5 Hot Trends in B2B Loyalty Programs
Publication date: 15.05.22
Reading time: 5 minutes
Earlier this spring Innotechnics shed light on the top trends that drive loyalty program policies in the B2C segment. Today we’ll move to B2B to see what trends reign there and what tools have proved most useful in retaining corporate clients. All this will be exemplified with interesting case studies.

Loyalty programs usher B2B customers into a wealth of special offers and enticements from their corporate suppliers and partners. At the core of those are non-monetary or obliquely financial incentives, including:

  • Redeemable cashback: card-applied or received as a check or bank account deposit;
  • Exclusive membership perks;
  • Personalized offers.

According to Forrester Consulting analysts, “65% of B2B brands have plans to implement a new loyalty program or upgrade an existing one in the next 12 months”.

Why worry, you may ask? It’s because winning the hearts of customers through personalized approach and the full taking of their interest into account has been found to be a more lucrative policy than simply improving transactions per se via loyalty programs, as it was before.

We have looked into a series of noteworthy case studies and identified the following five trends in B2B loyalty programs which we believe should be kept tabs on.

Trend 1: Clubbing for business
Players have introduced a new format of business clubs where members can enjoy free or low-priced subscription-based access to special offers from a specific brand or partners.

Case study:
A U.S. bank called
Comerica has piloted its Comerica SmallBizCo-Op program as a brand new concept for SMEs in North Texas. Now the bank’s small and medium-sized customers can revel in the following benefits:

  • SizeUp by Comerica, market studies to know their competitors and make more informed business decisions based on the knowledge;
  • Small Business Advertising Program, a vehicle by which a small business team can get free media promotion and better visibility through the bank’s own events and radio ads;
  • Comerica CoReward$, which gives SMEs access to a zillion discounts from a sizable retail partner in 25+ e-commerce based categories to save up to 40% on office stationery and more on computer hardware, FMCGs, travel expenses, etc.;
  • Sports Ticket Program, a nice perk that opens SME staff and customers all doors to Dallas based sports teams’ home games;
  • CoWorkSpaces, a new benefit to launch later this year for office space reservation.

The bank envisions broader geography for its Comerica SmallBizCo-Op program and this year has plans to take it beyond its home region.

In a nutshell:
Loyalty tools such as the above may require deeper-than-standard pockets to fund their implementation; but being a comprehensive caterer to many of SMEs’ real business needs, programs like Comerica SmallBizCo-Op can not only help improve ties with the current customers but also bring new ones on board, thus stepping up a program owner’s visibility in the long run.

Trend 2: Swapping points for partner privileges
In another loyalty program format that is growing voguish, you buy goods and services from a program owner’s partners and get points along the way. Such programs have proved rational where the goal is to help SMEs increase sales; in such cases individual customers get points for purchasing something from small business. But a company can act more resourcefully and reward its SME clients for the purchase of its business services; so, the small businesses can then use the awarded points to buy other services from the company’s big partners.

Case study:
In 2020, a Greek bank called
Piraeus launched a yellow business reward program for local SMEs. Small businesses can now enjoy exclusive offers from the bank’s partners (discounts for consumables, gasoline, courier services, electrical energy, travel, and whatnot) and earn/redeem points called “yellows”.
To be eligible for that, they should simply purchase stuff and effect payments using any of the bank’s business products, such as linked card accounts, credit options, corporate payroll card programs, and others. There are more than 70 indicators that help monitor the efficacy of the loyalty program.

An element that has helped the “yellow business” outshine many of alternative loyalty programs was the borrowing from the B2C segment of a winning “buy around the corner” tactic that enables consumers to redeem their points at retail outlets. The tactic the bank now employs incentivizes customers to choose small local stores for shopping, and stick with them, thus boosting those stores’ overall revenue. Under terms of the program, each euro paid in the “yellow” currency generates a partner store three-to-eight euros in extra revenue. So, participating in the program may bring such a partner additional proceeds accounting for 15-to-30% of their total revenue, redemption transaction included.

The program won the International Loyalty Awards’ “Best B2B Loyalty Program” nomination in 2022.

In a nutshell:
Piraeus Bank’s loyalty program has stunned many observers with its efficiency. At the end of the day, the bank has got 1,500 new daily registrations and added 68% to its cross-selling growth, 66% to the overall growth of core banking product purchases, and 59% to digital channel use growth. Piraeus has been awarded the “favorite brand” status, too.

Trend 3: Packaging services and goods for business
There are a growing number of companies that are eager to anticipate every possible need SMEs may have as they develop, and offer their customers a wide range of non-monetary services (training, mentoring, assistance in sales and marketing, and alike being the most frequent of them all). Corporates do so to outstrip the competition, retain clients, add to their portfolios, improve customer service, and develop fruitful partnerships with SMEs across all possible issues, thus placing themselves ahead of the curve. Partner offers may serve here as a vehicle to give customers a ride to partner services with minimized or no difficulty. Most non-monetary SME-focused services companies have to offer are free or sold at a bargain basement price.

Case study:
Lazada Partners, a program launched in an effort to boost sales at outlets that sell Lazada stuff. Lazada, a Singaporean brand, has secured support from partnering businesses and uses the loyalty program to enhance both brick-and-mortar and online points of sale. Lazada Partners is now also testing the waters in Southwest Asia.

Companies that have partnered with Lazada provide the following services for brand outlets:

  • Visual design to ensure individuality and style;
  • Content planning;
  • Operation and order management;
  • Marketing;
  • Data analytics;
  • Customer Support as a service;
  • Distribution channels;
  • Logistics.

To join in the program, one is expected to fill out a questionnaire. Once in, each partner is from then on monitored, evaluated, and given one-to-three star certification, depending on their rate of returns, ship-on-time indicator and same-day chat response rate, seller ranking, mega campaign join rate (such as campaigns of 11.11 and 12.12), and some others.

The program also offers new sellers interesting packages. This year, the brand is launching its Lazada Malaysia New Seller Package 2023 for local SMEs that seek entry to e-commerce markets. Program participants do not pay for services during the initial three months, enjoy sophisticated onboarding tools from Lazada, and get operation support.

Last year, a similar Hari-Harimau 2022 New Seller Kickstarter Package lent small businesses a hand in progressing through the pandemic-stricken markets. Thousands of new sellers are reported to have been brought on board.

In a nutshell:
Lazada reported that its package loyalty program has helped ensure an impressive 80% uptick in successful implementation of sales tools; new sellers’ outlets have had their rankings soar by 90%; and an independent go-between partner network has been established to further boost sales on the platform. In addition, companies that partner with the brand’s platform provide sellers with good tools for business development. On the downside, though, Lazada made no bones about the high enough cost of training partners.

Trend 4: Pooling corporate benchmarks
In another format, platforms accumulate small business offers that meet a certain unifying criterion, such as shared region, industry, social value, merchandise category, etc. Such platforms have an intricate system of filters setting stuff aside by an array of parameters, and often have a blog section for SMEs to share their success stories, or a full-fledged showcase of such stories.

Case study:
Sasfin Bank in South Africa is running a very unusual SME showcase, featuring succinct articles (no more than six-minute read) about successful projects. Each piece highlights the distinctiveness of a business featured, its every facet worth taking after, and lessons learned by the business owner which business newbies may find useful to appreciate.

To cover as many audiences as possible and incentivize people to start their own businesses, the articles are enhanced with short YouTube videos and targeted Facebook posts.

A business owner’s contact information is published at the end of each such article (website, social media account, etc.). In addition to success stories, showcase visitors can read news highlighting noteworthy SME-related events and important Sasfin Bank information.

In a nutshell:
There appear to be numerous upsides attached to this style of winning over SME clients, including small business promotion, impetus for new project launches, training for young entrepreneurs, and professional networking. For individual bank customers, reading social media posts and watching video interviews with business founders is also a good opportunity to find out about new brands and get intimately familiar with the ones they have already heard of. It’s a great conduit businesses may tap to attract new B2B and B2C clients.

Trend 5: Lending a hand in business networking
Useful networking is in great demand these days, and so are multiple services that apply data driven recommendation algorithms to helping entrepreneurs find relevant business contacts. Geolocation is widely used to identify peers in one’s own neighborhood. A subscription format for authenticating company staff is also growing popular as owners seek to have their social media accounts stand out.

Case study:
Volee is a community growth platform enabling entrepreneurs to find new useful contacts in typically clannish banking communities. Their new algorithm is said to be able to aggregate an ocean of data to generate possibilities for smart contacts between relevant business peers.

Volee teamed up with a bank called Anna to launch its White Label Web platform, a new tool that was expected to help the bank beef up its ecosystem with non-financial products for stronger customer retention. A reported 10,000 clients use the platform now, creating their entrepreneur/corporate profiles with technology that recommends new relevant business contacts and offers handy networking mechanics.

Platform users can amass information about community members and their social media activities. When analyzed, the data may give them good leads for potential clients, including community leaders, not to mention brand crusaders who would go all out to promote your brand as ardently as their tongues wag and fingers type. Users can also generate queries for community members to respond to, and receive lists of the members with their contact information.

In a nutshell:
This and similar platforms help their partner banks build a pipeline of potential customers and cultivate their entrepreneurial community for marketing advantages and the collection of as much information on entrepreneurs and their businesses as possible.

Rounding it all off
This report was born from business experience we had with one of our own customers, and grew in the making. We in Innotechnics work to support our clients with reliable data analytics as they seek regional or global business opportunities.

We often take up the challenge of scouting for the best practices our customers’ competitors may have introduced. As our clients learn more of the competitive landscape, they may elect to borrow the idea or take it into consideration when strategizing.

So, if you liked what you read of the loyalty programs, keep tabs on our new turnkey trendwatching reports we issue to order from our clients on a quarterly basis to highlight trends in certain sectors.
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