#387: Meet Mastercard - One of the World's Largest Loyalty Services Providers

Let’s Talk Loyalty today features Mastercard, who as well as being one of the world’s leading payment providers, are also in fact, one of the world’s largest loyalty services providers.

With so much global loyalty expertise, we were thrilled with the opportunity to meet Stephanie Meltzer-Paul, Mastercard’s Executive Vice President of Global Loyalty, who joins us today to share Mastercard’s latest announcement and partnership with Expedia called “Travel With Rewards”.

Stephanie also shares her insights on some of the emerging trends in loyalty in 2023, garnered across the incredible roles she has held in her career to date, leading loyalty and driving performance for various multi-billion-dollar digital channels for some of the US market’s biggest hospitality and restaurant brands.

Listen to learn from this inspiring conversation with Stephanie Meltzer-Paul, Executive Vice President of Global Loyalty with Mastercard.

This episode is sponsored by Mastercard.

Show Notes:

1) Mastercard

2) Stephanie Meltzer-Paul

3) Expedia

4) Travel With Rewards

5) Expedia Group and Mastercard turn everyday spending into extraordinary experiences

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.

Hello and welcome to episode 387 of Let’s Talk Loyalty. Featuring for the first time, our friends at Mastercard, who as well as being one of the world’s leading payment providers I only recently discovered are also one of the world’s largest loyalty services providers with so much global loyalty expertise.

I was excited with the opportunity to meet Stephanie Meltzer-Paul Mastercard’s, Executive Vice President of Global Loyalty. Stephanie joins me today to share Mastecard’s latest announcement and their partnership with Expedia, which is called Travel With Rewards, as well as her insights on some of the emerging trends in loyalty in 2023.

Stephanie has held some incredible roles in her career to date leading loyalty and driving performance for various multi-billion dollar digital channels for some of the US markets, biggest hospitality and restaurant brands. I hope you enjoy listening to my conversation with Stephanie Meltzer Paul, Executive Vice President of Global Loyalty with Mastercard.

So Stephanie Meltzer-Paul, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Stephanie: Thank you so much for having me. 

Paula: It’s a delight, Stephanie. I have to say Mastercard is a brand I have admired for a very long time. More on the consumer side, but increasingly of course on the B2B side. So I will be excited to get into today’s conversation and hear what you guys are up to, on the loyalty side and looking after our industry.

But actually, as you know, we tend to start this conversation really starting to get an understanding with our loyalty professionals in terms of what programs do you typically admire in the industry? And I know there’s a very sensitive one cause you’ve got so many clients. But just from a personal perspective Stephanie, and as a loyalty professional, tell me a loyalty program that you really love.

Stephanie: I have many, my phone is filled. I am a big lover of loyalty program, so I probably, have, am part of more than probably the average person. Even I think the average person joins around 16 to 20. In the airline space, I’m a big fan of JetBlue. They have a hub here in Boston. I have their Mastercard co-ran card. So just a real fan of the, of the brand and their loyalty program. 

And then, I’m also a big fan of Sephora. My team knows that I mentioned Sephora a lot. They’re, they’re, you know, personalization as well as their loyalty program is both very, very strong and admire a lot of what they do in the space.

Paula: Yes. Incredible. Sephora for is definitely one. Actually Stephanie, I think because I’m outside of the US I just haven’t had the opportunity to engage with it. So tell me a bit about it. I get that they do absolutely everything in terms of obviously the base currency, but then a lot around experiences. 

Stephanie: Bit about experiences, but it’s also just going back to the consumer experience and the level of personalization that you see, over their email and on their website.

It just feels very connected. So it’s both the value of the program, but then also what the interaction actually is with the loyalty card holder. And that’s something we work very heavily with, with all of our customers and, you know, brands that we work with is. It’s your loyalty program down on paper in terms of what the features are, but then it is really also how you bring it to life that that matters the most. And don’t forget that. 

Paula: Absolutely. Actually, you’re totally right. Execution is king and queen. I think we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve a beautifully designed program, but operationally it can be very hard to bring to life. So, so a brilliant point. Absolutely. 

So I know you have an incredible career, Stephanie, going back, across lots of different sectors. So first of all, give our audience a sense of what is your background and loyalty from a professional perspective? 

Stephanie: Yeah, I’ve been in loyalty for, for many years. My background is all mostly in B2C, CRM. I started way back in the day when things were less digital and more paper-based. I’m dating myself.

But the tenants of loyalty really haven’t changed. I worked for, a major hospitality organization, for many, many years on the global loyalty program. I’ve worked for, a wholesale retailer working on loyalty and engagement and personalization. And then most recently was, at a, national QSR brand, leading loyalty and digital for them before I decided to, to come to Mastercard and try my hand at B2B. 

So really have a experience in a variety of industries. Also, you know, did work in financial services way back in the day as well. So I’ve seen loyalty from the standpoint of a variety of industries. And so while sometimes the tactics can be slightly different at the root of it, it is very similar, which is great.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. To me, what I love actually about our industry, Stephanie, I don’t about you, but it is the opportunity actually to learn from one industry and transfer that into another. Because at the end of the day, I think you’re totally right. The principles are the same. the complexity’s always there, but I think once you have the integrity and the intention of really driving, I suppose, profitable behavior change, that’s what makes it super exciting.

Stephanie: Correct. You just have to make sure that you’re designing that one stays true to your brand essence and who you are a as a brand. And then also making sure that the economics work for the industry that you are in. You know, when you have to think about frequency, for example. 

But you know, again, the same thing around consumers. Just all want to feel, one, that the loyalty program brings them value that it connects well to the brand, that there is a level of personalization there, that it’s fun and engaging. All those principles are the same, regardless of whether you are a retailer, a restaurant company, a bank. It does it, it doesn’t necessarily matter. It is more of those sort of behind the scenes economics and things where the differences really come into play. 

Paula: Yeah, for sure. So what tempted you to move over to the technology side?

Stephanie: Yeah, so, you know, when I started talking to Mastercard around this one, it was really exciting to me. I actually wasn’t perhaps even quite aware of the depth of Mastercard’s loyalty, loyalty capabilities. And the opportunity to be at the forefront of what loyalty capabilities are going out in market was actually quite appealing to me. I’ve always been the customer either, you know, trying to figure out how to build something in house or going out to providers and saying, do you actually have this capability?

And so that was very exciting to me to actually you know, be the person who can work with my team to decide on the trajectory of where loyalty is going. And the ability to work with so many customers around the world, across so many different industries was really exciting. Just to see the breadth of where the industry is going, understanding how different markets and innovation is fueling.

And also I have, been a long admirer of Mastercard as a company. They just a really great culture here. Great people, and, and obviously that is massively important, that you want to, you know, like the people that you work with on day in, day out and like the values of your organization and Mastercard matched that for me very, very well.

Paula: Amazing. Yeah, I think I said to you before Stephanie, you know, we, we all have our consumer relationship with the Mastercard brand. And actually, as I was pre preparing for today’s conversation, I was looking at priceless.com, which of course is just a beautiful proposition. I’ve already sent my husband a holiday idea from there, so totally nailing it on the consumer side. 

But, I’m glad I’m not the only one that hadn’t realized on the B2B side that Mastercard was so strong, and in fact, it was a conference here in Dubai, I think about 18 months ago where one of your colleagues was speaking and did say that Mastercard actually is the biggest loyalty technology provider in the world.

So, absolutely incredible scale. What kind of, team are you running there, Stephanie, in terms of taking care of your global customers? 

Stephanie: Correct. So we have a team. We have loyalty product, loyalty, sales teams, loyalty technology teams, you know, around the world. In all the, the major, major markets.

And we’re essentially running capabilities around, you know, your traditional earn burn platform capabilities. We also run deep merchant offer capabilities. So loyalty takes many forms for us. We also power cardholder services for many of our, our bank partners. Think about travel benefits, things like lounge, concierge, assistances, all those things that drive incremental and, and sticky behavior for, for our customers. 

We have campaign management capability, we have offer capabilities. It really is quite wide, but also quite deep. And we do that not only for financial institutions. Which obviously Mastercard has a very deep relationship with, with our roots and payment. But we do that for retailers, for fintechs, for some small businesses, very heavy with restaurant brands. And I love really the, the breadth of that cause we can take the learnings across industries. We can sit down with banks and say, here’s what’s actually happening outside of the financial institutions when it comes to loyalty.

Whereas, you know, non, non-financial institutions sometimes can be a little bit more advanced in terms of pushing their loyalty thinking. However, financial institutions have very great access to data. And so there’s learnings on both sides I think that we can bring when we think about how we’re building capabilities.

But the breadth of our programs are, I mean, we have over 800 loyalty programs under management here with Mastercard. It’s, it, it’s, it’s huge. So I’ve, I’ve spent many of my first year going around the world, meeting not only with my own amazing team, but with our customers and, and hearing from them. So it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but it’s been amazing. 

Paula: Super inspiring, Stephanie I have to say. And again, I think we probably would’ve assumed that perhaps Mastercard is doing great work in financial services, but yes, beyond that, I hadn’t quite realized the scale of it all. So what I do tend to love from those kind of whirlwind tours, I guess, is you get a lot of insights in terms of the people who are designing loyalty for the biggest brands in the world. You get a bird’s eye view and I guess you get to input of course, as well, and help them design and develop those programs. 

So I’d love to get into a couple of you know, insights from your side, whether it’s things like dos and don’ts for loyalty professionals. Again, you’re coming from a career on the brand side where you’ve had that responsibility, of course, both commercially.

And of course, you know, just on the delight side in terms of the, the performance and the experience side for consumers. So, would you share some of the things that you feel are important for this audience? So people running loyalty programs around the world looking for inspiration, what can Mastercard share with them?

Stephanie: Yeah, the first is, you know, starting with the strategic plan. We do have a lot of brands who reach out to us and they’re asking us around tech capabilities and then we realize they actually haven’t very deeply designed their program. So the first thing we say is, we can help you with that. You know, we have a loyalty consulting practice here. We have strategists and we can really sit down and do the diagnostic to help with everything from research to modeling out your program before we actually get into actually tech capabilities, because one actually relates to the other. 

The second thing is making sure that you are thinking of the, of the long game, in a couple ways. One, when you’re modeling out your economics, you likely will not see a return on your loyalty program for the first, you know, few years. You’re, you’re making a significant investment. You have to be in it for the long game. But you also wanna make sure you don’t get too complicated, too quickly. 

We, we work with our customers to say, start simple. Gain the learnings. See what the demographics of, you know, who’s joining your program, their behaviors, and then it’s very important when we build out your loyalty program, construct that it’s modifiable because your business is always changing. Your brand is, is, is changing, and you need to be able to be both reactive and proactive around that.

And a lot of times brands will design their programs in a way that maybe it’s very difficult to modify, and then by the time they realize they need to pivot their loyalty strategy because the economics of their business has changed, they could be looking at a very long tail. So we, we, we work with brands to say, there’s a lot you can do.

In terms of if you’re designing a program, things you can do around promotions or just even sometimes some, some tweaks to, to keep pace. But it’s really thinking about that, that strategy overall. And the economics of that. 

And then the third is, do you actually have the proper tracking in place internally around the economics of your program? You know, it’s still shocking to me, and I’ve experienced this even in a former life, like many loyalty programs are still tracked via Excel you know, in, in financial organizations. And so that’s something we’re always trying to help with about how do you model out the economics of your program, how do you model out the usage of your points or your cash back?

To really, you know, you know, loyalty isn’t a cost. There is an expense there for a traditional loyalty program. There’s other areas of loyalty that are, that are obviously, obviously less cost. But those are the things we really talk about with our, with our customers. Whether you’re enhancing a program and, and, you know, thinking of doing like a two or 3.0 or if you’re just starting out.

Paula: You know, it is quite, shocking, you know, to to, to really realize that so many of us are still struggling with things like having to depend on Excel or not realizing that there’s a better way. Because I think, again, everybody’s working so hard, so well intentioned in terms of taking care of these customers, but fundamentally, I guess particularly in the past, the tech just hasn’t been available, but actually using Excel for something as critical as tracking your, your reward spend, it’s pretty amazing to me to hear that that’s something you’re still seeing in different companies.

Stephanie: We are, and we’re working on, you know, bringing, you know, we’d bring capabilities around insights and analytics and, you know, we’re working on deeper capabilities in this respect in terms of how do you really predict that, you know, using, you know, using sort of AI in a way based on, hey, if these are all the promotions that you’re going to be running over the next six months or, or year.

And based on what has happened, typically with your loyalty program based on seasonality. This is what you can expect of, maybe you could be running a surplus of points, you might be running behind. All of that is, is very important. 

But beyond the technology, it’s also how it comes to life as the consumer experience. Again, it’s not just, it’s, it’s you just don’t wanna think of your program on paper, as I, as I mentioned before. It is, what is the end-to-end consumer experience look like? You know, that is so important to bring your program to life. And it can be a great program on paper. But if the consumer experience is clunky, that can really hurt your performance. 

Paula: Yeah, I was only talking about it this morning in a different context, actually, Stephanie, you know, with you know, there are so many digital technologies and it, it happened to be affiliate marketing. We were talking about more in a digital context, less directly about loyalty.

But it is amazing again, that there are still customer journeys that might have been designed 15 years ago when new concepts emerged. And yet they haven’t quite developed that beautiful, seamless, and I love your word simple actually as well, Stephanie. Fundamentally, I believe that simplicity is perhaps one of the most important principles that we forget when we’re designing our programs. I can see you’re nodding. It feels like something. Yeah.  

Stephanie: Yes. Yes. Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes it doesn’t need to be you know, a bunch of very sort of fancy capabilities behind the scenes. It can be very simple CX things. I mean, the principles around journey and lifecycle marketing have not really changed. What has changed is the speed and the frequency, right? 

You know, previously, you know, brands would, would set up sort of their lifecycle marketing and they would need to kind of spend time sort of reading and they would set it and then you’d sort of pivot. Now, you know, with, with the way you can sort of run data very real time, you can set that up to be a lot more automatic.

So if someone’s behavior is changing on a fly, you can put them into you know, a, a, a different offer stream. It’s that level, it’s that level of sophistication that many brands are doing now, which is exactly where it needs to be. It needs to be, again, both proactive and reactive in, in your offer strategy.

Paula: Yeah, and again, you’ve told me before offline about some of the amazing work you’ve done, and I do think that’s exactly another critical factor is, you know, as we drive these incredible experiences in one brand, it’s sets expectations in other aspects of our life. So we might have a beautiful experience in a restaurant, and then we expect our bank to have exactly the same capabilities.

And sometimes they’re potentially hampered actually by legacy technology and actually need to keep up. So I think the agility is something that the brands are probably really focused on achieving and consumers are expecting because they’re experiencing it and other, other sectors. 

Stephanie: They are. And it’s, it’s why the rise of, brands using third party platforms or just cap MarTech capabilities like Mastercard really have taken off in the last 10 years cause rising ties help all ships.

And you know, in the past, you know, programs were built in-house. They were very custom. Now the benefit of, you know, you make, we make updates to our platforms and all of our customers can benefit for that. You know, we can, we can and do sometimes do, you know, custom enhancements or tweaks. But generally at the core of it, you know, you, you get the benefit of, of the capabilities that are being, being built and mass. Which is, which is, which is great. 

Paula: Yeah, absolutely. And another trend as well, I do think that, you know, I suppose as industry professionals we’re seeing is, you know, the, the, the devaluation at least, on, on appearances, let’s say on paper. There’s a lot of headlines coming out that programs are really reducing perhaps their core benefits for the mass market.

And that’s really being seen as a very negative. But I liked what you were kind of explaining in terms of, I guess, about the overall economics, and it’s almost like budgets seem to be restructured, reallocated, and I suppose just changing to reflect, you know, who the right members or consumers are of these programs.

So I’d love you just to explain what you’re seeing in terms of how programs are being managed, I suppose both visibly from a PR perspective and behind the scenes, which is what we really need to understand. 

Stephanie: Yeah. Years ago, the loyalty programs, yes, were there to drive incrementality, but they were also a means to gather consumer data. So it was the me, the more members you can set, you know, sign up the better because you needed access to data. That isn’t as relevant now because we can capture consumer data in so many ways. Right, via digital right signups. You don’t necessarily need a formal program to get a view of your customer. You can do that through so many other means in data collection. 

So really the loyalty program in itself has to drive that incrementality, and brands then are changing the economics to say, okay, I don’t need to give as rich a benefit to the masses. Just for the sign up, it really is more around the members that put a lot into the program and really drive that frequency will get the better benefits, and that’s really how you have to make your, your economics work.

So yes, on the surface, many brands might devalue when you look at sort of the, the sort of, you know, the base benefits. But what we’ve actually find is the benefits have gotten richer for your most engaged customers around. 

One, just the amount of choice that’s being given, the level of experiences, you know, many brands are experiencing with, you know, we work with them like in benefits, like, you know, very, you know, high touch concierge, for example.

A lot of brands are even talking about unpublished benefits. You know, that, that only unlock when you read something. There’s like a, there’s like a mystique to it. But choice and flexibility are, are also in there. I mean, at the same time, sometimes while earnings have been pulled back across many industries, the burn side of it has come a really long way, and there used to be not much choice and flexibility in terms of how you could use your points or, you know, or use your cash back no longer.

To really compete in loyalty now you must have that choice in flexibility. And this is something we’ve really doubled down on and spend a lot of time on. You know, we, we launched recently, it was our big announcement and our big partnership with Expedia that we allow our brand customers to allow their consumers to redeem points directly for travel with Expedia. 

I mean, that’s just a really, you know, huge win that you can be earning, let’s say with a financial institution. And suddenly you can decide, do I wanna use them for travel? We have a variety of other partners to really have a full redemption suite for the consumer to have that choice around and travel is huge. Everyone loves using because there’s, it’s very, aspirational. So we’re, that’s why we’re so excited about, about that partnership and it’s a really seamless experience. Right. You don’t, you know, it’s like you just sort of, it’s white label solution. You see the points exactly of, of what you need to redeem for your travel. And that’s really where we’re putting a lot of our time, is around bringing more redemption experiences to our customers, because that’s what their loyalty consumer is looking for.

Paula: Fantastic. And, and I really find that very reassuring Stephanie. First of all, congratulations on the Expedia One. That’s definitely one I will be, looking to avail of personally because as you said, travel is just the most inspirational piece and to have that level of integration just makes life super easy. And, and that’s absolutely what I need. So, I’ll be looking at that. That’s amazing. 

And I suppose just overall then, you know, Mastercard is looking to, to build these, these kind of priceless experiences and as you said, make sure that the right benefits go to the right members.

And I do think that that’s an important trend for again, the people listening to this show to understand how can they respond internally, for example. If there is a conversation perhaps with the CFO who might be saying, well, this brand is devaluing its currency. That brand is devaluing its currency.

So I love that insight around the fact that that might be the public facing position. And as you said, like you can sign up a hundred million people, but actually it doesn’t really matter if they’re not the right people. They’re not profitable customers and they’re not the right ones that you want to be investing in.

So it sounds like there’s a real appetite to understand. Yes, those economics and you know, leveraging the different ways of the program to make sure you can focus on the right members at the right time to really drive their behavior change.

Stephanie: Yeah, the number of members you have in your loyalty program, In my view shouldn’t even be a top 20 KPI. It should not. It’s, it’s, it’s not, it’s not a helpful metric. What is helpful is around the number of active members you have, an activity really varies by brand. You know, if you are, if you’re a quick service restaurant, you really wanna be looking at weekly activity, sometimes even daily or, and definitely monthly. If you’re fast casual, you know, it’s a little bit less. 

If you’re, you know, in travel, right, you are also sometimes probably looking at more on, on a quarterly basis, and you want the, that activity level by your, your tiers. That is the most important metric in terms of that, that frequency, the activity, that’s what you need to really be focusing on in terms of the, the usage, also the interaction with your, your digital channels.

So someone might not actually be making a loyalty transaction. They might not be, you know, doing a, a loyalty redemption, but are they actually maybe downloading your app? Are they looking around, are they logging in to look at their, their bank statement, right? All those things should play into your, your loyalty metrics.

It’s not really just, this is the number of members we have in, in the program because in this day and age, everyone keeps a lot of data. And it can go back. And if someone hasn’t engaged with you for a really long time, they’re not useful. And I wouldn’t necessarily count them. 

Paula: And you even said something, which to me was quite controversial, you might even consider purging them completely.

Stephanie: You might consider purging. And purging comes in many forms. There’s, you know, purging with a provider, but there also could be just purging in-house and it could be, you know, you have to, you have to make sure that you’re following the right legal rules. Right. In your, your home country around purging and sometimes purging doesn’t mean that they’re, the data is completely gone, but are you counting them as a loyalty program member?

You know, are you, are you uploading that capability? And an example of why this is important just to think about is if someone hasn’t engaged with your loyalty program, let’s say in three years, and now suddenly they download and they go to log in. They could be missing out on a welcome series.

They could be missing out as on part of the new member journeys, like to that consumer, they feel they’re a new member, they, they don’t remember what happened from three years ago. But if your system views them as a, let’s say a reactivation, or if your system views them as an existing member, that could really affect where they are in your life cycle.

So that’s really at the root of this, of why I say, you know, brands really need to think about this from a data perspective. It’s not so much about just thinking about the cost of, of keeping sort of names on file, right? Because data is, is hugely important and you wanna have, you know, reactivation history.

But it’s around how you, how you mark them in terms of the engagement to get out the behavior that, that you need. And we talk to brands about that all the time in terms of the type of data that they wanna give us that we’re working with. You know, do you need to give us everything? Do we wanna just be focusing on, you know, on, on active members  really is is very, very key. 

Paula: Yeah, but, but it shouldn’t go unnoticed that there is actually a cost as well. So if it is genuinely, you know, who knows, 10 years old for example, you’re paying for the cloud storage and you really, you know, I’m sure have dramatically evolved a program in that length of time.

And that relationship is definitely not a valid one. There is a case, I think, to be made to actually say, okay, maybe they just need to be purged completely. 

Stephanie: And it, you know, you always wanna make sure, again, you’re following the, the data roles of your home country because you, and in some cases you do have to communicate with the customer if you’re, you’re saying, hey, we’re gonna sort of deactivate you and if you want to engage with us.

So there is, you know, a lot that goes into it. But it is something that should be considered for sure. Both when you’re working with a third party provider like us. When, whether your loyalty program is in-house and what do you wanna store in-house as well, and then the marketing of it. It is, it is very important to think about all of those aspects.

Paula:  For sure. It really reminds me, you know, when I got into loyalty, you know, I thought, you know, it felt quite simple. And on the surface, of course it always does to, to marketing professionals, but it’s only when we get into these kind of conversations that we realize how complex it really is. So this is why I started this podcast. I love having these understandings and, and light bulb moments. 

The other one you mentioned Stephanie last time we met, which I think is something that again, this audience really should be thinking about is the idea that the loyalty data has much more relevance and usefulness and application way beyond the pure program itself. And I feel like that’s something that we haven’t had a conversation really about on this show, and it’s something that you guys seem to be thinking about very clearly as a message with your kind of customer.

So I’d love you to explain the kind of use cases that loyalty data might have beyond the program itself. 

Stephanie: Yeah, and this is really top of mind for us here at Mastercard because we have a product called Test and Learn, which is out in the marketplace with the biggest, biggest brands that allows you to do, you know, very sophisticated testing out there. And we work with many brands who use their loyalty data, for the basis of their test and learn. 

And so for an example, if, we have brands who are using it around all of their testing for limited, limited time products, for example, you know, cuz you’re loyalty data, it’s, it, it’s, it’s very trackable. So a lot of times you have that pre and that post.

Your loyalty data is also among your best members. Very consistent. And you know the most about them. So when you wanna actually be doing testing, it gives you a much more clean, clean view there. So, limited time products, retail mix. 

We’ve also had brands, you know, using it around sort of operational aspects as well. In terms of you know, speed, let’s say of product. If you’re developing a new product, how long did it take, you know, to, to get that product delivered? All aspects of that we find. But there’s so much use around your loyalty data beyond just driving the incrementality from, from the program.

And even beyond that, we work, for example, with a lot of financial institutions. And we work with them on what we call either it’s, you know, call Hoola bank or sometimes, you know, relationship, relationship loyalty. Where we say, think about loyalty program or just your loyalty benefits holistically beyond just say, just credit or just debit.

And there are, the mo, the more sophisticated institutions tend to think about that, oh, am I going in getting a mortgage with this bank? How are you providing those benefits you know, to the loyalty customer? And still, we, we still find many customers are very siloed in that regard. So the more you can think about holistically is, is dramatic. Very important.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah.  I do feel that’s a huge challenge actually. And it was only after we spoke the last time that I really reflected on it. Because my experience as a banking customer is very much around the card benefits, and that’s really all that I experience. And I don’t really get, get the cross-sell and the upsell and what I would expect if I put my overly simplified consumer.

You know, hat on. I’m not really seeing that they’re actually identifying the opportunity for me, Paula Thomas, you know, sitting here in this country and what I might be, in the market for. And it sounds like that’s something that’s also the case, you know, in the US where I know you are based, but for a lot of Mastercard customers, it sounds like it still does have that, I suppose, legacy approach of we’ve got our siloed products, but we yet haven’t figured out how to connect the dots on them.

Stephanie: Yeah. And in some cases they haven’t figured out how to connect the dots from a consumer experience standpoint. Maybe because, you know, they, they have, you know, separate websites, separate apps. Sometimes they’re just maybe siloed internally. Sometimes it has to do that they wanna do it but the way the da, the data is set up, which you would think is surprising.

Right? It’s almost like the credit data is here, the debit credit is here, the private banking’s over here. Right. It, it’s all very, it’s all very different. And we work in strategize with many of our bank partners to say, here’s how you can really pull it together and design either a formal program that leans into ac across all of your, your bank benefits. Or sometimes it’s even just informal, you know, it can be around, you know, like the experiences side of it, so it can take many forms. But it is, it is that,full view of the customer is, is dramatically important. Not only going beyond just the transaction information, but what is that loyalty customer doing outside of transaction?

You know, can, can you track when they’ve reached out to your customer service department? Do you know when they’ve just visited, visited your website or logged into a mobile app, but perhaps haven’t bought anything? What are they viewing? Where are they going? You know, all those things are important to make sure you’re holding onto that full set of data beyond just the transaction. Cause there’s a lot that can be done with that to fuel performance. 

Paula: For sure. And I often think about social media as well as another piece that ideally we should be tracking. And again, keeping on our record, you know, to understand who are our advocates, who are, you know, really absolutely like.

Delighted with our loyalty program, telling all of their friends recognizing that behavior, which again, may sit in a completely different team. I hadn’t thought about the customer service pieces much, but there’s nothing worse as a consumer, I guess, with connecting with the brand and having to start a story all over again.

To explain a situation where you’re trying to get something sorted and you may have been dealing with a different department. So certainly sounds like you guys are starting to bring, the whole picture together. I guess using the loyalty technologies to, to make sure that the, the relationship is seen, from the individual perspective rather than siloed as it has been in the past.

Stephanie: Exactly. And we are able to take those learnings from a variety of industries. That’s the benefit. What I love about working in loyalty at Mastercard is we do work with such a massive variety of customers around the world. And I’m always being asked by different customers to sit down and, you know, they always say, tell me what’s going on in loyalty trends outside of my own country. I know what’s happening in my own country. But if they’re in Europe or in Asia, they say, tell me what, what the trends are in the US and then when we sit down with customers in the US they say what’s happening in in other countries? And so we, we love doing that. It’s really exciting.

Cause we can say there’s a lot that’s the same, but there’s also, you know, lot that is very, that is very different. 

Paula: Totally. Yeah. And I want to give a shout out to our mutual friend actually in The Wise Marketer, cause I know you were chatting with, with Bill Hanifin there as well recently. And I love his positioning around the global voice of loyalty.

And I guess again, as Mastercard you get that absolute perspective where, as you said, you can go and look at what’s happening in Europe. I get to do the same now of course as well because I’m talking to people all around and to me, what is most inspiring and the reason I want this show to feature insights from you guys is to know where we need to be thinking about going next. Because at the end of the day, you know, I think as well, particularly the dramatic change we’ve been through globally, economically, and, and all of these factors that affect our personal behavior, our members’ behaviors, like there’s just so much change, which is obviously the constant.

And I sometimes feel that loyalty is now being almost overly relied on as being the panacea. You know, to solve the complexity of understanding and retaining the critical customers. 

So I guess my last question is about looking forward and the future of loyalty. What is Mastercard thinking about and what should our loyalty professionals who are listening be thinking about as we, as we go forward?

Stephanie: Yeah. Couple things. One is we think of loyalty in very broad terms because I think right now there’s still a loyalty is always then loyalty program. And I view loyalty as any capability benefit initiative, consumer experience that’s really driving the behavior you want, right? 

Are you, are you bringing, just making your customer more loyal to you? Are you driving, you know, that repeat behavior that you want? So it can take many forms. It doesn’t always have to be a formal program. And we bring capabilities like that out there that sometimes it’s not, it’s not an actual formal program, it’s other types of initiatives, and solutions that we can bring, just to drive that engagement.

So that’s the first thing I think is definitely a, a, a real trend. I think everyone’s getting losing space on their phones with the number of, of programs. Right. So every consumer’s only really, you know, they can cite a few that, that they’re really, that they, you know, work with all the time.

And then, and then there’s some that they’re like, well, I’m a member, but I’m not, maybe all that, all that engaged. So we’re trying to, to say, think, think bigger, think wider. 

A, a second trend is definitely around sort of subscription loyalty, which is, which is paid loyalty. It’s not, it’s not for everybody. And I think there’s some principles around paid loyalty. But I think for certain brands, especially those that tend to be a little bit more premium, there is a consumer out there that is willing to pay for a certain level of benefits. You know, there’s some principles around it, around you. You don’t really want to, to charge for what your core offering is, right? Because that’s typically where your margins are. 

But you know, you have to think about that in terms of a strategy with any sort of free program or benefit. What is your, what is your subscription that can be on top of that? And that’s, that’s a, a big discussion that we’re having all the time with brands around subscription loyalty as well. So I think that is another trend. 

And then the final one is around the experiences. Experiences are, are key, whether they’re experiences in the metaverse, whether they are experiences, you know, face-to-face at events, you know, those crisis experiences that Mastercard offers up. It’s huge. Right. You know, consumers, consumers love them.

Or is it just the experiences around choice, in variety of the way that I want to use my, my rewards. Those are the, the, the big things that I think states, you know, the brands are, are really thinking, about. 

Paula: Amazing. Yeah. And I almost feel like we might need to do a separate show just on subscription, Stephanie, because you’re absolutely right.

It’s, it sounds so easy. You know, this, this ultimate loyalty, actually, I’ve written a couple of articles about it as if somebody is committing to, to spend with you on a monthly basis, it’s a totally different level. That’s definitely engagement. You know, it’s not just a signup. So it’s, it’s a complex topic, and again, every vertical is very different. But it is a global trend for sure. So that’s definitely one we’ll be watching. 

So I think that’s all from my side. I’m loving the fact that you guys are, are hearing you know, from your kind of customers that they are thinking long term, that they believe in the power of loyalty and that they’re trusting you guys as opposed to guide them along the path.

In terms of what they can be doing, what they should be doing, and looking both globally and locally and of course across different verticals. Because I think that’s where all the inspiration and education comes from. And again, for people like me looking for inspiration, it said, it’s amazing to hear the kind of work you’re doing.

So on that note, I have no other questions for you today, Stephanie. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention for our members before we wrap up?

Stephanie: Yeah. One, thank you so much for having me. This has been a real joy. We are happy to work with brands around the world. You know, they can reach out to us and we can provide whatever guidance is needed, whether it’s everything from consulting to technology and beyond.

As I said in the beginning, I do think we are the loyalty industry’s best kept secret. But I’m changing that maybe one podcast at a time. And really, you know, making sure that, you know, the industry is very much more aware of our, of our deep capabilities here. And so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to, you know, anyone on the Mastercard loyalty team if we’re interested in learning more.

Paula: Absolutely. Yes. Yeah, we do not want to be the best kept secret. This is definitely changing. So well done to you on that and we’ll make sure to link to your LinkedIn profile of course, Stephanie in the show notes and of course to Mastercard services as well for anybody who does want to get an understanding of the capabilities.

And hopefully we’ll continue the conversation and make sure we can connect people, who reach out and want to learn more. 

So with all of that said, Stephanie Meltzer-Paul, Executive Vice President of Global Loyalty at Mastercard, thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Stephanie: Thank you so much.

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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