Converting Mobile Loyalty into Program Loyalty

Simon Keogh,


Think about how loyal we are to our smartphones. More than 80 percent of young Americans and 75 percent of Canadians take their phones to bed, according to the recent Rogers Innovation Report. There’s even a new medical condition called nomophobia - no-mobile-phone phobia. With such an interconnected society, the marketer’s challenge is to build on this mobile loyalty as a way to strengthen program loyalty.

featured-2Smartphone penetration will continue to grow. The percentage of the U.S. population with smartphones went from 30 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2012, according to a survey from eMarketer, and is expected to rise to 59 percent by 2016. And people are using their phones for a lot more than just talking: 75 percent sent a text message to another phone; 51 percent used downloaded apps; and 50 percent used the browser. Mobile is here to stay and it is growing exponentially in its consumer engagement value.

As loyalty marketers, we may understand how important mobile is for connecting with customers, but are we truly maximizing the potential of this uber-personal platform? It’s all about utilizing a variety of mobile technologies to meet customers’ needs and wants.

The AIR MILES Reward Program, operated by LoyaltyOne, is finding that mobile provides a fantastic opportunity for personalized interaction. AIR MILES went mobile in 2009, launching its first SMS messaging program. The following year a mobile app for iPhone and BlackBerry was introduced, along with a mobile website. This was quickly followed by an in-store integration platform, enabling members to scan QR codes in-store to receive offers. This year a relaunch of the mobile app included Android, which covers 51 percent of the smartphone market.

When AIR MILES launched its latest mobile app, members responded with an immediate and sustained transactional lift of between 5 percent and 20 percent, illustrating the power and potential of the mobile space. That potential is further outlined in a 2011 survey by eMarketer which shows that consumers spent 10 percent of their media time with mobile, while ad spending on mobile was only 1 percent of total budget. By comparison, consumers spent only 7 percent of their time on print media, which ate up 25 percent of the ad spending dollars. This gap between mobile use and mobile ad spend creates an opportunity for marketers to divert more resources into the mobile channel for a higher return-on-investment.

Think Beyond the App

Marketers may say “the app is where it’s at,” but the reality is that mobile itself is a channel, and it has multiple engagement options, for example, SMS. This incredibly personal messaging option drives a response rate three times that of more traditional campaigns. Those results are a function of the customer’s control over whether or not to opt-in to receiving SMS messages.

Build Awareness of your Mobile Strategy

Don’t assume that mobile and other electronic channels are the only way to reach mobile users. Traditional media can help build overall awareness. Announcing this new engagement channel through traditional ads on the subway and in kiosks encouraged AIR MILES members to invite the brand into their mobile universe.

Make Location Count

Relevant communications must incorporate location; when customers “check-in” they are actually saying, “Hey, I’m here, what do you have for me?” AIR MILES enables members to quickly find which retailers around them support the program. Retailers could take advantage of that moment to present customers with relevant, personal, contextual offers.

Connect the Virtual to the Physical

Provide members with opportunities to use your app to engage with specific campaigns, and get them to think about those campaigns when they are in-store. As an example, an AIR MILES retail campaign presented customers with the opportunity to scan a 2D barcode to get a special offer.

Make it Entertaining

Sometimes “gamification” can feel gimmicky. But the truth is marketers need to entertain people in order to engage them in richer relationships. A recent AIR MILES campaign promoted a Check In Challenge – a competition against other members to see who would “check in” (visit partner retail locations) the most often in a month. The top 50 members each month were rewarded. Check ins increased by 20 times to over two million during the challenge and the number of members actively engaging with the app increased by 50 percent.

These results illustrate how a strong mobile strategy can help to drive consumer engagement. One of the most encouraging results from AIR MILES’ work was that, three months after the most recent app launched, transactional lift among the previously least-engaged members was 34 percent. Connecting effectively through a mobile campaign can not only provide increased engagement among best customers, but also re-engages those who typically are most difficult to influence.