#386: Partnerships and Personalising for Airline Loyalty Profitability

This episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty shares some early insights from one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Loyalty & Awards conference in Rio de Janeiro.

CarTrawler is one of Ireland’s great technology success stories, and as a B2B technology brand that partners with many of the world’s leading airline loyalty programs to deliver their car rental proposition, we were delighted with the opportunity to chat with their Head of Loyalty – Heather Nolan.

Listen to this episode to learn Heather’s fascinating perspective on the principles of partnerships and driving loyalty in the travel industry, particularly for younger demographics who might not yet travel frequently enough to qualify for top-tier status and bonuses, yet who are incredibly important for the future growth and profitability of any airline.

Show Notes:

1) CarTrawler

2) Heather Nolan

3) Loyalty & Awards – Rio de Janeiro

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

This show is brought to you by the Loyalty and Awards Conference, the leading annual event for loyalty professionals in the travel industry. Make sure to join us this year from the 9th to the 11th of October in Rio de Janeiro for the perfect mix of inspiring content and exciting awards. Check out loyalty-and-awards.com for more information and to register.

Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty. We share some early insights from one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Loyalty and Awards Conference taking place in Rio de Janeiro. CarTrawler is one of Ireland’s great technology success stories. And as a B2B technology brand that partners with many of the world’s leading airline programs to deliver their car rental proposition.

I was delighted with the opportunity to chat with their head of loyalty, Heather Nolan. In today’s conversation, Heather shares her fascinating perspective on the principles of partnerships and driving loyalty in the travel industry. Particularly for younger demographics who might not yet travel frequently enough to qualify for top tier status and bonuses, and yet they’re incredibly important for the future growth and profitability of any airline.

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Heather Nolan from CarTrawler.

So Heather Nolan, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Heather: Thanks so much, Paula, and it’s great to meet you in person. 

Paula: Likewise. Absolutely. Yes. CarTrawler is a company I have admired since its very foundations actually. I said to you off air, I knew the, the previous brand and the original business. So it’s absolutely extraordinary to see the, the explosion of growth from an Irish technology company.

But before we get into talking all about you and your role and the company itself, of course, and even the conference that we’re here to talk about. First of all, as you know, we always love to get a sense from our loyalty professional friends as to what programs they really admire in their own lives, either personally or professionally.

So Heather, please do tell me what is your favorite loyalty program? 

Heather: I love this question and I really like listening back to everyone’s answers to this first piece. And for me, I think I love brands who create excellent user experiences for their customers. I think for me, loyalty isn’t really about what perks and discounts I’m getting.

It’s really about for something that I need, especially maybe a regular need.  I would love to have a very easy, personalized experience and I know that a lot of brands tried to do this, and I’ve listened to some of your speakers, talking about how their brands are, are doing this and, and using data in a personalized way.

And I think just to go to the Irish angle, for those listeners who might not be so familiar, Ireland is a very small market, so total population is 5 million. So in terms of our brand loyalty, it is really kind of localization. So local brands are, are quite for us to purchase from, and that’s where we see many people having loyalty programs.

One really successful and interesting brand I’ve been watch watching since its launch in 2016, has been Sculpted By Aimee. So Sculpted By Aimee is an Irish makeup brand. Completely natural vegan and they really lean into the sustainability piece. And Aimee Connolly is the founder of this company in 2016.

She founded it and they’re already, I think I read their last year’s profits are 3 million already. 45% of their traffic is coming from online. And what they’ve really done is created an experience that. Is tailored to your needs. So anyone here who, or who’s listening, who is a makeup user, they know that, you know, you have a regular time schedule of when this runs out.

You might have your face creams, your foundation. And really what, Sculpted By Aimee has created is not only a loyalty program where you earn points. So it’s a points-based program. You have tiers, you have benefits. But they also use the data that they’ve collected from your historic purchases to actually estimate the time where you might run out of your product.

Maybe suggest things are new. Get you involved in the creation of new innovations. So it’s really creating this community effect, but also fulfilling your basic need of actually needing to restock your makeup, which we all know the pain of. 

I know a lot of your, previous guests have been talking about Amazon Prime and I think for a market like Ireland, which is very, very small, having brands that are mimicking maybe some of the elements of a larger company like Amazon is really great to see. So, Sculpted by Aimee, a great brand, and I think going even further payment options, like we might talk about this later, but making your journey very simple for your user. Personalized, very quick and easy to use. And having those payment options, which day-to-day people are using like Apple Pay, Google Pay. A lot of this is like the foundation of what I think drives actual loyalty. Yes, I’ve had a great experience and I wanna repeat with your company. So yes, that’s, that’s my example. 

Paula: Oh my goodness. I love it, Heather. And would you believe I had some, wonderful friends from home, here in Dubai last week, and they were talking about Sculpted by Aimee, so clearly she’s doing a huge amount. Right? And they were just talking about the core product.

Obviously we’re getting into, specifics, which I love that you’re picking up on, like the principles of things like simplicity. The needs based, I suppose the life cycle is probably what it would be, considered in terms of, as you said, estimating when people are gonna need the product again. 

So if anyone is listening from Sculpted by Aimee, we would love to have you on Let’s Talk Loyalty as a wonderful story because again, I feel quite patriotic when I talk with Irish brands. Heather, dunno about you. Do you have that? 

Heather: Oh, for sure. And I’m always, you know, I work for an Irish tech company in CarTrawler. We don’t have a loyalty program, but one thing that we do look out for are Irish brands that we’re able to re kind of leverage in terms of great examples. Obviously we have our national airlines, we have Aer Lingus, which do have their loyalty program with IAG and their Avios program.

But like at going back to the market size, I think in terms of developing a points-based or a tiered based program, you really do have to consider the cost of that for brands that are looking at at smaller audiences. And I think the trick is there, like you said, going back to the key principles, simplicity.

Nailing the use and the value case for the the customer. And that’s what’s gonna get people repeating with you. It’s the core principles of a loyalty program really. 

Paula: Absolutely. And your title is Head of Loyalty Heather, but as you’ve said, you don’t have a loyalty program of your own, so please explain. 

Heather: Yeah. So, I, I might just explain really briefly what CarTrawler do to set that context. So I’m head of loyalty at CarTrawler. CarTrawler is the leading B2B technology provider for car rental and mobility solutions, for the global travel industry. What that means is we work with global travel brands.

We have 70 airlines, 500 travel partners, and we work with car rental suppliers as well, 1700 of them. And we’re kind of the intermediary and really the value that my role of head of loyalty pre presents is, four airlines or travel partners, they always have a core product. 

So think of an airline. Their core product is flight and ancillaries from there might be seats, bags. They have a whole wealth of products which they’re able to then lend their loyalty program to. 

When it comes to thinking wider about how a customer travels and what services they want to buy along their journey, hotels, car rental, and luxury items are really within the same ecosystem. So what I do is I help airlines to create their strategy for loyalty, for car rental and mobility solutions. So really what that means, practical example is we work with United Airlines. They have MileagePlus . MileagePlus is a tiered based system, but it also has status levels.

And we help to extend that status level and the tier and the points collection to car rental. So a United customer can also purchase hotel and car within the same ecosystem and gain the value from those points, which it’s all about kind of collecting these points to get your status and stay within the ecosystem for United. 

Paula: Amazing. And we’re also expecting United. We have talked with them, so they’re coming up on an episode of the show as well. So plenty of overlap of course in our, our little world of loyalty. Is it fair to say, Heather, and maybe this is just me, it’s only recently that I’ve noticed, for example, that I can earn my airline currency for my car rental.

Again, maybe I just wasn’t renting cars or paying attention, or is it a case that it’s a fairly new proposition? 

Heather: So that’s a totally fair question, Paula, and I think it is new in terms of the emphasis that airlines are putting on, extending the value of their points. I think over Covid and during the two years of the pandemic, we’re obviously travel was blocked. 

Airlines were getting very innovative with the way that they were thinking about their loyalty programs. So obviously traditional loyalty is we want Heather and Paula to keep consuming from the same brand, to spend more money within that ecosystem. 

When it came to the pandemic, obviously flights were quite restricted. And that’s where the airlines we’re looking at where else that they can extend their value. And I think that’s a great thing. I think if we think of core themes that are happening within loyalty, sustainability is a massive one. And ultimately the airlines and travel industry are going to have this kind of natural fight between wanting people to purchase more flights and fly more, but also offset the, negative aspects of travel on the environment. So I think it’s a really good thing that airlines are using their kind of tried and tested, their tried and tested loyalty programs on different products like car rental. 

And also you’re seeing cool things happen, like Lufthansa have their own miles and more retail shops. So you’re seeing more kind of physical goods being paid for with loyalty as their new currency. So going back to your original question, car rental and earning points on car rental and even using points for car rental so redeeming it’s not new, but it’s definitely a new focus. 

Paula: Interesting actually. And that was gonna be exactly my next question. Can I burn my airline points? You mentioned United, for example, if I have sufficient miles, can I burn them to, to get a car hire? 

Heather: Yes. So it’s a, it’s a really cool proposition for United, on United Airlines.

You can earn MilesPlus, and you can also spend your MilesPlus’ miles, miles in cash, miles in money. You can use that on your car rental as well. And it’s, it’s a amazing benefit for the United customers because let’s go back to actually the, what the program is. 

So you have your miles collection, so you’re collecting miles. But you also have your status, a lot of super users and frequent travelers and focusing on frequent travelers. So maybe business travelers. They’re obsessed with getting up within their, category, so they want that premium at level for, and, and for all kind of travel programs, they’re quite similar.

But the points based your normal user. And especially, I think I, I like to focus on the kind of up and coming con consumer, so our younger consumers. They’re probably never going to fly enough to go up in their status level, but they will earn points every time, or they will earn miles every time they fly. Or every time they purchase car rental. 

So having the ability to earn and also burn with car means that your, your cohort of loyalty travelers, who it’s probably the majority of your program, who only have a small amount of points, they’re actually able to use those points. And I think a big theme within loyalty is this, micro redemptions.

So micro redemptions being that I as a usual user is able, able to spend my miles on small purchases. And I can use miles and cash. So that’s something that we facilitate for brands, but we see a huge uptake in that. I think a good example, Aer Lingus  isn’t one of our partners, but I think as a user,  Aer Lingus actually have a great in path option to use your Avios points to actually  buy your flight. And for me, I’m always like, oh, great. It’s like little discount. You know? You didn’t even know you racked up some AVOs from your last trip. But actually now you can spend them within the flow. It’s brilliant. 

Paula: And the advocacy that comes from the redemption, Heather is unbelievable. Like I, and I totally agree. It doesn’t even have to be a full redemption, although of course that’s what we’re all shooting for. But even to get that piece, as you said, effortlessly, seamlessly done in the actual purchase path and to be able to actually go, oh my goodness, there’s my points being used. Look at me, go me. There’s almost like the bragging rights piece, so I, I dunno if I’ve heard the term micro redemption before, although I, I obviously know what the, the concept is, the one that comes to mind for me is when Starbucks brought in the option to get like a, a flavored shot in your coffee., which again, was a hugely accessible micro reward. 

And I think that just starts that piece around closing the loop for loyalty members to kind of go, okay, I trust it now. And you just start kind of getting more to use your word, actually more obsessed. 

Heather: Yeah. Yeah. Obsessed.  Exactly. 

Paula: That’s a great word. 

Heather: Yeah. Yeah. I, I think like, I think the micro redemptions is key to unlocking value for our new customers coming up. So people who are just starting to travel. I think a lot of the younger generation is more inclined to have a good feeling from instant reward. We’re used to maybe seeing a lot of people who are like savers.

They have a saver tendency. But really what we’re seeing kind of with the younger spenders is really they’re seeing like, actually maybe I can’t afford this whole travel journey. And using some of my miles to actually be able to have a more affordable trip is what they’re looking for. 

And having an opportunity for you to spend some miles and not all of your miles used part cash actually gets the consumer in this behavior of oh wow, I can redeem. So it’s getting that like first time redeemer. And that’s key to unlocking repeat business. And I think you and I are quite aligned on what’s the purpose of a loyalty program in general.

It’s not really about all the bells and whistles, it’s about have I had a good experience with the brand? Has the brand fulfilled my need? Was easy and quick to use, and I think that’s more what brands should be focusing on, is how you’re actually able to get that value out there with the maybe points-based or status based system.

Paula: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m interested in your observations, Heather, because it is so closely aligned to what loyalty professionals are thinking about, but almost you’ve got that one step removed as well, which I think gives you maybe even a helicopter view in terms of, do you know what I mean? Like you get to talk to all of your different clients, you can hear what they’re hearing from the end consumer.

So I guess it’s B2B to C in many ways that you are kind of hearing from. Would that be fair to say? 

Heather: Yeah, like I, I think I have the empathy of the customer on my side, so I’m able to put myself in the customer’s shoes, but also, I’m really lucky I get to talk to the, the largest brands in the world who are designing these programs and they rehab that responsibility.

The pressure is not really on me to deliver these things, so it’s very easy for kind of the middle man to say,  this is how it should be when there’s so many factors. When it comes to a loyalty manager’s, portfolio and what their targets are. 

Paula: Absolutely. Yeah. No, it’s, it’s certainly complex and you know, even last night I was speaking on a panel, for example, and they said, you know, is there a skills gap?

I’m like, if, of course there’s a skills gap, the world is flying along at ridiculous pace and loyalty is always considered like a, you know, from, from people who’ve never tried, it’s always considered to be this super easy thing. We switch on a couple of points and that’s the job done. So, so it’s wonderful that, you have that depth of understanding of the complexity, particularly for brands of that scale in terms of balancing so many stakeholders, so many agendas, and really making it work. 

Because I remember one particular, guest on the show, for example, and, and it was our friends in Emirates, actually, they’re coming back on again soon as well. And Dr. Nejib said exactly this, that there’s no shortage of ideas for an airline, you know, in terms of what to do. 

The challenge is almost what to say no to, because we have to focus. We know if we’re going to have that beautiful experience for our consumer, then we have to build probably fewer but more compelling propositions. So what I’m,  I’m loving is that, again, as an Irish company, CarTrawler is becoming part of that extended portfolio of what’s considered to be powerful enough for the airline to dedicate its time and resources to.

Heather: Yes, yes. Exam. That’s a great example that you had with Emirates. And I think they’re always about, you know, what value and aspirations you’re gonna give to your customers. And I think it’s about taking those ideas and the kind of value proposition of your own brand. So what does your brand stand for?

What’s the culture of your company and what do you want your customer to feel like when they’re working with you? When they’re purchasing from you. I think we’re, we’re able to really see kind of the benefit of both bringing that brand experience from, say, for example, an airline into car rental.

And then I guess from CarTrawler’s perspective, we’ve worked in car rental for a long time. We’re car rental experts. We’re working with people who are airline experts or hotel experts. You don’t have to be an expert in car rental to, in order to get it right. I think with a lot of our fundamentals that we put in place, it’s really just about understanding your customer base. How they spend. 

So, for example, a low cost carrier. Maybe you want to give those micro redemptions an opportunity throughout the customer journey, because you might have customers with lower budgets or who are really looking for that practical element. But then you look at, a company like Emirates, they’re experiential.

There might be more business travelers, then you can design a different offering for car rental and use the data to actually provide a personalized experience. I think one thing CarTrawler does quite well is the use of data and going back to what you were talking about with the skills gap. 

I think a lot of people have a lot of data. A lot of companies have access to a lot of data. Yeah. But actually you have no clue how to use it. And I’ve listened back to a few of your, previous episodes where, people are talking about actually the struggle it is to get sign off on going from a mass email hit. To an actual personalized or maybe more emotional send where you’re not actually just looking for that sell.

And I think that’s where loyalty is going to, I think creating that content that actually provides a, a response from your customer. But it’s not just about discounting, it’s not just about giving extras. It’s about actually appealing to the customer’s journey. Where are they going? What are they doing? What would they like to see on their trip? And providing that content to help them to plan their trip as well. 

Paula: And that’s music to my ears as well, Heather. Obviously as a content creator, I have been utterly blown away in my podcasting career and previously actually writing, I suppose, as well for different clients about the impact that the good content can have on the emotional state of the person who is consuming that.

And that might sound a bit grandiose. But even again, last night I was at this event and so many people feel like they know me because they listen to my show. And it’s incredible when I meet them because I can see a smile on their face, a smile of recognition. And it’s almost like instant trust. 

And, it’s, it’s not that I’ve, you know, gone out, you know, to, I haven’t thought about in that way because I think everyone knows I do this show because I had my own skills gap of what an earth am I doing with my loyalty programs and how can I learn more from people like you guys. So, I, I love to hear that you are also believing in the power of content as something that drives the emotional loyalty that we all strive to achieve all of the time.

Heather: Yes, I think it’s so important. And my background is I really started out in digital marketing and I’m a social media girl at heart. I love social media. Oh I love creating videos. I love, you know, actually engaging in content that people create. And I’m amazed at the talent there is out there now online you can just like create anything really to evoke emotion.

And in terms of creating content for you know, business purposes, loyalty purposes. I think it’s going back to the, the same principles we talked about is who is your customer? Who are you talking to? If you are creating content without knowing your audience, you’re doing it wrong. You’re wasting your time.

You need to know where these people are living, what they’re, and, and by living I mean like online. Where are they living? You know, are they, which platforms are they using? Like how are they getting their information? And actually latching onto that. 

And car rental content is so important because renting a car can be quite stressful and we know that. We’ve seen that. 

Paula: I can attest to that. Yes. Yeah.

Heather: And we, we tired. I mean, there you can kind of paint this picture of a family arriving in New York, a hot and sweaty and you’re waiting on a cue. The thing about, car crawler and the, the power, I think of choice is that when you’re looking for a car, you really need to actually understand what you need. And you know, booking your travel is really fun. You can book your airline, you can explore your hotels. When it comes to car rental, people I think get a little practical and maybe a little lazy and they just go, whatever it’s the cheapest. 

But actually there’s so much more that a user should consider. Like where are they driving to? You know, how, how far are they driving? What suppliers are they looking for? And knowing all of that kind of thing in advance. You, you can’t possibly know that unless you’re targeting your customers with content.

So, we create a lot of content around, insurance, pickups, you know, what’s the right car for you and your family? Or you and your, your husband or whoever you’re traveling with. And where you’re picking up what documents you need. You know you still need a credit card, you need your driver’s license.

Paula: Surprised, surprised. 

Heather: Surprised. The amount of people who call us. Sorry. 

Paula: Oh my goodness. 

Heather: That’s the amount of people who call us without their driver’s license. 

Paula: Oh my God. 

Heather: Oh wow. It’s astonishing. Like, but I guess you forget things. You’re traveling. It’s not the the, you have your passport number one, but you still need your driver’s license to rent a car.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. But I’m glad you mentioned pick up Heather, because that was my pain point. And you know, when I foolishly booked my first car. And I can’t remember when that was a couple years ago, but I hadn’t realized, particularly in Dublin airport for anyone who has traveled in, the difference between picking up in the terminal.

And going out offsite was for me a freezing cold stand in the rain and the wet because I didn’t go and specify with my partner, whoever I booked through that I really wanted terminal pickup. So now that’s my differentiator. If they don’t do a terminal pickup, I’m, I’m just not interested. I don’t care how cheap the car is. Just don’t get me cold or hot. 

Heather: Exactly, exactly. And I think like, working. So this is, I think the value of partnerships. So we partner very closely with the car rental suppliers. So the brands that actually own the cars and who you’re renting off of. They have lovely programs in terms of, skipping the queue preregistering, and during covid they’ve actually innovated quite a lot.

So your experience that you might have had a few years ago, you’re definitely getting a better experience now. And I think even understanding the brands that probably aligned to your needs is really important. And it goes back to content and availability of information. Which I think you could even do throughout the flow of your journey.

So it’s not just about email, email shots out to customers or social media. It’s really about what information you provide in path. So at what step are you gonna pause and say, is this the right car for me? Is this the right destination? And making sure that information is, spelled out in plain language, like we don’t need all this jargon or technical piece. It’s exactly what you need to know. 

Paula: Exactly. Absolutely. And just to pick up on a term you used earlier, actually, Heather, because it seems fundamental to maybe more the future, but this wording, mobility solutions as well as car hire. That’s an interesting distinction. What do you guys consider mobility solutions that aren’t car rentals?

Heather: That’s, that’s a great question. Mobility solutions are becoming quite popular with our partners, our airline travel brands, and it’s all about going back to choice. So, yes, car rental is one way that you can get from A to B, but you can also hail a taxi. So mobility is about, you know, actually any form of transport that’s gonna get you to A and B. 

So our technology really just acts as a basis to plug in any sort of transport that you can get from hotels, from airports, from whatever destination. And I think this is a really interesting topic, and it’s something we obviously talk about quite a lot. 

In car rental is you know, there’s ride shares, there’s kind of the Airbnb for cars. There’s all this cool, new options coming for customers and options are good. Options means that people are, are kind of getting what they need. But it’s all about how to actually extend into those. And you see brands like Avios Budget Group, you see, some airlines actually looking into different options for customers outside of just your traditional car rental. So you have your kind of a go car or your app-based car rental. 

Paula: Interesting. 

Heather: And all of this is very cool and another opportunity to extend into loyalty. 

Paula: Yeah. Yes. And I’m thinking about scooters as a form of mobility. Clearly not from an airport with a suitcase, but what I love is that you’ve already started to frame the opportunity for the partners to give, as you said, that choice, which might be very different, you know, maybe by demographic. 

When I think back, for example, Virgin I think was very innovative as an airline. For example, I think when they started to offer motorbike, transfers to busy executives who might just have a briefcase just to get them to the airport. We all know what city center traffic can be.

Heather: Great idea. Yeah. 

Paula: So, so sounds like you guys are obviously open to whatever works for the customer, I guess, at the end of the day, huh? 

Heather: That’s it. And I think it’s about, going back to the personalization piece. If brands can start to use their data in that way where they’re designing a customer journey that’s more about individuals rather than mass. Obviously in the past the mass hits have been very successful and they still still are today. But when you start to understand your customers and you’re giving them that choice. And you’re giving it in the right place, the right time, that’s when you’re really gonna win in terms of loyalty. The way that you lose business is absolutely leaving a whole cohort or generation out of your mind.

Paula: Totally. Yeah. Yeah. And as you said, they’re the up and coming generation, they’re the, you know, let’s assume the frequent travelers of the future, if we find sustainable ways for us all to keep traveling.

Heather: That’s it. Yeah. And, and I think with the, the younger generation of travelers, I heard this interesting piece around. At airports, they’re starting to retrain people’s behaviors because there’s been a whole two or three years where new travelers, they’ve only started to travel. They might be 25.

But it’s because of Covid, because of maybe income as well, that they’re not regular travelers as we would’ve been used to. So actually they’re retraining the customers at airports. What do you have to do at security? What do you have to do when you check in? So I think there’s almost like a retraining around travel in general that’s needed.

Especially with car rental there, there are quite a few barriers for younger people to travel, which other technologies are getting around. So as you said, it’s about mobility solutions. Actually offering that scooter if that’s the right mode of transport for that person. Brand integrating with partners who can actually offer that to their customers.

Paula: Well, that’s the thing because you mightn’t take the scooter from the airport, but you might want to have it zipping around Dubai, for example. You know? 

Heather: Exactly. 

Paula: So your mobility solution in your location might be something that, again, you want to pre-book. So yeah, not something I thought about before. It’s quite interesting. 

Heather: Yes. I think like the, the world is in one way a different place, but I think it’s such a great opportunity, for brands to reestablish their loyalty programs. What worked in 2019 might not work today. And I think we have to be open and flexible to that. I think that’s where you can actually just go back to those first principles we talked about, which is, you know, the simple, easy to use process personalization and actually providing that value to fulfill the need at the current time. Like if brands can look at loyalty in that simple fashion, it might be that you are pivoting your strategy, which you can see a lot of airlines pivoting their strategy or rebranding their program to suit needs.

It’s, I think, and we talked about it, I am off the call, but I think there brands, especially airlines, might be in the situation where pressure is actually forcing them to think of the money rather than the retention.  And obviously retention is gonna get you to the money place, but it’s not as straightforward in some situations.

I think airlines are probably in a bit of a danger zone when it comes to, actually designing programs that evoke emotional responses, retention, repeat. Rather than just get people to collect points with nothing to do. 

Paula: Absolutely. Yeah. No, there’s always this danger. You’re absolutely right, Heather, of the transactional piece and you know, the finance department putting the loyalty people under pressure to drive that program. Really to push a continual sales cycle, for example, where actually the, the fundamental purpose should be around.

As you said, things like data, getting to know people, really having a beautiful experience with the particular, business. That it could be, of course, even retail. We’re not just talking about travel, but, but today we’re talking about travel and I guess what brought us together was the up and coming Loyalty and Awards Conference that’s happening in Brazil later this year. So tell me about it. I think it’s the first time you guys are getting involved in it.

Heather: Yes. So it’s CarTrawler’s first Loyalty Awards opportunity. And we’re really excited about this to get over and really to network with loyalty colleagues and really just to nerd out around loyalty. I think it’s a great opportunity to really just forget about your day-to-day, maybe needs, needs of your team and actually just focus on what are the key trends, what are the threats to the industry? What are the innovations coming out of that? And I think that’s what attending the awards is all about. 

And the format, for a newbie seems very cool. It’s really just about getting to know one another and also light presentations. It doesn’t seem to be a school day, which some conferences, as you well know are. Which is good sometimes too, but I think this one seems like an environment where you can really learn and be open with your colleagues around loyalty and the challenges and opportunities that all presents.

Paula: Yeah, well, you will definitely be nerding out Heather. I can tell you that because it is a wonderful group of people. And, and what I do really like actually about the way that the team, you know, that Ravindra has structured this conference is, it is, there’s, there’s time in it to relax. There’s time in it to do the social stuff, and then there’s incredible brands doing amazing presentations, which really are, are super well attended and there’s workshops. 

So for me, I think I said to you, I first went to the one that was held in Dubai here a couple of years ago. Then I went to Madrid as well last year. And again, sometimes it’s the conversations over dinner with like-minded people who are, again, solving problems around loyalty, finding solutions like CarTrawler and piecing that into their overall strategy that can really be.

It’s super worthwhile and Rio de Janeiro is a long way for both of us, but but please God, we’ll get some time to, to hang out. I think it’s the Fairmont Hotel where we’re staying in, isn’t it? 

Heather: Yes. Yes. And I actually, you know, it was an interesting thing to get, my attend signed off by my lovely manager, I think.

It’s a, it’s a great conversation for everyone to have, you know. First year as head of loyalty. Actually I need to go to Rio in October. And you know, just first on the agenda, gotta get that Rio trip signed off to fairness. I, I think when you look through the past attendees who attended Madrid and the previous event, you can see really that there’s gonna be a wealth of knowledge within that room and you just can’t replicate that.

So going over to, as we said, nerd out, and hang out and network, those are where you actually can see quite complimentary things. Things that you might be experiencing day to day. It’s a challenge within loyalty. It’s always. A priority within the business, but it’s always maybe a priority that’s trumped by other things that that could be more important at that time.

So, loyalty is something for, you know, the customers is super important. And for a business to keep, like focus on that and have opportunities to really drive home value. Attending events like this is, it’s priceless.

Paula: It’s absolutely priceless. You’re right, Heather. And it is a long-term gain. And I do think that’s of course why it, it does get trumped so regularly by shorter term revenue pressures. But, one of the insights that one of my guests I remember saying, and he totally nailed it. He said, loyalty’s a very lonely business. And I said, that’s exactly it. And that’s why I wanna go and hang out in Rio.

And talk with people and go, oh my God. You know, like, what are we doing? And, and really nurturing each other because at the end of the day, there’s so much opportunity for us. I always feel that loyalty is growing in its stature, as a discipline, as an industry, and again, supported by insights from, from people like you guys who have that global perspective.

And I know you’re gonna be sharing lots of wonderful topics in Rio. Did you want to touch Heather at all in terms of, you know, what you’re hoping to, to talk about for the audience when we get to together? I think you’re presenting on, let me see, is it day two or day three? I think it’s day three. Tell us a bit about what the audience could expect 

Heather: Day three. So I’ll be totally relaxed by, day, day three. So in, in terms of what we can expect, I think, CarTrawler is a technology provider for B2B and technology solutions. I think one thing that I like, you know, we don’t wanna do a sales pitch at any of these things, but one thing that I think is we do really well as a business is that piece around utilizing data. 

So a lot of what I think I’ll be sharing with the group is around how we actually has have successfully looked through the data and insights. We have in order to actually make a personalized experience that results in revenue. 

Paula: Got it. Cool.

Heather: So we all have our jobs that are, are really aligned to actually having that retention piece for businesses and partnerships are only working if they’re mutually beneficial.

So I think a lot of what we’ll talk about is around personalization, segmentation, and what cool results we’re seeing. I’m hoping to share some pieces around how different, global loyalty programs. How their tiers are performing. Some cool insights that we’ve been seeing on consumer behavior, maybe some global trends for travel. I think combining all of that piece and really getting into the head of the global traveler. Will be really cool to  share with people.

Paula: Amazing. Well, I will be dying to hear it, Heather. There is absolutely so much value, as I said, first of all, in seeing an Irish success story and kudos to the Turley brothers, who I do know from many, many years ago.

I dunno if they’ll remember, let alone me coming in and chatting to them about their, at the time, single, location car hire business, if I call correctly. But, yes, I love to see the, the technology coming out of Ireland and you know, supporting the global loyalty industry. And I do think sometimes the fact that we are such a small country actually gives us the benefit of understanding the value of maintaining those relationships with people.

Because we’re, as we always know, we’re so closely connected, in the Irish market, and I think we, we have learned how to scale that in many ways. So we have, a big role to play, I guess, on the global loyalty stage. So absolutely looking forward to hearing all of your insights. 

So I think that’s all of the questions I had for you today, Heather. Was there anything else that you wanted to share with our audience before we wrap up? 

Heather: I am in terms of. Well thank you so much Paula, for having me on. I think like this is, has been an amazing opportunity and I know that obviously you usually get brands on this and I love listening to the wealth of knowledge that the brand managers and loyalty professionals bring.

So it’s definitely a resource that me and my team are always looking at. So thanks so much for championing this for us. In, in terms of, I guess, kind of final thoughts, I think one thing. I’m, I’m seeing quite a lot is the best conversations that I’m having with airlines and retailers are the ones that recognize that we can’t do it all ourselves.

Partnership is key. Utilizing technology that you can, you can actually utilize some of your data and create those rich experiences for your customers. That’s where all the fun is happening, and that’s where the actual loyalty value is coming from. So I think a lot of people, and I’m looking forward to having more of these conversations in Rio, but a lot of people are really tuning into that.

You’re not going to get it done in a solo shot. It has to be more of a marketplace environment where loyalty actually fits the customer, but also many different brands and purchases, which is great. 

Paula: Absolutely. Well said. Well said. It, yeah, it takes a village, I think is. 

Heather: Yeah,I like that. Yeah. 

Paula: It really does. Wonderful, Heather. Well, of course, we’ll make sure to link to your, LinkedIn profile and of course, CarTrawler. And again, the, the team at Loyalty Awards is available for anyone who wants to reach out. Definitely encourage everyone to join us in Rio de Janeiro. However you get it signed off, it’s, it’s going to be a wonderful experience.

And if you’ve managed it, I, I think why, why shouldn’t the rest of us? So with all of that said, I wanna say huge thank you to Heather Nolan, Head of Loyalty for CarTrawler. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Heather: And thank you, Paula. 

Paula: This show is sponsored by The Loyalty People, a global strategic consultancy with a laser focus on loyalty, CRM and customer engagement. The loyalty people work with clients in lots of different ways, whether it’s the strategic design of your loyalty program or a full service including loyalty project execution. And they can also advise you on choosing the right technology and service partners. 

On their website, The Loyalty People also runs a free global community for loyalty practitioners, and they also publish their own loyalty expert insights. So for more information and to subscribe, check out theloyaltypeople.global.

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