physically to do running. They’re using that engagement platform that they have encouraging people to actually go and run on their app. And then they come back and they bring it full circle. They actually demonstrate the impact that you as a member had saying, okay, because of all the runs that our members did, they ran X million miles.

We were able to take X amount of plastic out of the ocean. So it’s this great tie that kind of comes full circle for them. Creates that sense of belonging, engages people outside of the transaction. There’s just so much to love about it. And none of it has to do with actually buying the shoes. Right. It will drive back to that eventually.

But it’s not about you are going to get points per dollar or anything like that. And, and what I like about both of these programs is that is the direction that I see loyalty heading. So to me, these are the innovators. These are where it’s headed. And that’s what gets me excited to go to work in the morning.

Paula:  Oh, Shannon, that’s so inspiring. Honestly, I, I totally, I mean, I literally have so many pieces of that that I wanna pick up on. I think the first is the fact that you used the word member, and there’s a lovely sense around all of that. I can hear it coming through. It’s, it’s so far away from that kind of concept of points and the, the jaded association that loyalty programs are, dare I say, tarnished with, Shannon. 

Shannon: Yes. 

Paula:  But to have something that is actually, first of all, you know, the investor relations piece, which again, I look out for that as a key clue. It’s one of the kind of real, I suppose small, but compelling indicators that a company truly gets loyalty if they’re talking to investors about it, then it’s at a different, different level. So that’s one. 

And the other one, just as an aside, is I always look at where is, if there is a loyalty program, where does it appear on the client’s website? Is it kind of buried in a footer or is it front and center in the top navigation. So brands like Adidas and Nike, I can honestly say Shannon are coming through time and time again at the moment.

I kind of feel like their time has come. And it’s almost like, you know, in the last few months I feel like they’ve become like an overnight success, but obviously based on work that people like you have been involved with since, I dunno what you said, 20 15, 20 16. But, I mean, this is a long time coming, but also in a very unexpected space because I think a lot of people listening to our show are thinking airlines. We’re thinking hospitality. When we look for inspiration, we’re probably looking backwards to, you know, probably some very traditional programs. Whereas I think what you are highlighting is the super sexy stuff that’s coming out from brands that actually totally get it. 

Shannon: Yeah, they, they totally get it. And you know, it’s, I love that you picked up on that word member because that is very, very intentionally used in that space. And you’ll see it across kind of their competitive set as well. And we did some really interesting research in my prior life trying to understand really that difference, between that word member, and it’s interesting. 

We were looking at it from a subscription lens because the client in question is a global subscription provider and they wanted to understand kind of more of that retention question around how do we retain our subscribers? And we looked specifically at that word, subscriber versus member.

And member had a real tie to loyalty program membership in people’s heads. And yet you don’t hear it used as often as I think it should be to the customer themselves at that idea of member. 

Because it, it, it implies this sense of belonging and, and emotional attachment. That I think all of us are seeking as loyalty practitioners, but maybe not thinking about the importance of that vernacular. And Nike had this great phrase that they used to, to use called Know To Serve that I love to, to kind of steal from them all the time. I will give them full rights to it. It is theirs. 

But I think it’s a really great expression because it really speaks to this idea of what we’re trying to do in membership, right? The whole point is to get to know you better so that I can serve you better, and that we can create a mutually beneficial relationship that has a kind of positive feedback cycle that as it develops, gets better for each of us. Right. A win-win over time. 

Paula: Totally. Totally. And I’ve often said on the show as well, Shannon, and these may be unfamiliar words in a business context, but for me it feels like a loving intention from a brand. When they use a word like member, it’s actually, we’re thinking about you.

We want you to feel like you are part of something. And I think to your point, Shannon, it’s to move away from that kind of transactional piece. And I was really laughing when you said sneakerhead because I nearly had to get you to explain that clearly. I’m not a sneakerhead. 

Shannon: Oh, I hear you. When I was working with them, it took me a moment to try to understand all of that. It’s a culture. It really is a culture. It’s crazy.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I’ve had the same, you know, sneakers, you know, for, I dunno how many years, like I’m just not in the, you know, the, the, the, you know, awareness, the excitement, the, the fashion obsession dare I say, with the products they produce. 

But I am totally blown away by the fact that they have that level of commitment at a senior level to have a culture, which, as you said, kind of it, it almost like takes every single box. When I think about contemporary loyalty, you know, like we talk about things like, you know, you know, communicating with people, feeling like part of a culture.

That there is a brand that I actually want to have a relationship with because I think, you know, especially with cookies, to use another kind of C word, which as we know we’re all about to disappear, you know, there was always that sense of, you know, you are kind of being hounded to, to make the purchase if you happen to look at a product, whereas, something like access, which you are talking about, is something that then feels totally aspirational. Like I want to be in, I want to engage, and all of a sudden this feels like a relationship rather than, you know, something that. 

Shannon:  Absolutely.

Paula: Just like we’re trying to bribe you and it’s, it’s a token gesture or again, I think points have a lot of work to do in terms of making people feel rewarded because there’s very often a case where they just don’t do that anymore. 

Shannon: In, indeed rewarded, recognized all of those things. Right? It’s how do you really deliver that in a different way. And I think that’s what’s so interesting about that, that space and those brands, because they’re at the top of their game, right?

They are aspirational and that’s why access community belonging, these were the right things for them to design loyalty around. Because the last thing that they wanted to do, was discount their brand. That is not at all what they wanted to do. They’re premium brands, they wanna stay premium brands, and they needed a loyalty strategy that aligned to that vision of their brand. 

And it’s interesting that you mentioned the word culture because when we think about, we actually have a, a loyalty maturity model, and we think about kind of where brands are on that model. Enculturated is the ultimate kind of all the way over to the right, if you will.

Destination of where you wanna get in terms of that maturity model. The most mature brands have it. They, they live it, breathe it. It’s like the old Emily Collins line right about being a loyalty company. It’s really living and breathing that, that mantra, if you will. 

Paula: Totally. And what I also like you, you said there, Shannon as well, is that for particularly Nike and Adidas, they’re premium brands.

And to me, Epsilon is also a premium brand. And how wonderful is it that we can enjoy being premium positioned brands. Using something that genuinely feels, again, back to that loving intention, like you know, you wanna take care of your clients, I wanna take care of my audience. You know, the, the guys at Nike and Adidas really wanna take care of people and it takes all of the focus away from actually, yeah, we just want you to buy more stuff because, as you said, that comes much later.

And if you can trust in the process, which again, I think I said to you last time we spoke, I called this show, Let’s Talk Loyalty to have that kind of sense of the emotion of what we’re aiming for, rather than talking about, you know, campaigns or promotions or coupons. Because honestly, that stuff has just been done to the point where I think consumers are actively disengaging, dare I say it from loyalty programs. But they are looking for brands that understand them and that’s where they do wanna connect. And they’re happy to be marketed too, if there’s something in it for them. 

Shannon: Absolutely. It, it all comes back to that notion of reciprocity, right? Which is at the core of a lot of this, and how do you build trust over time and that, and a balanced value exchange. And a lot of that is really understanding that value can be so much more than just purely financial. 

You know, in fact it was interesting, we did some research again prior life with a major financial services organization, Global Financial Services. Long time leader in loyalty. Around these ideas of, of value drivers, right?

And our theory was that their highest level card holders would actually value access and time or convenience way more than they valued any kind of offers or discounts. And we were able to actually prove that in the course of our research, which was really cool. 

So,  I, I think these brands like Nike and Adidas understand that value is so much more than transactional and they understand what those right value drivers are for their particular audience, and that’s what they’re playing to. And that’s how you build those long-term relationships and that trust. Right. It’s that permission-based marketing of you and I have an agreement that you know, you’re gonna give me your information and I’m gonna track you and get to know you better. It, it all kind of comes back to that know to serve notion. 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, and I think that is a great term. I’m going to also steal it, because…

Shannon: That’s okay. I’m stealing, loving intention. I like that. 

Paula: Oh, oh, good. Absolutely. Yeah, because I think again, for, for our audience, Shannon, it is around maybe helping their organizations with this concept of you know, the program happens to be yes. Maybe a useful mechanic, maybe not, but actually you know what, what do we really need to achieve? What we really need to achieve is that we can, we know them and therefore can serve them.

And I think when you actually make that distinction between them, then I think you have a lot more permission to be maybe more creative. Dare I say it with loyalty programs? Such as what? adiClub, for example. And the last number I heard, and you might correct me, you might know better, but I believe adiClub, club,  is at now about 300 million members globally.

Shannon: Sounds right.

Paula: So it’s absolutely incredible what they’re managing to achieve. And I have to confess, I’m not a member because again, I’m not in the sneaker head and I’ve just. May I, I, I’m really not aware of how it’s performing in this region, but I’ve heard so much about it and we do hope to have them on the, the show quite soon, Shannon.

So, they’ll be super glad that we’ve been talking about them and celebrating, dare I say at their success. And again, hoping that everybody listening to this show can be inspired by adiClub and Nike of course, in terms of the, the direction they’re going. So, so that’s Know To Serve. it sounds like Epsilon clients are getting a big education in terms of you and your team.

In terms of what’s important, how would you say your clients are feeling about, driving customer loyalty, Shannon? Because what I always love, I said it to you as well the last time, is you get to have the helicopter view of, you know, what all the industries are doing, what they’re all talking about, where they’re struggling.

And I think we’re also probably very aligned in terms of what most of again, loyalty professionals do struggle with in terms of their programs, whether it’s commercially or financially. But give us some insights in terms of what are Epsilon clients thinking about and talking about in terms of their customers.

Shannon: Absolutely. I would say there’s a couple of things right now. One, and I, I hate to keep picking on Adidas, but I’m gonna pick on ’em one more time.. I’m gonna steal another phrase from them that I thought was really interesting was this notion of glocalization, right? Taking a global program, and how do you make it relevant in a given market?

And we actually are hearing a lot more of that as you kind of are seeing more and more programs really understand that importance. And I know on the platform side, we’re working on glocalization as well. So right now we have a couple of clients we’re working with a, a major global QSR client helping them in Japan.

To really figure out how, how do we make that program resonate in this market and what role specifically should gamification play? Because my understanding is that that is a big, kinda tactic that is often used in Japan and it’s very effective. We’re engaging. But you gotta make sure those pieces are are integrated. Right. 

So we’re helping them figure out, okay, how do, here’s our market, how do we understand it? And then how do we tie to the global strategy and kind of bring these things all together in this market in a way that makes sense. And then we’re supporting our UK team too, with the 20 billion, or I wanna say dollar 20 billion Euro Global CPG player, helping them design loyalty for some of their global markets across AMEA and APAC. So again, what should that look like in these different local markets and how do we create a cohesive global strategy that still plays locally. 

So, Glocalization is definitely kind of a hot topic that we’re, we’re seeing. And I think you started to hit on this one earlier, which is ROI. Right. We, we’ve gotta prove the value of loyalty. And we’ve been blessed at Epsilon to have been able to develop some really robust tools over the years. Like our profit financial model that helps project, program ROI. And we’re seeing a lot of increased interest in that offering, for our clients.

I think the current economic conditions, fear of recession, inflation. You’re seeing a lot of brands like Starbucks devaluing their currency. You, you just really have to make sure that you have a, a balanced value exchange, that you know which customers you’re gonna be driving value from, what behaviors you’re trying to influence.

And, and that’s where we can use also our VAP segmentation, our value attrition, potential segmentation. And that’s where it comes back too, to that. Enterprise customer strategy, looking across all the customers and trying to understand where and how we’re gonna drive value and then really project that out and set up clean test and control so we can get a really clear read on incrementality.

Those are a lot of the conversations that we’re having. That and what we touched on with integration. Right. How do I integrate with the brand? How do I measure not just incrementality, but emotional attachment? Right? How am I going to really start to take something up?

Let’s, let’s be real. That idea of emotional loyalty has been squishy for way too long. We, we all have a really good handle on incremental sales, but very little handle on that emotional piece. So our team has been working really hard to develop an attachment score and some predictive modeling around that and, and how it kind of ties to driving transactions and that kind of thing.

So, that’s a big piece. And then just. Again, I’m stealing from Adidas all over the place. I’m sorry. I apologize to your upcoming Adidas guest for the Adidas Love Fest, but.

Paula: Totally fine.

Shannon: My, my old client used to call loyalty a cross-functional sport. And I think they’re so right. I mean, you just can’t get it right without having the buy-in and commitment across the organization.

So , we’re seeing a lot more demand for change, man, our change management services to help clients figure that out. And we’re spending more time in the design process, really building buy-in throughout that process. Giving those different stakeholders a voice in the design. 

And kinda bringing them along so that design, again, isn’t done in some silo of a marketing group within a, you know, loyalty team within a marketing group. But is really done cross-functionally. We are finding increasingly that, that’s, that’s critical to success. 

Paula: It is critical success, to success, Shannon. But also I think what is critical is for the, the brands to understand that upfront, because I really think historically, again, and I’ve probably been guilty of it many times, is leaping into the solution and the strategy, you know, without first going, okay, how’s the organization feeling? About our customers at the moment.

Do we have our loving intention? Do we have, you know, aligned KPIs? So I, I love the fact that you are, first of all, educating brands about that change management piece. I didn’t realize you had dedicated services around facilitating that, but, It’s, it’s been talked about, but to me it’s usually being talked about in a very informal way, rather than actually going, no, this has to be the way we just, if you wanna do it well, you’ve gotta do it right.

And you need to kind of build that into the overall program, and to the whole plan. So I really love that. And the piece that you mentioned about, your client in Japan, particularly what it sounds like is that gamification is not part of the global strategy, but is part of the local culture, if I’m understanding you correctly.

Shannon: Yes. 

Paula: So it sounds like then there’s an, almost, you know, what could have been, you know, a country again going off you know, developing a loyalty program. Quite different to, to the global strategy, but it sounds like you guys are focused on helping bring the two into one program. So I’m gonna just say, as in when you can reveal that QSR brand and and share any results, I find time goes by very quickly on this show, Shannon, so I’m sure in no time at all I’ll be asking you to come back and talk about that.

But, that sounds super exciting. To me Glocal is, is absolutely something that, everyone struggles with. Particularly global brands because I think there’s a lot of kind of franchises, for example, in the world where, you know, there’s very tight guidelines in terms of what you’re allowed to do as a marketer.

And I would’ve, you know, tried to do some things probably slightly outside the bounds of what I was supposed to do in various jobs in the past. In terms of extending a brand to fit a local culture. But that’s, that’s incredibly exciting. And then on the ROI piece, I think you guys are probably, dare I say, the oldest I think is Epsilon 50 years in business. If I, if I’m right in remembering that? 

Shannon: It is. You nailed it. That’s absolutely right. 

Paula: Oh my goodness. Wow. So that’s a lot of modeling. 

Shannon: That’s a lot of modeling. And we have a very, gosh. I don’t even know what word to use. Mature team, experienced team as well. So our loyalty strategy team in particular has minimum of 15 year or an average of 15 years of experience.

And we have plenty of people who have 20, 25, 30 years of experience on our team as well, which is great because we can, we know what the watchouts are, we know what the gotchas are. We can help our clients kind of avoid the common pitfalls that we’ve seen through our years of experience. And we can bring true benchmarks and insights to that modeling that we develop to know kind of what you can expect. A model is only as good as the assumptions that it’s built on. And, you know, we have a lot of experience that bring to bear to kind of drive those assumptions.

Paula: And, and the other piece I said to you last time as well, Shannon, that I like about how you guys do it, is that you are very independent and separate to the technology platform in terms of the, the consulting piece.

And yet you ultimately, of course, are hoping that you will be, of course, building the ultimate strategy, which means then there is full accountability for only recommending a strategy that is fully operationally possible. Dare I say it, because I think there’s an awful lot of brainstorming that happens in the world of loyalty, and sometimes strategies go on PowerPoint slides that are totally unrealistic and absolutely very, very expensive mistakes.

But I do like the fact that you guys have it separately or together as required. 

Shannon: Absolutely. And that’s one of the really exciting things too, about being a part of the broader Publicis organization as well, is that we can offer such a breadth of offerings. And we have certain accounts that can run the gamut from, you know, involving Sapient and Leo Burnett and ourselves, and we can kind of bring all of the different pieces of the puzzle together. 

So we talk about enterprise level strategy and kind of being driven out of the C-suite. It helps that we can bring all the pieces together for our clients from technology to brand to, you know, the change management services.

Right. Which is actually within Epsilon, but, but same, same sort of idea of being able to bring all of the pieces together and clients can pick which pieces fit for them. And you know, we’ll work with other partners outside as well as needed. Our intent is to bring the solution to the client and it’s gotta be actionable.

Like you said, nothing is worse than that giant PowerPoint deck that just sits on the shelf. That that doesn’t do anybody any good. And, in fact, we see, you know, you talk about trends, another thing that we’re seeing is, clients who need a little bit more help on that detailed design piece. So they might go get some help up somewhere else on loyalty strategy and it might just be so high level and visionary.

That it doesn’t kind of connect down into, okay, how do I actually get this thing into market? So we, we were actually able to launch several programs last year just within our loyalty strategy team. We launched with Zaxby’s in the Southeast US. We launched with, we launched with Sparkling Ice, we launched with Lowe’s on their pro side.

And, we even were able to take FedEx and help them expand, they’ve been a longtime client, but help them expand to other global geographies as well. So we excel in that space as well of getting you into market, which is critical for people. 

Paula: Okay. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So sounds like a couple of incredible, both B2B and B2C, projects and clients that you’re super proud of.

Shannon: Very proud of ’em. Very proud of ’em. And to your point, some are on our platform and some are not, just depending on what their particular situation is and what their needs are. 

Paula: Absolutely. And we have to give a shout out, and I know you’re on the strategy side, Shannon, of course, but your technology colleagues have done exceptional work in the recent Forrester Research Report.

Do you wanna tell us what you guys came out with or do you want me to go and find the press release? 

Shannon: No, we’re very, very proud to be named a leader, yet again in the Forrester Wave for Technology Solutions. It’s very exciting and something that we work very, very hard to maintain our leadership position in that space.

It’s a, it’s an all hands on deck to make sure we’re moving things forward and we collaborate very closely with our tech partners, with our product partners. To make sure that the technology sees the market innovation that’s coming and is able to get ahead of it. 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And I know you feed into it as well, Shannon, because I do think that, again is, you know, to take that idea again of the helicopter view into exactly what will the future platforms need to be doing.

I did see on your LinkedIn as well that you’re somebody who loves all of the, I suppose the more innovative end of tech in terms of all the breaking technologies, all of the kind of new concepts, which I think a lot of us are still struggling to wrap our heads around. But need to be thinking about in terms of future proofing. Would that be fair to say? 

Shannon: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. That’s something that is very interesting for, for me, and that I push our team to keep an eye on where the market is going. And, really be thinking about things like, for example, right now we’re trying to sort through web three and Chat GPT and NFTs and how, how are all of those things going to come to life in our space and what should our clients be thinking about?

And  in my prior life, I ran the innovation practice and it’s still, you know, a sweet spot for me in terms of, of passion. 

Paula: Yeah. And, and how are clients feeling about these breaking technology, Shannon? Would you say you know that they are, are they at testing stage, any of them? Would you say in terms of like starting to explore, I know some of the big global brands, for example, I know Starbucks of course, is very well publicized in terms of their NFT strategy, but what are you hearing in terms of, trialing these various technologies?

Shannon: I think there’s a lot of caution around NFTs in particular, and I think a lot of clients are sort of waiting to see how it all plays out, so. We don’t have a lot of clients that are really jumping into that quite yet, but they’re very curious. So we’re doing a lot of monitoring of the market and kind of reporting and providing points of view.

I think with NFTs in particular, that idea of that ongoing liability potentially being out there, scares a lot of people and, and I think a feeling of potential loss of control from a brand perspective, also kind of has people a little bit nervous, so. People aren’t jumping into it.

They’re kind of waiting back to see what Starbucks Odyssey is, is really doing. And how that kind of all pans out. And I, I find the, the timing of that announcement on Starbucks Odyssey relative to the devaluation of the currency was, you know, a master play as well. I thought that was really interesting.

A little slight of hand, like, don’t look over here, we’re gonna give you this instead. I think that’s a great, I mean, hey, well, well played Starbucks, right? 

Paula: Honestly. Yeah. And, and so many of our guests. Shannon do kind of quote them, of course as their favorite loyalty program, both personally and professionally.

So who are we not to admire what Starbucks is doing, of course, it’s just incredibly clever. But as you said, it’s not everyone that can take the risk with their brand necessarily. By kind of exploring something, as new and, I suppose, yeah, just, just unknown in terms of where, what could happen, what could go wrong.

I do think liability is something that everybody is super cautious about and quite rightly so. So, yeah, back to the modeling, I suppose, in terms of let’s not launch something until we know exactly what it’s going to do over time to make sure. 

Shannon: Exactly, exactly. I think the other thing that really excites me in this space right now is, is this notion of ecosystems and what we’re seeing with Delta Sync.

That’s something that I’m gonna be monitoring really, really closely because it’s a, it’s an old idea that we used to talk about, about. I think we started talking about, about five years ago, is kind of the next iteration of partnerships, if you will. So it’s exciting to see somebody. A leader like Delta really starting and, and American Express starting to kind of bring that to life and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Paula: Okay. And it’s not one I’m aware of, Shannon. So in terms of like my background is very much partnerships on the loyalty side, but what is it that Delta are starting to, to think about in terms of this ecosystem idea? 

Shannon: So Delta is offering free wifi on flights now. And it really is all centered around SkyMiles membership.

So in order to access that, you have to be a SkyMiles member. It almost makes me, and they’ve taken on several partners with this T-Mobile, American Express, the American Express play looks like it’s really driven around Resy. 

And we used to talk about this idea of ecosystems as the notion of seamless handoffs between partners. So if you think about what we’ve just talked about of how we’re moving away from transactional loyalty into this non-transactional world. It’s how do these partnerships that used to be so transaction focused, right? Like it would be I get a, a SkyMile for doing an Uber. I get an Uber for doing a SkyMile. 

Right? It was all about the currency. This is more a about the customer experience and how you hand people off in a way. So, for example, the one piece that I’ve really been able to glean so far with Resy is that you’re gonna be able to get, you know, you’re flying to New York. Here’s five restaurants you could make a reservation on. Right. And it’s all going to eventually drive to the back of the seat screen and creating, a known customer experience, if you will, on there. Think of it almost like Apple CarPlay. Right. And the way that that, kind of keeps all the pieces together as you’re taking that journey in the car.

And creates that customized kind of personalized experience. And I think that’s where they’re headed. It’s early stages. I’m only watching from the outside. Anyone if Delta you’re listening, I’d love to be watching from the inside. We would love to help you figure this all out. 

But that’s, that’s an interesting space to me that is gonna be really evolving in the coming year or two in particular as they build this, this out and we see what the different relationships and how they come to life. 

Paula: For sure, like I’m, I’m ex airline Shannon, in terms of my own kind of career and not on the loyalty side, but even, you know, in the work I was doing for example, with Emirates back in the year 2000, and I know that ages me dreadfully, but exactly to your point, Shannon, I always had this frustration that the, the seat pack video, which is on every single seat on every single Emirates aircraft, I could not understand why the first thing that we didn’t do with an airline was capture an email address from the person who’s sitting board. Waiting to take off and it takes us back full circle to your point about the known customer. I’m like, it’s wonderful to tell people what movies are coming, but you have their undivided attention for five minutes here, now. Would you not ask for an email address? 

So I definitely think that there is so much potential. Of course you can go and find it, and of course the programs are always there. But yeah, to me, the loyalty opportunity and the relationship opportunity with something, it sounds like Delta is starting to really prioritize in terms of that ecosystem.

So really want to say thank you. That’s brilliant for bringing that to our attention. So again, we’ll make sure to reach out to Delta if they wanna come and share their story on the show. We’re always looking for, for new ones.

The final sector I wanted to ask you about, and you touched on it briefly earlier, Shannon, in terms of one of your clients, I think out of Europe, is the CPG space.

Because I think as we’ve said, you know, whatever about, you know, footwear, we’ve talked extensively about that. We’ve just touched on, you know, again, more traditional loyalty in terms of airline, but, you know, consumer package goods, I think are very much at the leading edge. In terms of building direct customer relationships, given that they sell obviously through retailers in, you know, pretty much every instance.

So what are you hearing in terms of CPG? Is there a big appetite for this or are they just dipping their toe in the water or what’s happening on that side? 

Shannon: I feel like we’re, we’re dipping our toe in the water at this point. it is a tricky space to try and figure out how to go DTC in that space without a question.

So tough. It’s tough to make a seamless customer experience that’s really compelling you’re relying a lot on partners that can kind of come in and do receipt capture and those kinds of things. I feel like there’s still a, a gap in terms of how to create a better customer experience there.

That we’re trying to kind of find our way through. So there’s some interesting possibilities there. The particular program that I was talking about is more business, business focused, so it’s a little bit different. Okay. and that’s one of the things that we’re seeing in CPG are those business to business relationships. But when it comes to the consumer stuff, it’s, there’s a lot of interest there, and I think we’re still trying to figure out exactly what the solve looks like from a customer experience perspective. 

Paula: Absolutely, and actually I don’t think I’ve thought about CPG from a B2B perspective. I think once or twice it’s been mentioned, but again, very undeveloped, I would say, and immature.

So full of opportunity. And again, definitely one that we’ll be watching with interest. So honestly, there’s never a dull moment in the loyalty industry, dare I say, just what keeps us excited and keeps us chatting away on the show. 

So Shannon, that’s everything that I wanted to cover from my side. I have loved learning all of these favorite terms that you touched on. 

Know to Serve, Glocal, the attachment score. And just even these important details of course, that we talked about in terms of, you know, talking about loyalty and customer relationships, with investors as a key strategy that I think everyone can learn from and all of the amazing examples that you shared and some of the incredible client case studies that you mentioned.

So, with all of that said then, is there anything else, Shannon, that you wanted to mention before we wrap up? 

Shannon: I think that’s it. I appreciate the time. I really appreciate you having me on. It’s always great to connect and, and talk all things loyalty. It’s a passion for me over many, many years, so I appreciate you having me on, Paula.

Paula: Fantastic, Shannon. We long may continue and it’s definitely, it’s the first time and it’s not the last time, so I will look forward to, to staying in touch and making sure we can continue the conversation. 

So, Shannon Ottinger, Vice President of Loyalty Consulting at Epsilon. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Shannon: Thank you.

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

For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com and loyalty academy.org.

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