#111: Skywards Insights - Expansion and Inspiration Pre-Covid

As one of the largest airlines in the world, Emirates Airline last year celebrated the 20th anniversary of its loyalty programme Skywards, which had just passed a global membership base of over 27 million members, many in International markets.

Just two shorts weeks before the global pandemic forced an almost total shutdown of the world’s aviation industry, I had a fascinating conversation with Dr Nejib Ben Khedher who has led the digital transformation of Skywards in recent years.

This short show summarises his incredible insights on what was working so well for Skywards already and some exciting new ideas emerging in the industry.

For me, Skywards and Emirates are inspiring brands given their premium position in the global aviation market, and my own fond memories of working in the same company many years ago.

Listen to this episode of “Let’s Talk Loyalty” for a truly exciting perspective on what’s possible when a global brand invests in its loyalty strategy with a clear intention of delighting its members.

Show Notes:

1) Emirates Skywards 

2) Dr Nejib Ben Kheder 

Audio Transcript

“Let’s Talk Loyalty” is 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 for loyalty specialists around the world.

This episode is brought to you by Epsilon of their award-winning PeopleCloud Loyalty solution.

Today, I’m delighted to announce that I’m taking part in Epsilon’s Personalive event.

This June, PersonaLive is a series of online events designed to inspire marketeers with thought leadership, best practices, as well as interactive discussions around identity and personalizing our customer’s experiences.

If you’d like to register for this free event and hear from Epsilon clients such as Marriott Inspire brands, GM financial, and FedEx, just go ahead and visit epsilon.com/let’s talk loyalty.

Hello, and welcome to episode 111 of let’s talk loyalty.

Now having worked previously myself for Emirates airline, interviewing Dr Nejib Ben Kheder, the Divisional Senior Vice-President of Emirates loyalty program known as Skywards was definitely one of my guest highlights so far on let’s talk loyalty, an interview that was recorded and released just a few short weeks before the impact of the current global pandemic.

Now Emirates airline, as many of you will know is one of the world’s largest airlines and skywards is the loyalty program, both for Emirates, as well as fly Dubai, a low-cost carrier based here in the UAE at the time of this conversation, membership of the program had just crossed 27 million worldwide with international membership in the UK, Australia, and the USA overtaking the domestic membership here in the UAE doctrine G talked me through the digital transformation that he had been leading up to that point with a focus on making skywards miles, much more accessible as rewards, as well as an intention to become a lifestyle brand and currency.

For example, members can now run skywards miles across their everyday spend. And two thirds of the rewards being claimed were for less than 10,000 miles, proving how valuable that members find it when they can make a part payment. For example, towards a flight booking, we also discussed how skywards members enjoy personalized offers in the booking path. For example, seeing instantly if an upgrade is available, as well as the use of Emirates assets, such as their particular incredible portfolio of sponsorship assets around the world that members can bid for some of these include formula one, tickets, rugby tickets, as well as things like the jazz festival and other cultural events.

What I loved is Dr. G explained the importance of ensuring that his members are not just flight active, but actually program active a really important distinction. Given the lifestyle approach, the program is now taking another great win for skywards in recent years is its partnership with Dubai mall, which is in fact, one of the world’s biggest shopping centers located here in Dubai. And in recent years, Dubai mall replaced its previous loyalty program with the skywards program.

Instead, Dr. Najib also explained some other propositions such as the family consolidation account, the ability to use Skyward miles in Dubai duty, free to claim or par pay for gifts as well as immediate benefits such as free wifi onboard Emirates flights doctrine, and G also emphasized that donating skywards miles to a charity in particular, the Emirates airlines foundation is also extremely popular and he mentioned another upcoming innovation, which was the opportunity to earn Andrew D. Miles for buying onboard juicy free.

We also had a great conversation about the contribution that skywards members make to the airline, how much better they convert on flight bookings, how much stickier they are to the business and how much more robust they are as customers, particularly in challenging times, as well as the impact of skywards being named as one of the top three decision-making criteria that passengers mentioned when they’re looking to book flights with a core management team of 70 people, surrounded by global airline colleagues around the world, they GP shared a vision of new concepts, including a subscription-based loyalty model being piloted.

And again, emphasizing his vision to build skywards as a compelling lifestyle brand. And in fact, an asset for the business way beyond the flight part, creating stickiness and emotional connections with customers. He also mentioned the dramatic potential of airline loyalty programs as profitable business units in their own rice, like many other airlines who now have the potential to drive even more profits in some cases than the parent airline that owns them.

Another point I really loved coming towards the end of this conversation was how skywards has had to learn to be agile, giving themselves permission to launch smaller and VPs and iterate their products rather than focusing on perfection as Emirates always has done as a premium brand. So in closing out the short summary, I will again say that both Emirates and skywards are brands that are very close to my heart. They’re focused on delighting their customers and delivering exceptional experiences is second to none.

Speaker 0 (6m 28s): So I highly recommend you listen to the full episodes. It’s number 25 on let’s talk, loyalty.com or your favorite podcast player. This show is sponsored by the wise market here. The world’s most popular source of loyalty, marketing news insights and research. The wines marketeer also offers loyalty marketing training through its loyalty academy, which has already certified over 170 executives in 20 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals.

For more information, check out the wise market tier.com and loyalty academy.org. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of let’s talk loyalty. If you’d like me to send you the latest show each week, simply sign up for the show newsletter on let’s talk loyalty.com and I’ll send you the latest episode to your inbox every Thursday, or just head to your favorite podcast platform. Find let’s talk loyalty and subscribe.

Of course I’d love your feedback and reviews. And thanks again for supporting the show. .