#461:Understanding Loyalty in Europe - Getting to know the Greek Market and the OPAP Loyalty Programmes

This episode focuses on the loyalty market in Greece and the OPAP loyalty programmes, featuring expert insights from Spyros Doukas.

Spyros leads the Retail Loyalty and CRM programs for OPAP. He has designed and launched several loyalty programs in Greek market in the Telecoms and Entertainment industries. Having a customer focused mentality, the programmes attracted millions of members, significantly increasing the loyalty of customers.

Spyros is a key contributor to the extended “Understanding Loyalty in Europe” White Paper created by Mando-Connect in partnership with YouGov, which explores loyalty membership, appeal and impact across 24 European Markets.

Listen to learn about the loyalty landscape in Greece  – what membership, appeal and impact look like in this market – and to learn about the OPAP loyalty programmes.

Hosted by Charlie Hills. 

Show Notes :

1)  Spyros Doukas

2) European Loyalty Whitepaper

3) Mando-Connect 

4) YouGov


Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m Paula Thomas, the Founder and CEO of Let’s Talk Loyalty. Today’s episode is hosted by Charlie Hills, Managing Director of Mando Connect, a UK based agency that uses smart data to create brilliant partnerships and rewards that really work.

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Charlie: Hello, and welcome to episode 461 of Let’s Talk Loyalty. I’m Charlie Hills, the Chief Strategy Officer for Mando Connect, WPP’s Loyalty Specialist Partnerships and Rewards Agency. We have created a white paper in partnership with YouGov that explores loyalty membership, appeal, and impact across 24 European markets.

And I’m delighted to be hosting a series of podcasts featuring European loyalty experts to help listeners better understand loyalty across Europe. Today, I am delighted to welcome Spyros Doukas, the Loyalty and CRM Director of OPAP. He has diverse experience in commercial roles, from project management to customer experience to loyalty and CRM.

He has designed and launched several loyalty programs in the Greek market and the telecoms and entertainment industries. Having a customer focused mentality, those programs attracted millions of members and have significantly increased the loyalty of customers. He has provided the expert commentary on the Greek market and the OPAP loyalty programs in the extended white paper.

And today we will be learning about his favorite loyalty programs. What the loyalty landscape looks like in Greece, and of course, about the amazing OPAP loyalty programs. I hope you enjoy our conversation today.

So hello and welcome to the podcast. We’re absolutely thrilled to have you joining us here today. Thanks for sharing all your insight on the brilliant Greek market. 

Spyros: It’s great to be here, Charlie. 

Charlie: Oh, we’re thrilled. It’s such an exciting market. But before we get into talking about Greece and the kind of the nuances of the market, I’m going to open the same way I always do with Paula’s favorite question, which is, please tell us about your favorite loyalty program. Which one do you really admire and why? 

Spyros: One of my favorite program is in banking industry. It’s from Eurobank called €pistrofi. I love it because it’s extremely simple. I don’t have to do anything. There is no subscription process. There is no points. I just use the card the way I should use it and I get euros in return. So simplicity for me is very appreciated. So, this is my favorite loyalty program. 

Charlie: That’s a really good one, isn’t it? I love that. That trend that we’re seeing in the financial services industry, they seem to be going two ways, you know, there’s deep complexity. And then there’s some really interesting programs out there offering really simple props. And particularly at the moment in a cost of living crisis, that kind of that every euro counts, every little bit of value we can give back to our members is really key. 

Our listeners would love to hear more about your loyalty background, how you got into loyalty. You’ve worked in some really interesting sectors and brands and you know, what you enjoy about the sector.

Spyros: I have 20 plus years of experience in marketing. Half of them is in loyalty and CRM. Back in 2012, I designed and launch the first loyalty program in telecom industry, in telecom Greek, Greek industry called Nova Pronomia, which was about providing some exclusive discounts from well known third party companies and experiential gifts like VIP tickets for footballs, etcetera through monthly draws. And also now in 2021, I launched two loyalty programs, one with tiers and points for lotteries, for lotteries industry and one for our betting, our betting games.

So, I enjoy the customer aspect of our job. Our job is to understand the customer and the perception about the company and products and how I learned the program can influence this perception. So, we provide also positive incentive to customers. And also we use cutting end technologies like AI, machine learning, modeling, beacons, real time triggering. So all this ecosystem is making our day to day very interesting. 

Charlie: I think that variety is something I get from a lot of the guests actually who answer that question. They really love the fact that loyalty touches so much of the brand, the customer experience and the business. Has that been your experience of it at OPAP? I mean, presumably you’re working across sort of all areas of the business. 

Spyros: Yes, Charlie. I’m very delighted to work in a very complex environment. We have a retail network of 3,050 stores. And we have about four point 4 million customers. So, we have very diverse profile of of customers. A very, a huge network of retail stores. And all these have to be serve by a loyalty program. So it’s very challenging. We use new technologies, we use pretty much information.  A lot of millions in order to reward our customers, and this is very, very interesting. 

Charlie: Yeah, it must be really exciting across such a diverse sort of business and estate to bring that loyalty experience to life. What about the new white paper that you’ve contributed to? I think that real, that laser focus comes out really strongly in the case studies that you’ve shared and the insight that you’ve provided on the Greek market. Our listeners would love to hear more about it. You know, what, tell us about that white paper and actually what your biggest learning was from it.

Spyros: This white paper is a groundbreaking and innovative project that aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the loyalty landscape in European market. So, it’s the first of its kind and combines a 360 view on how European citizens perceive loyalty programs by using surveys, interviews and also expert opinions.

So it’s an extremely helpful tool for benchmarking and for creating effective and engaging loyalty strategies across Europe, across European countries. So anyone who is engaging with the loyalty industry should read this as it the information that you get from this white paper is very difficult to find elsewhere.

Charlie: I think that’s been a consistent theme, actually, that the, you know, the insight just didn’t exist before that paper, and then it’s really helpful when you’re sitting in a particular market. I think that’s one of the things that the guests have really enjoyed is actually looking at, you know, which are the markets and learning from them.

That’s certainly how I feel. It’s been brilliant, like, working with you to understand more about the Greek market and then think how we can take those learnings and then apply them, you know, in the other markets that they’re working. 

I think Greek, Greece stood out to me as a particularly interesting market within the paper. You’re sitting in the middle tier of markets in Europe, you weren’t at the top of the scale and you weren’t at the bottom of the scale. Our listeners would love to hear more from, you know, an expert in that market. Talk to us more about the Greek loyalty market. What does that look like?

Spyros: It’s very interesting the fact that Greece has undergone a significant transformation in the past years, in the last few years. And I believe that this is the result of the COVID pandemic. Before the crisis, Greek consumers were lagging other European countries in terms of loyalty adoption. They were showing low levels of engagement and satisfaction, and also they didn’t trust their loyalty programs. Your paper and also my data also suggests that and I confirm this that the Greeks have reached the EU average in terms of acceptance, emotional connection with the brands and likelihood of recommendation in loyalty programs.

So this indicates that there is a great opportunity for companies to leverage this positive shift and offer value added services and rewards that meet the expectations and needs of the Greek customers. 

Charlie: I think that’s a really interesting thing that we’ve seen across a couple of the markets, actually, that particular, that impact of the pandemic on consumer behaviors and attitudes and the key role that loyalty programs paid in that period, you know, in actually building and maintaining those relationships during those times when it was so much harder to COVID 19 reach people. What about the programs that you see as the leaders in the market, which do you think are the most interesting programs that our listeners should go and check out in the Greek market? 

Spyros: So the programs in Greece tend to be simple. The, I think the two of the most interesting programs is from a Aegean which is called Miles and Bonus.  Aegean is an airline company, the biggest in Greece. So the Miles and Bonus is a very old program, 20 plus years, 20 plus years in Greece have and have tiers and give you benefits that include your traveling. So you can upgrade your seat or you can take some discounts, etcetera. So this program is very interesting because of its structure and also of the acceptance from the customers.

And the second is from Cosmote, which is the incumbent telecom operator in Greece. It called the DEALS for YOU. And the interesting part is that it has a huge network of third party companies that offer the flagship offering, which is take two and pay for one. So it has a very strong proposition for its members. 

So if you want to check out the Greek market, go for Aegean Miles and Bonus, Cosmote DEALS for YOU, and of course, OPAP Rewards. 

Charlie: We couldn’t do the podcast without talking about OPAP Rewards. Tell us about those two programs. It was really interesting when I first met to think about a brand that’s actually operating two programs in parallel. And I think that’s particularly interesting, I’m sure for our listeners. So tell us, give us the details. 

Spyros: So, as we have a very very diverse profile of customers, we have a 4.4 million customers per year in our stores. Our games address different segments of customers. So for slot machines, because of customers are very aware of loyalty programs from online casinos and from land based casinos, we have to make a loyalty program that is tailored made for them. So we use tier, we use points, and we use many advanced loyalty concepts in order to make to make them be interested in our games. 

In the other hand, on our other games, which is mainly lotteries, the customers are more, let’s say, basic in terms of their needs from our services. And the lottery program is more basic, meaning that if you scan a betting slip or a lottery slip, you just, you get a wheel of fortune and you get also participate in a mission and a monthly draw. So, it’s more basic because of the type of customers that we are addressing these two loyalty programs.

Charlie: That’s really interesting that you bake that kind of gamification and what they love about the brand into the loyalty program. What kind of prizes can people win and how does that component of it work? 

Spyros: So the customers can win some vouchers and discounts in our games, and they also can win some gifts from third party companies, like, technology driven gadgets. They can win some coupons in for supermarkets or for gas etcetera. So we’re trying to, we’re trying to provide rewards that are matching different typologies of our customer base. 

Charlie: Nice. And do you find that’s really effective? Do you find your members really engage with a particular type of reward over others or is the variety actually what excites them? 

Spyros: What we have seen is that loyalty program mainly attracts our regular players. So, and this is very logical. So the regular players are more, tend to be more interested in getting discounts in the in our games. So, what is more popular is the getting the discount vouchers or some points to redeem in our games. 

But in several occasions, for example, in Christmas period or in back to school period in September, the draws that provide gifts that are relevant to this period, they are very popular. We provide also some draws that are very relevant to the period of Christmas or in back to school in September. So yes, in specific periods of time within the year the drawers are very hot for the customers. But in general, vouchers and points are their main interest.

Charlie: I think we’re seeing that across a number of programs, actually, particularly in the cost of living crisis. We’re seeing customers want real value from the brand offering the program. Baking that back into the ecosystem is really important. But then, as you say, at key moments in the year, where actually there’s a big lifestyle event, Christmas is a huge thing in the British market, actually, and all the loyalty programs do sort of specific big Christmas activations.

It’s almost as exciting to me as when all the big Christmas TV ads come out. I probably, I’m a bit of a loyalty nerd, if I’m completely honest, but it’s really interesting when you then see that Christmas activation and then the real focus we’re seeing across all the programs this year, getting ready to launch their Christmases. Actually about giving families value back at Christmas and helping them with Christmas dinner and gifting. So, it’s interesting to see that reflected in the Greek market as well. 

What other sort of trends are you seeing in loyalty in the Greek market? I know we sort of started out saying it’s quite a simple market actually and a lot of the programs have got real simplistic kind of mechanics at their core and they don’t want to deliberately overcomplicate things. But what other trends are you seeing in your market? 

Spyros: To my surprise I see that many small businesses have started some kind of unofficial loyalty programs. I call this micro loyalty and it’s unofficial. 

For example, I went to a coffee shop to buy a coffee. And they show me three times in a row. From then they asked me, where are you? Do you work? I said, OPAP. Okay. Now you have 20 percent discount every day. 

Charlie: Nice.

Spyros: So when they see me, they give me 20 percent discount without any reason, without having any card, without having any loyalty program. This trend is also becoming another in every shopping in Greece, they tend to give you something to have you satisfied and come back. 

So micro loyalty, let’s call it that way. Micro loyalty, an official micro loyalty is a trend here in Greece. Also customers are becoming as they becoming more experienced with relative programs they can understand more complicated loyalty structures and companies. Slowly have turned their loyalty programs into from basic into more complex, but this is a slow burn. 

Charlie: Yeah, I think that’s something that we’re seeing as well. The sort of the capability of the technology and the platform providers actually now starting to build a bigger ecosystem for the loyalty program across Europe, you know, rewarding people for actions in social media, rewarding people for lifestyle choices and really moving beyond that, that points for purchase. 

Are you seeing much in the sustainability space in the Greek market? Are you seeing programs doing things to support the environment or working with charities. And then the other part of that is obviously the corporate social responsibility thing. Has that happened yet in the Greek market or is that, do you think that’s still to come?

Spyros: It happens in the Greek market and happens a lot. And especially from the big company, all of the big companies have these programs in place, but they are not driven through loyalty programs. It’s a company driven initiatives that are addressed to the community to the Greek community and society. So, yes, there are a lot of these programs. Every big company in Greece have this, but not through not through loyalty programs. 

Charlie: No, as a kind of a central initiative. I think that’s been one of the big things we’ve seen in some of the perhaps the loyalty markets that are at the next stage. Actually, it’s those programs actively participating in the corporate social responsibility agenda and actually kind of bringing that in. So I wonder if that’s to come in the Greek loyalty market. 

Spyros: Let’s see. It will be very interesting, but no, not yet. 

Charlie: Not yet. And what about the lessons you’ve learned, you know, you’ve worked in some really interesting sectors. It’s great when we’re talking to guests who’ve built programs from scratch as you have, you know, what are some of those big lessons that you’ve learned? 

Spyros: There are two. First of all, loyalty marketing requires a deeper understanding of customer needs and preferences. So, you have to be very aware and conscious of who do your address your loyalty program and what are your goals?

And the second is that building a loyalty program. You have to ensure all the little details, even in the operation, because the devil is in the details and the customer experience also is in the details. So you have to be very, very sure that your promise will work in a simple and transparent way.

Charlie: And I think testing is a big part of that, isn’t it? 

Spyros: Yes, yes, yes. That’s right.

Charlie: Test everything before you get it out there and actually get real consumers using journeys. I think that’s something that I think is not unique to loyalty marketing, but you need as a loyalty program lead to be able to think big, don’t you? And innovate and understand the consumer. But then also, as you say, really get every little component right and have quite a detailed approach. Particularly I imagine in your industry where things must move quite quickly with consumers and you probably have a high frequency. 

Spyros: Yes, we have almost three to four times per year and update, a major update of the loyalty program and the application in general. So yes, it’s a much fast moving environment. But it’s very, very interesting. 

Charlie: Yeah. You can’t get bored, can you? And it’s moving. 

Spyros: No, no. Not at all. 

Charlie: You never get a rest to go sit on the beach. And what about the loyalty industry? I know you’re always keeping an eye out. I know you’re always looking at research. What resources do you rely on to kind of keep abreast of it? So you know what to put in those updates. How do you approach that side of it? 

Spyros: For global trends, I mainly use the Loyalty Magazine and The Wise Marketer sites as a main reference of what’s going on out there. But for, let’s say for our micro environment, the meaning, what is happening to Greece, we monitor the companies the company sites and also we use a lot of desktop research in order to keep up to date with the Greek market.

Charlie: Yeah. I think that’s something we’ve seen again, with a lot of the programs that we’re talking at. Do you tend to focus on your own sector? Or do you actually look across the Greek market and across all the different types of brands and programs? 

Spyros: Unfortunately, our main focus is on our sector in our industry. This is a bug of our thinking and I’m trying to not to do. But it’s something that is happening. But when you also have an eye on what other industries do, what other countries do, then you have a great opportunity of thinking something out of the box. So, yes, our mainly focus of monitoring is our industry in our country in Greece, but we’ll also keep an eye in other industries and in other countries. Because loyalty is across industries and we can take the best practices and apply to our programs. 

Charlie: Yeah, I think there’s some really interesting new programs coming out in the fan engagement space as well, actually, and in sports. And that’s quite, that’s been a new sector for us to actually start looking at. Because up until the last couple of years, there wasn’t a lot happening. Actually, that kind of that fan engagement was a natural part of being a fan and loving your team or loving your sport. But now we’re seeing brands get really smart in that space. And I think that’s really interesting for me and so different.

You know, you talk about the airline industry when we started, you know, all the airline programs are big points programs with tearing on top of it. Yeah, I think there’s some really different approaches and some exciting stuff to learn. 

What about new ideas and innovation? you know, that you’ve done recently or that you’ve seen or thought, Oh, gosh, that’s amazing. I wish I’d done that. What’s really stood out to you recently as you’ve been looking around? 

Spyros: What we’re currently working and it’s really fascinates me, it’s the proximity marketing and the real time triggers based on customer behavior when the customer is within the store. So, using these two new relative relative new marketing tools with the help of machine learning algorithms, learned CRM and product marketing in retail is changing drastically. It provides you new ways to interact with your customers, promote and inform your customers in a super target way. 

So, what we’re exploring right now is, when a customer visits our store, depending on his behavior within the store to respond to these. Either with information messages or with an offer or something like that. So, this innovation is something that it’s something that makes me very, very happy that I’m working on this.

Charlie: That’s really exciting. And to be able to be so in the moment and understand the context of their experience in the store and then adapt to it that quickly and then get them something that they need. Yeah, I’m really excited. You must keep us posted on that. I’d love to see the case studies when you’ve done it.

I think that’s something so exciting and such a nice application of technology. Because presumably you’re hoping that’s going to actually make the customer love the experience, even more and engage even more in the brand and just be that little bit more special. 

Spyros: Yes, right. Our aspiration is to make it more fun and interesting to stay in the store, in our stores. And also, to if we can prolong your time in store, it will be great. 

Charlie: Yeah. What an exciting thing to be thinking about in that particular industry, I’m sure there’s lots. of programs who’d love to be doing that, you know, to know when somebody is walking past a store. Now we’re all back out on the high street, obviously, and not trapped in our houses. How interesting. 

Have you seen anything else that other programs or other sectors are doing? A big innovation I’ve been keeping a close eye on that’s been in the states for a long time, but has really just hit the British market is member pricing. We’ve seen all our big programs in the British market in the last sort of 12 months launched member pricing. Tesco started it. All our big grocers are now engaging with it and we’re just seeing it start to come through in other sectors like fuel. Has that hit the Greek market yet? Have you got member pricing coming through? 

Spyros: No, not yet. As I said, we are in the European average, so we are now becoming the European average. So no, we don’t have this, get these concepts. For Greece, I think that the big innovation is simplicity. So, I don’t mean to do the basic things for your customer, but the trend is to make an effort to design something special that fits the customer profile and is delivered in an intuitive way. So, no, in Greece we don’t have these innovations yet. But, I’m hoping that the next five years this will come also in Greece. 

Charlie: Yeah. Exciting times actually. I think that’s one of the most interesting things, isn’t it? It’s looking at other markets and going, oh, that might work for me. And then modeling it and testing out, but always nice for other brands to experiment first. And then you can see whether it works or not. 

Thank you very much for everything you’ve shared today. How can people reach out to you if you have more questions? 

Spyros: Thank you very much Charlie, for your invitation and for this conversation. People can reach me out through my LinkedIn profile or at my mail s.doukas@gmail.com.

Charlie: Oh, brilliant. Thank you so much. And we’ll put all the links in the bios in the podcast notes as well for all our listeners. So all that’s left for me to say is thank you so much for sharing your update on the Greek market. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the podcast today.

And that’s goodbye from Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Spyros: Thank you very much for inviting me in this very interesting conversation. Thank you very much, Charlie.

Paula: The Australian Loyalty Association is proud to bring you the Asia Pacific Loyalty Awards, to celebrate excellence, innovation and best practice in the thriving loyalty industry active in their region. The awards feature 16 categories and the entries will be judge by a panel of local experts. Early bird submissions close today, November 22nd and late entries close next Wednesday, November 29th. The awards gala event will then take place on the 14th of March 2024 at The Glasshouse in Melbourne, Australia. 

Submit your entry or find out more at australianloyaltyassociation.com. 

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