#480: yuu Rewards (Hong Kong) Shares Success with Digital Stamps and Gamification Strategies

Today’s episode is available in audio format as “Let’s Talk Loyalty” and on video as “Loyalty TV”.

This interview features the latest news about one of the most exciting loyalty programs in Asia, based in Hong Kong.

yuu Rewards was launched by DFI Retail Group in 2020, and now serves almost 5 million members.

The group is a leading pan-Asian retailer that covers food, health and beauty, home furnishings, restaurants and other retail businesses, with interests in 13 countries and territories, operating over 10,500 outlets, and employing more than 216,000 team members.

yuu Rewards allows members to earn points at over 2,500 outlets such as 7-Eleven, IKEA, KFC and Pizza Hut.

Our guest today is Anushree Khosla, yuu Rewards Director.

Anushree shares all of the latest propositions including the launch of yuu Stamps and their gamification and mission-based propositions.

Listen to enjoy my conversation with Anushree Khosla.

Show Notes :

1) yuu Rewards⁠

2) DFI Retail Group

3) Anushree Khosla⁠

4) Watch this episode at www.Loyalty.TV.

Audio Transcript

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

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Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV, featuring the latest news about one of the most exciting loyalty programs in Asia based in Hong Kong. yuu Rewards was launched by DFI Retail Group in 2020 and it now serves almost 5 million members. The group is a leading Pan Asian retailer, covering food, health and beauty, home furnishings, restaurants, and other retail businesses, with interests in 13 countries and territories, operating over 10,500 outlets and employing more than 216,000 team members. yuu Rewards allows members to earn points at over two and a half thousand outlets, including 7-Eleven, Ikea, KFC, and Pizza Hut. 

Our guest today is Anushree Khosla, yuu Rewards Director. Anushree shares all of the latest propositions, including the launch of yuu Stamps, their gamification and mission based propositions. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Anushree Khosla. 

So, Anushree Khosla, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Anushree: Thank you so much. Very happy to be here.

Paula: It’s very exciting, Anushree. I know you’re doing incredible work in Asia with this phenomenal program. We’ve had the program on the show once before, but it’s your first experience with us. So thrilled to be able to have you in the Loyalty TV studio, because truly what you guys are doing is highly innovative. So our audience is going to be very excited to hear all of the latest stories. 

So, as you know, we always do start our conversation in exactly the same way. And, and it’s sometimes an easy question, sometimes a difficult one, but coming from your perspective in a super competitive environment, I’m going to of course, ask you, what is your personal favorite loyalty program, Anushree? 

Anushree: Well, Paula, considering you already shot me down on my, on my first choices of,  yuu Group Rewards,  to be honest, I did have to think long and hard about this and I, and I kind of thought about it across the spectrum. Hotels, people, bio programs, shopping,  and then of course, you know,  it is yuu, but if I had to think of another one,  I would have to say Starbucks Rewards. 

And, the reason why I would say that is, and I was thinking back, you know, I’m a coffee lover and, you know, having lived in, in different countries,  that’s one program that I’ve used across markets. And I think what I feel is,  is great about the program has been how seamlessly integrated,  it’s become particularly with payments and that is the struggle of any loyalty program when you first launch, right? How do we make this? How do we make it ubiquitous?  

And I think with this whole integration with payments that has, that has been the case of for Starbucks and obviously on top of that I know they’ve had their challenges with restructuring the program over the past few years and then now the stars. But I think it just works. There are lots and little, you know, fund elements along the way, you know, the upsizes, the birthday, the coupons, and then the fundamental functional nature of the program, you know, being linked to the payments and your wallet. And then of course now, you know, we’ve been following the story with honesty and things like that. 

Paula: Yes. Yeah. 

Anushree: I think all in all, I’d have to say Starbucks if I had to choose. And that’s not my own.

Paula: Okay, fair enough. Well, of course, you’re quite right to be super proud of yuu Rewards. It is an exceptional program and we’ll be talking today exactly about why that is.

But of course, Starbucks Rewards is the one that does come out always top of the list. So it is the one that is most frequently answered on this show. And to your point, it very much is around, I suppose, the payment functionality on top of, I suppose, the opportunity to build that frequent behavior, which as we know, is already something that people want to do when it comes to delicious coffee. So Starbucks is doing incredible work. 

What I’ve also noticed they do, and I don’t know if it’s happened or, or, you know, obviously different markets around the world are quite different. And, but certainly I remember noticing in the US that there really increasing the opportunity for people to redeem more quickly. So this idea almost, not quite instant gratification, but almost, almost immediate. So the last time I checked, for example, you could redeem stars just for a shot of flavor in your Starbucks coffee. And that was something that could be done. I think maybe in the first visit, maybe the second visit, but certainly something very accessible. 

So I think that’s something that you also told me previously is an important principle that you believe,  certainly in the Asian market for loyalty programs. Would that be fair to say? 

Anushree: Yes, absolutely. And I think that was one of the fundamental, when we, when we first started out on this journey, I think it was almost five years ago. One of the fund, and at that point there were, you know, many decision points and, and crossroads like, you know, should this be a digital only program or should we have a card, for example, because back then those were still conversations to be had.

And the other conversation was around redemption. And we believe that particularly in Asia, and more so now everywhere else in the world, I think it’s very hard to make people wait for months and months, and it’s almost like there’s this spot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and we wanted to kind of turn that on its head, to say that this is a program that allows everybody to redeem. And early on, we started out with things like, you know, you spend a hundred Hong Kong dollars and with a hundred points, you could get a Slurpee at 7-Eleven or, you know, fish ballls.

Paula: So you mentioned the thinking started about five years ago Anushree, and yes you launched this program, I know, in, in 2020. So, just actually now as we enter 2024,  you’re coming up on three and a half years old. So will you tell us the story of the entire program? Where did the idea come from? 

I think for anyone who lives in, certainly in Hong Kong and now Singapore and many other countries, it was probably,  an obvious idea and something that was perhaps long overdue, but that’s easy to say now that it’s been done. But,  at the time, I suppose it was a huge idea and is proving to be exactly that it’s delivering at scale, but take us back to the very origins of where did it come from the parent company as well? Because again, that’s a brand that our audience in the US, UK might not be familiar with. So really tell us the full story if you don’t mind. 

Anushree: Okay, sure. So this goes back to possibly early 2019 or even before that. I’ve been part of this journey from the summer of 2019. But you know even before that, so DFI, DFI Retail Group is a part of the Jardine Madison Group. And the parent company obviously has interest in retail with DFI and within that, essentially in Hong Kong, we have the largest grocery, the largest health and beauty player, the biggest convenience store footprint. And then with the group also have significant presence in F&B with KFC, Pizza Hut, the Maxim Group. 

Paula: Amazing.

Anushree: And the DFI Retail Group is also the master franchisee, franchisor for IKEA. So I don’t think anywhere in the world, is there an opportunity for coalition programs that’s this just kind of waiting to happen. Because we have this fantastic footprint in the family. As well as, you know, a very compact, very efficient, geographical market like Hong Kong.  

And I’ve been in the loyalty space in this market for some time. We would often wonder, you know, why, why don’t they do anything? You know, why don’t they get everything together? Because it’s all there. And I think it took sort of the desire to digitally transform DFI retail,  with MCEO. And then the coalition loyalty program essentially became the first and biggest step in the digital transformation of the retail business.

And also you know, with the market leadership in Hong Kong, it also became a really good opportunity to cement and protect our market share in Hong Kong and also give back to the consumers that have loved and trusted these brands for many, many years. So like any other coalition program,  that was the genesis of it.

And from there on,  early in 2019, a small team was put together to, they’ll go, you know, knocking on the doors of the of the brothers and the sisters and the family, essentially, to say, look, we’re going to do this. You have only one shot at launching something like this and for DFI, for the Jardine Madison Group in Hong Kong, it’s got to be big. And we do want to make a mark and we want to launch with a very solid program. And the bunch of us that came from the loyalty industry from different markets, different programs, we kind of knew what good looks like.

So we had a very clear vision around what we wanted to do. The fact that it was gonna be a digital only program, I think was quite a bold move in 2019. And then, you know, thinking through a one one point proposition making sure that all our partners signed up to the same based proposition, getting a fantastic program.

Paula: Okay. 

Anushree: Own, own, you know, transition in terms of the then protest and then going into covid. So we finally launched in July, 2020 in the middle of lockdown which was a fantastic achievement in itself. And from there on, I guess. No looking back.

Paula: Indeed. Absolutely. And again, just for our global audience,  DFI stands for Dairy Farm International. And am I correct on that? 

Anushree: It used to be called the Dairy Farm Group. About two years ago, the corporate name was changed to DFI Retail Group.

Paula: Okay. Got it.

Anushree: And this group was welcomed at 7-Eleven, Pizza Hut, IKEA, and then obviously Maxim’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and other partners like Shell and Hang Seng. 

Paula: Incredible, incredible. So digital only,  remarkable breadth of partnerships,  literally from day one. So where have you gone on the journey from then? I mean, you passed a comment to me last time we spoke that I think practically every adult in Hong Kong is a member of you reward. So clearly you have done something right, a lot, right actually.

To me, there’s a couple of things that stand out. So obviously, getting so many partners together, you’ve mentioned the likes of IKEA, the likes of 7-Eleven, the likes of KFC, these incredible brands, which again, our global audience are familiar with. So, first of all, it sounds like you got everybody on board. Everybody engaged in driving one program for the entire Hong Kong market.

And I think that vision alone in terms of its scale is very inspiring. And I’m guessing that’s something that your partners did, I suppose, buy into from the beginning, because with that level of commitment from every single retail brand in the group, it just brings enormous power. And I think it also, you’ve talked about at the point of sale, there’s massive engagement from all of the staff, from all of those brands. So how did you manage to get everybody so excited? 

Anushree: Yeah, so I think it works both ways, right? One is that, you know, we had a fantastic lineup of brands, market leading brands,  but it did take a lot of work also to bring everybody on board consistently, happily,  and, and, you know, actually deliver for them.

Because it’s, it’s one thing to get everybody into a program of the size and scale that is an achievement in itself, but then to consistently, you know, maintain the engagement,  the sort of strategic buy in from the leadership. And I think that one of the key ways in which we’ve done that is that we have genuinely try to work very hard to deliver a good program for customers. 

Paula: Okay. Yeah, of course. Yeah. 

Anushree: Right. And if the customers are happy, then there’s this, I always say there’s this push and pull, right? As an organization, as a retailer, you can sort of push the program to customers. We have fantastic, you know, prompting as the cashiers, we’ve got visibility, you know, we’ll talk, I would love to talk a little bit about our launch campaign. So that’s the push.

The pull really is, is coming because customers need value in the program. They see value in the engagement and that kind of creates demand as well for more and more. And then, you know, collectively as a group, we, we sort of want to continuously deliver to the customers. So, it then becomes quite a happy relationship and if everybody’s happy, then, then, you know, you keep, you keep going on. And I think that’s where we’ve, we’ve been for the last,  last couple of years. 

Paula: For sure. Yeah. And we’ve often said it on this show, Anushree, you’ve probably heard us say this, but that level of integrity from the C-Suite at the very beginning with that vision is absolutely essential in terms of everybody buying into it and believing it. Because certainly my experience, again, totally different industry. It wasn’t a coalition, but it was coming from a brand that wanted to really delight customers. And I think people feel that, and I don’t know why, you know, that that is the reality, but it is the reality. 

And you mentioned the launch campaign, for sure that’s something I want you to, to share now, because I remember first becoming aware of yuu Rewards,  with a very cheesy tune. And I loved it. You know, it was almost like Cliff Richard was singing, you know, this really famous old tune that everybody knows the world over. And it was being done in the Hong Kong market with similar personalities and at scale. You guys invested above the line in a way that I think very few countries have done. So tell us your experience of the launch campaign because it was obviously incredibly powerful. 

Anushree: Yeah. So I think it was number one, that was a lot of executive sponsorship and buying, and there’s no way that we could have done it without that across the group, across all of our partners.

And like I said earlier, we wanted to make it big from the word, from, from the beginning, it was going to be a very big launch campaign. I think we felt quite strongly,  about the name that we’re not going to and the aim that, that implies loyalty or, you know,  bonus or points. So,  and the idea at that point from, from the marketing team was that we would like to go with something that, that is, we wanted a sonic brand, right? So it should sound like something.

Paula: Interesting. Nice. Yeah. 

Anushree: Can it, the boss system should go and make some sort of sound or silly things like that. But we, we started out with what we call an empty vessel,  with the name yuu,  and we thought that we will, we will shape this as a brand as we go along. And given that the brand was, you know, the word yuu is, it’s a sound. It’s just a sound. It really doesn’t mean anything. Yes, there was a pun on, you know, YOU, but it was always just meant to be a brand that we will then fit personality. And the way to do that was with a song.  And so we bought the rights to Billy Joel’s, Uptown Girl and Uptown Girl actually had a story in Hong Kong because in the eighties,  a very famous Cantonese pop artist called George Lam actually sung Uptown Girl,  in Cantonese and it was a big hit.

Paula: Okay.  

Anushree: So what we did for the launch was we got George Lam,  and his son, Alex, and between them, George and Alex, they kind of struggle. All of Hong Kong, because when we talked about our target customer, it’s actually everybody from, I don’t know, 18 to 80. 

Paula: Yeah, of course. Yeah. 

Anushree: Because it’s a mass market retail anchor program. So we had George and Alex,  sing a yuu song,  to the tune of Uptown Girl, which was also a song that resonated with, you know, predominantly Cantonese customer base. 

And so the song was a big hit. It was a big,  massive outdoor launch campaign. The stores were, we painted the town blue. And what you see behind me is what we call our yuuniverse. There’s a lot of, so the word yuu,  in our business.

Paula: Brilliant. Yeah.

Anushree: And so we created this universe and we had it all over the city, all over the stores.  The song was playing everywhere, in the MTR stations. We’ve got, you know, hundreds of stores all over Hong Kong. So actually, something very odd or unique emerged out of it,  when they sing the song George and Alex, they, they, they sing while you, because it kind of spells out and that was also our intended, you know, customer education that  this is you. And of course our members were listening to this song 24/7, and they started calling the program yuu. And then we found very quickly that customer started calling it yuu what we sent to be as yuu Rewards, essentially just customers start calling it yuu and they love it. 

So the song obviously generated a lot of discussion. It is what we call an earworm. People love it. People hate it. Three years in, we still have people posting stuff about our song. I mean, you don’t forget it. 

Paula: Totally.

Anushree: And that, so the brand sort of evolved.  And it took about a year for us to actually start calling it yuu ourselves. And that’s when we knew that, you know, there’s no looking back now. This is what it is. And so in Hong Kong, it’s yuu and in Singapore, it’s yuu Rewards. 

But it has been quite a phenomenal journey. And I think with the brand really, if you think of what makes this program special, I think the love and engagement that people have with the brand is, is is the secret sauce in a sense.

Paula: Oh, I love that. Yeah. 

Anushree: It’s one thing to be a strong loyalty program, but yuu now has been consistently rated among the top brands in Hong Kong. I mean, with the likes of HSBC, so it’s HSBC, Cathay Pacific and yuu. So it’s really captured the minds and hearts of consumers in Hong Kong. And I think that’s what has made it more special,  that we ended up not just building a brand, a program, but also creating a new young brand,  in a very short period of time.

Paula: Incredible. Yeah. You know, like the whole purpose of this show, Anushree, is exactly what you’ve just shared. So, you know, we’re not here to talk about points. You know, talking about loyalty is talking about emotional loyalty. And to hear a beautiful loyalty brand being created, powered by sound, as you’ve said, sonic audio, a song, I can even hear it in my mind right now. Uptown girl, honestly. And I’m glad you named it because I’d forgotten the name of the song. But honestly, to create that depth of engagement I mean, there’s very few case studies in my mind, in the world of loyalty that have achieved that level of cut through.

And I didn’t even realize and I’ve seen the video many times. I’ll make sure we do link to it in the show notes. I haven’t realized it was father and son that we’re singing and it was just again the cheesiness of it, the appeal, the familiarity, the joy and of course the simplicity. Because at the end of the day, as you said, Y O U is, you know, the obvious word and then Y U U is an education. Put it all together and the breadth of the coalition, you guys just did an amazing job. 

Anushree: Yeah, I think, I mean, second to the whole team, it has been fantastic and, you know, on that subjective point,  I, I have to often tell you. People, whether it’s internally, externally, stakeholders, that, you know, this program with points system is just, it’s sort of the base, right? So we, when we talk about the program, when we talk about it, we hardly ever talk about the points. The points are essentially just a vehicle. And what yuu has become in Hong Kong is,  you know, I know you have a global audience, but I have to call this out. 

In Hong Kong, there is a phrase called JETSO –  J E T S O, and loosely translated into English. It’s a play on a Cantonese word, but loosely translated into English. It means a smart, savvy shopper. 

Paula: Nice. Okay. 

Anushree: Hong Kong people are extremely deal oriented, promotionally sensitive. They love to save money. They love to think of themselves as being smart. And so we’ve been able to leverage on that JETSO element. And so it’s redemptions, you know, buckets of fried chicken, it’s movie tickets, it’s the welcome vouchers. 

So it’s, and, and in the past few years, obviously things have been difficult,  for, for the average,  shopper at Hong Kong. And so while you do becomes the way of saving money. It also gives you that little bit of joy and happiness in your shopping experience. 

Paula: Brilliant.

Anushree: So I think that’s really what we’ve been striving,  towards,  in, you know, in the last few years since the launch. 

Paula: Wonderful. Wonderful. I’ll get you to bring us up to date now in a second. Of course, Anushree, in terms of where you’ve got to again in such a short period of time, but I can’t not comment because of that word that you mentioned, because in Ireland we have a cliche,  which is being on the pig’s back.

So I worked for a brand,  which was loosely in the same space, nothing at the scale of what you’re doing. But it’s called pigsback.com. And again, it’s that idea of smart, savvy shoppers who loved to get a great deal and that sense of engaging because everybody’s getting something, everybody’s benefiting. So it’s almost like that idea that the rising tide lifts all boats. So I can hear that your rewards was designed with that very clear intention from the outset. Again, invested very heavily in your above the line campaign. 

I know the last time we spoke with you guys, there was the whole launch of the e commerce part of the proposition, bringing it into a much broader platform. So would you bring us up to date in terms of where is your rewards now, including the geographical expansion to Singapore? 

Anushree: So with regard to Hong Kong first, right. The idea of this app was always the, we, we recognize that a majority of crash stoppers  still shop with us offline and Hong Kong is a market, there’s so many stores. It’s, it’s all very, very convenient. Homes are small. You don’t have big fences and, you know, big,  garages and basements to stock up. So a lot of our customers do walk through our doors every day. And the idea originally of, of yuu Rewards was to be able to build that digital connection during offline shopping as well. 

So what we’ve got, what we’ve gotten was a point where I’m going to the store.  I’m going to go and buy my groceries. Well, let me see what I’ve got on the yuu app. Maybe I have a coupon or a voucher or so, right? So that’s where was the first sort of connection from digital to store. And now we obviously have a lot of promotions in store where you scan QR codes, you can unlock promotions, you can scan to redeem. So that was one area of omni channel engagement. 

Paula: Okay. 

Anushree: And then as during COVID with the accelerated growth of e-commerce, we also brought what we call the yuu Online Shop in,  which is one of the ways,  in which our, our members can shop, with  several of our brands, including, you know, ordering KFC or,  you know, even ordering a pizza online in addition to your groceries and your health and beauty needs. So that’s one element which is within our core anchor path. 

And then from there on, as we thought about expanding our partner network, you know, I know this is a loyalty channel, so you will understand that in areas like fashion, it’s very difficult to find single anchor partners because the market is fragmented. There’s different segments, different, you know, people like different kinds of things. And so your fashion,  was our kind of next extension from our own partner e-commerce into bringing in, you know, 50 plus fashion brands into the app where ultimately it is about earning, earning points. And then obviously there’s a lot of accelerators and multiplier points to new fashion.

And now we’ve, we’ve launched yuu Travel,  which essentially brings together again a bunch of aggregators, where people can book flights, hotels,  you know, local tours and excursions again with the, with the one, one point,  sort of always on proposition. 

Paula: Amazing. 

Anushree: So it started out as just points that kind of went to points in engagement and kind of creating all of this digital omnichannel engagement. And now we’re looking to expand the universe, so to speak,  to give our customers more opportunities to, to earn and burn. 

Paula: Amazing. Yeah. And you use the terminology, of course, anchor partners which again is within the DFI Group. And then I know you’ve expanded affiliates as well, if I’m not mistaken Anushree?

Anushree: It’s not just within the DFI Group, it are sort of four partners with Liechtenstein  Bank, Maxim, Shell as well.

Paula: Amazing.  

Anushree: And so that those are, anchor partners are essentially our earn and burn partners, plus the bank. And then with fashion and stardom, we’re essentially taking the affiliate route. Because ultimately we are,  sort of mass market and we’re not going to be a frequent flyer type program.

Paula: Of course. Yeah.

Anushree: However, given our customers travel, they shop, they fly. We want to be able to provide them you know, non exclusive opportunities. And that’s why with fashion and travel,  we have, we have a slew of partners. And so it is dependent on the consumer’s choice, whereas for our anchor partners, it’s always exclusive. It’s always very deep, strategic,  you know relationships where we’re not just joining a loyalty program, but we’re also working with them to kind of drive their business objectives through data, through the personalization and all of that. 

Paula: Absolutely. 

Anushree: So that’s the key difference between anchor and affiliate.

Paula: Yes, absolutely. And am I right that you say universe and you spell it with a yuu? Or am I just being? 

Anushree: Anything, anything that sounds like yuu is with a wide view. 

Paula: That’s hilarious. Great. Great. And then the Singapore launch, tell us about that. That’s very exciting. 

Anushree: So DFI, the DFI Retail Group has also presence in Singapore in food, as well as healthy beauty. And the idea was to take the new brand into other markets beyond Hong Kong and obviously Singapore is the first. And we are very happy with the sort of success that we’ve seen in Singapore. It’s still it’s called yuu in Singapore, not why you use the fact that seems like a like a Hong Kong only name. Again, there’s and there’s a fantastic partner lineup there as well.

Paula: Beautiful.

Anushree: It is a strategic partnership with another organization. So we don’t run the program directly, but okay, it does have the brand name as fundamental principles of the program are quite similar. 

Paula: Amazing. Amazing. And just to recap those principles, Anushree, because again, you know, our audience are very familiar with coalition, but there’s different ways, of course, of doing it. And I like, for example, that you’ve got a base proposition that all partners at a minimum buy into. I also remember you mentioning,  I suppose, really ensuring that all of the partners have a good voice that there’s great governance across it so that they really feel the benefits and that you are, as you said, dedicated to growing their business. Because I think long gone are the days where you can launch a program and have one brand that’s profiting and everybody else is, is, is fueling it. So I do think that that balance has had to be an important principle for a lot of coalition as we, I suppose, mature. 

Any other principles that you think are important either from yuu Rewards or I suppose just in general for loyalty programs, given your expertise, because you’ve been in this sector a long time. I know we didn’t actually reference it too much at the beginning, but you’ve done banking, you’ve done the tech side, and you’ve done this incredible launch as well. And even the airline space, I know you worked with Asia Miles as well. So, so what do you think are other important principles to, to be thinking about in 2024?

Anushree: Yeah, I think you know, you talked about the governance and the partners,  and I think so when we think about why we exist, I think it’s very clear that yes, we’ve built a strong brand. We have fantastic engagement, but none of this would be possible without our partners. So that is the reason. So there’s two reasons why we exist.

One is to drive incremental sales and value to our partners. And the second is to help our common customers, which is our customers and our partners, to save more and feel better. Right. So I think that is the fundamental, and we, we, we try and stay true to that every time there is a decision to be made.

And that’s why making sure that all partners have an equal voice in the program, making sure that we don’t cross paths. You know, there are areas around monetization and things like that, that programs of our size would look at, but we’ve been very intentional, very conservative upon, you know, expanding the partner network, okay, because we want to be able to take really good care of the partners that we have in the program. 

Paula: Lovely. 

Anushree: So that is the key principle. And then I think the next one would, would be customer first, because I think you can you know, you can build whatever you want, but if it does not work, cool. That is the most important and that’s why a lot of our decisions have been anchored around. We’re a mass market retailer and this program needs to make sense for, you know, the average, I don’t know, 50 year old Hong Kong lady walks into the store every single day to buy her vegetables and pork and then she’s going to go to the store the next day again to buy the same thing.

So we try and not lose sight of the customer. And I think that’s been something that we’ve held very close,  in the past couple of years. And that’s been also responsible for some of the successes along the way. 

Paula: Indeed.

Anushree: And then the support of the banks, like I said, we were nothing actually without, without the system and the universe.

Paula: Yes. Yeah. I feel like, you know, I’m long overdue a visit actually to Hong Kong, myself Anushree. A city I have loved on, on every occasion that I’ve visited. I know again, it’s been changing a huge amount, but I’m really, really looking forward to getting back to Hong Kong, please God, in the next kind of 12 months or so, just to experience and see yuu Rewards in action in its home market, because it really has achieved something quite special.

Anushree: Yes, please do that. We’d love to show you around. 

Paula: Amazing. Yeah. 

Anushree: That would be lovely. 

Paula: Amazing. Fantastic. So you’ve talked us through, I suppose, the original vision, the story, the evolution, as you said, and not losing sight of offline, but expanding into online. The importance of that omni channel experience, which I do think is, I suppose, something that everybody is striving to achieve.

It sounds like you guys are probably further ahead than most of us,  because it’s been a core part, as you said, of your digital transformation which I always find is a really good opportunity for loyalty programs and loyalty professionals to be part of, I suppose, a company wide initiative and to be really driving it in a significant way, obviously expanding geographically. So I guess the only other question then is what is next for yuu Rewards or yuu? 

Anushree: Yeah, I think what’s next is really,  it is again, you know, we’ve obviously captured consumers at scale. We have almost five million members now in a, in a country with seven and a half million people. No, we’ve got a fantastic partner mix. We’ve got customer engagement, great transaction penetration. Now I think it’s more around how do we, how do we understand our consumers better and then how do we give them more engaging, more relevant offers and rewards in order to then ultimately also drive our partner’s sales. 

Paula: Yes. 

Anushree: So a lot of the, you know, what’s next is around personalization is around how we’re able to build the user experience for our customers. So if I am, you know, if I’m a mom with young children, then you know what I see in the act should be quite different from, you know, the young guy buying beers at 7-Eleven every day. We’re on that, on that journey. I think I would say we’re like 50-60 percent there. But then that’s, that’s the distance that we,  want to cover.

And we want people to, to be able to see that, to be able to feel that, that this is a personalized you know, customized experience for me. And I think that’s one key,  sort of investment and growth area for us looking ahead. 

Paula: And am I right in saying, I didn’t ask you as yet actually, but gamification seems to be something that for, for you and I guess for, for all of the Asian market is something that is very appealing. And, you know, from my perspective, it does create that wonderful, fun opportunity, even beyond transactions. And I do think particularly Asia has that appetite for daily engagement. So would you mind just talking us through a little bit about how you’re doing that? 

Anushree: Yeah. So we’re doing that actually in three ways. I didn’t talk about this, but we’ve got yuu Stamps and I think we’re probably the only loyalty program globally that has been able to build a successful stamp program within a loyalty program. And this is it’s the typical coffee chop, chop, chop, right? And it’s a digital stamp program.

So for every five coffees you buy here at 7-Eleven, you get one free or every, you know, six breakfasts at KFC or, you know, five boxes of blueberries and so on. Right. So that’s one element where you know, then buy something five times, get one free again, is to the instant gratification needs of a lot of consumers today. It’s also very easy to understand. And initially there was a feeling that this would cannibalize the loyalty program, but we always felt that actually would strengthen it. And we did see our transaction penetration across the partners that had successful, you know, successfully landed stamps went up.

So it actually strengthens loyalty. So we have a very strong, I think at any point we have about 25-30 different stamp promotions running across our partners. So that’s yuu Stamps. This pillar is around games,  and couple of times every year we do, and these games are at the yuu level and that’s the chicken that I talked about, the floor machine game we’re running, a Christmas gift away game right now in the app. Essentially we want to try and build, you know, people in Asia and Hong Kong particularly love characters, love merchandise. So we’re trying to build on that again, you know, hearing from the customer,  trying to build potentially areas that we can, you know, actually have physical manifestations of the brand. So the chicken game, and the series of games that we have is, is that second pillar. 

The third pillar is something we’ve launched very recently, and that’s yuu Challenges. It essentially is mission based activities,  that could be at a partner or across partners. We just launched a month ago. We’ve seen some great results. And I think from a, from a broader program perspective as well, it unlocks a lot of opportunity to drive cross partner,  drive spend based targets, make it also quite fun. Like if you go to 15 partners in the next, you know, five days, you can get X, Y, Z. So stamps, challenges, and games and that’s, that’s sort of the proposition we’ve built in the past two years.

Paula: I can’t believe it’s taking us till this part of the conversation to hear that. That’s amazing. I mean, all of those, or each of those in their own right, Anushree, would be a massive new proposition evolution. So to launch all three, and the one I guess, particularly I’m curious about is, are you saying that the stamps proposition, for example, is in addition to the points. So the member does collect stamps and collect points? So they get both benefits?

Anushree: Yes. 

Paula: Wow. 

Anushree: Yes. It goes back to that fundamental principle of no matter what, it’s one dollar, one point. And anything else is on top. 

Paula: Wow. 

Anushree: So you’re obviously. You know, earning points when you’re buying your coffees, but every five copies,  if you, you know, if you start a stamp promotion, you get one for free. And this is where, you know, the partners have been extremely supportive and it’s also driving sales and value back to them. We see more people drinking more coffee. You’re into the stamp coffee stamp launch. 

Paula: Totally. And I know I can’t ask you, but my curiosity about the business case, it must be phenomenally exciting for the 7-Elevens or any of your stamp partners to see, as you said, the ups, sell the cross, the extra footfall. And so to leverage one, I suppose, core product to get people into the store. And then I’m sure, you know, there’s amazing behavior that’s being observed as well. 

So I know all of those kinds of things are too commercially sensitive to ever discuss on the show, but,  I suppose the audience knows that it’s got to be working for everybody for it to be that powerful. Yeah.

Anushree:  I think it’s, and and it goes back to the point it’s working for the partners, if it’s working for the customers, then it, it works. 

Paula: Exactly. 

Anushree: And I think it’s our job to just make it happen in a way that it works. And, and as a team, we have bunch of fantastic people that have been part of this journey some of them from the start. And there is a lot of passion, a lot of love for the brand, passion for loyalty actually,  here in the business,  which has been extremely fulfilling. 

Paula: Yeah. And I was going to exactly finish on that exact same comment, Anushree, that, you know, to bring in senior people with specific loyalty expertise is just the ultimate recipe for success. Because I think so many brands we’ve seen, you know, might try and build a loyalty proposition in house because it always looks easy from the outside when you see, Oh, it’s a points program. It’s fine. We’ll just get a platform and we’ll, we’ll figure it out. But I think to bring in loyalty experts, like clearly yuu Rewards did from the very outset and to have the depth of expertise that you guys have had from the very beginning is super inspiring. And the success is evident in terms of where yuu Rewards is today. 

So I guess from my side, the important thing is for us to keep the conversation going. I want to make sure that we definitely continue to hear what yuu Rewards is doing in the months and years ahead. 

So listen, that’s all of the questions from my side, Anushree. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention for our audience before we wrap up?  

Anushree: No, I think that’s pretty much it. When I look back and, and I think this is where I am probably just reiterating something I’ve already said, right? To us, this program is not about the points. It’s not only about points. It’s really about driving engagement and connection and then going back to grow the business.  So I think that is key really to the success of any program of this size and scale. And I think that’s pretty much what I want to just kind of leave with parting comments.

And thank you so much. It was, I think every time I talk about this journey, it feels new all over again. And it has been an absolutely fantastic experience for many of us here in Hong Kong. So I think you need to come and you need to have a look for yourself. 

Paula: Say no more. Absolutely. Consider it at least on the intention list and we’ll make sure to make that happen. So what I’m here coming through is immense pride. So I want to wish you continued success and absolutely huge congratulations. 

So Anushree Khosla, yuu Rewards Director at DFI Digital. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Anushree: Thank you so much, Paula. Thank you for having me. 

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

For more information, check out the wisemarketeer.com and loyaltyacademy.org.

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