5 Hot Trends in B2C Loyalty Programs
Publication date: 12.04.22
Reading time: 5 minutes
Tending Tamagotchi kitties, following your purchases’ carbon footprint, and other loyalty programs international companies offer you

Loyalty programs that grow ever classier with years have become a hallmark of the contemporary B2C world. Competition for customers spirals, inflation gets worse, and tech solutions for client satisfaction burgeon, all adding to the magnetism of such policies. Analysts at Antavo have recently found that at least 70% of the companies they surveyed have stashed away more funds for customer retention than ever before, and as many as 80% of those confirm good ROIs for their loyalty programs.

Glittering cashback offers and per-purchase bonus points have long been par for the course in many stores; but none of these retail dainties brings surety that a happy customer will fall irreversibly in love with a particular store or brand name. Innotechnics experts will highlight for you global best practices and top loyalty programs in what we believe are the most noteworthy cases.

Trend 1: Stepping up emotional engagement
Companies are bending their mind to making one’s shopping as interactive as possible, adding to the typically tedious routine some bliss of a fun tour and thereby causing the shoppers to instinctively view themselves as a sort of inalienable possessions of a certain brand community with all the glitz it brings. Bonding a loyalty program to the brand idea and to related social activities is a way of completing such fusion. Digital artifacts such as NFTs and metaverse awards make disengagement unthinkable.

Case study:
To exemplify the argument let’s take a look at what Genki Forest, a Chinese beverage maker, offers its aficionados. Their loyalty program participants are asked to put on very special thinking caps as “experts” who test brand new products that have yet to emerge in the market.

Their “Genki Member Shop” loyalty app is used as a beacon to attract those wishing to try a new drink in the comfort of their own homes — and no strings attached, all is free. In addition to having their own beverages thus enjoyed, Genki Forest also learns much of the consumer properties of zero-calorie, no-sugar products their competitors sell, such as coffee and children’s drinks, desserts, etc., which are offered for testing, too, and get happily guzzled by the fans.

In a nutshell:
Programs like this are complex to organize and accomplish both logistically (product delivery to client’s home) and HR-wise (picking adequate “experts” may be headache indeed at times). This, however, appears to be the sole credible way of getting detailed feedback which is a must when a major face-lift to a product is truly required or a limping marketing campaign has to be urgently scrapped or readjusted.

Trend 2: Streamlining a customer journey
Companies ease check-out for a customer to be able to benefit from his or her loyalty program in a more ample manner, and to better navigate through the store. Outlets that have learned the ropes in this field well enough choose the “Take and Go” shopping model, in which all a buyer needs to do to start shopping is link his banking card account to a store app, come in, get the stuff he wants, and leave; an array of special sensors will see what has been taken, and complete the necessary payment from his card account.

Today’s loyalty programs are aimed at making online ordering and refunds as seamless as possible. They help create value that is uniquely personalized and draws entirely upon customers’ behavioral preferences. To make sure they do hit the mark in this, brand owners perform across-the-board audience surveys.

As the inflation threat escalates, companies fine-tune their incentive packages, cutting back on their costs while spurring demand through letting their customers buy more.

Case study:
To see how things may play out here, let’s check what a retail company called Majid Al Futtaim has done. Their SHARE loyalty program is now enhanced with SHAREPay.

This is a smart wallet, the first of its kind in the vast MENA region, enabling the SHARE participants to link up to ten debit or credit card accounts to a single e-card. With the solution the people waste no time earning and spending SHARE points in the Majid Al Futtaim ecosystem.

Paying from any of their linked cards or from their points earned has now become as effortless as one could imagine; any POS terminal within the Majid Al Futtaim ecosystem is suitable for that. Seamless Awards pronounced SHAREPay the world’s most innovative payment solution in 2022. SHAREPay was a brainchild of a whole consortium of key international providers, including Visa, Network International, and i2c Inc.

In a nutshell:
An e-wallet like this takes a serious investment to put together and launch, but it also has such a client-friendly feel about it. Going digital in payment is now par for the course across the globe, and retailers such as Majid Al Futtaim invest themselves in their customers’ agreeable onboarding experiences.

Trend 3: Playing ritzy games
There are less business-like ways of ensuring customer engagement, too. Some companies introduce rewards none will receive unless a number of game-based challenges have been met. There’s hardly any huge financial benefit a customer may be after here, but rather a greater-than-ever sense of exclusivity and togetherness at the same time.

Games that are aimed at pursuing such a goal are typically released right before a new product line is rolled out. China is the frontrunner in this trend; companies there not only offer physical items as rewards but also grant some interesting master classes, trips, or other events. Launching a tourney for multiple players is one of the most widespread game mechanics.

Case study:
It looks like Miniso, a Chinese supermarket chain, has outplayed many in this joyful tactic. Some time ago they launched a WeChat-based Tamagotchi game called “Take Good Care of the Cat” which had been visually integrated right into one of their stores.
The players were asked to grow and nurse virtual cats, take them from level to level, and earn “diamonds” to then be exchanged for discounts (coupons) and gifts, such as a “cat in the bag” kind of surprise ones, toys, fabric face masks, tiles for the mahjong game, etc. The cat-game had 50 levels to handle, and a player could have as many as 12 pets at a time, “pumping” them up and “crossbreeding” them.

To move a level up one had to feed “fish” to the cats, and in no other way could the user get it save by agreeing to study Miniso merchandise categories right there in the same app; a plateful of “fish” cost 15 sec of viewing a certain page. Pets would leave their cots from time to time after “crossbreeding”, and when one did so, the user could get more feed from the same “fish market” and buy a new pet for it. Each loyalty program participant was expected to do all this to earn “diamonds”, which could only be achieved by either progressing from level to level or inviting a friend over.

In a nutshell:
The game was on for just a week, but it was enough to strongly encourage customers to get intimately familiar with what the Miniso store offered them. Playing as if inside the very physical store they had grown so used to visiting added to the excitement, and the long-relished mechanics helped the people get so wrapped up in pet nurture.

Trend 4: Promoting ESG
The global retail majors seek to “raise” their customers as environmentally responsible buyers, and of all educative tools a sophisticated remuneration package is none the worse than didacticism. Pursuing their social policies, the companies make charitable actions as easy for people as possible; or try to give customers a hand by temporarily introducing a super-gainful “buyer’s market” as the people struggle with soaring inflation rates. All this is expected to fuel and uphold demand as the crisis rages.

Case study:
A Belgian bank called Banx has launched a loyalty program to watch. With Banx Rewards customers can choose how they prefer earning their bonus points. The ones who pick and go through environment-focused challenges that teach responsible buying get some tangible tokens of appreciation.

A challenge we talk about may be, for example, “no cash for a month”. Whatever a customer has earned as points can only be spent on partner bonuses and benefits. In addition, all customers are advised to use their bank app to follow the carbon footprint each of their purchases leaves on the planet. When a new client comes to the bank, the firm plants a new tree, thus caring for the environment, according to the Banx website.

In a nutshell:
Before adding challenges like this to their loyalty programs, a company has to think it over to make sure the quest resonates with the customer and draws him in. Banx appears to have done a pretty good job as thinker. The clients and their bank have joined in building awareness-based lifestyle, thus making their bonds ever stronger.

Trend 5: Shaking hands on shared goals
All brand names, big and small alike, tend to prop up their businesses through partnerships to weather the current storm. Partner products and shared loyalty programs help them boost their client base, improve brand recognition, generate unique offers, and ultimately expand to broader markets. Cross-brand collaborations also bring interesting customer experience, so enhancing visibility for each of the brands separately as new clients flock to them, happy with the shared programs.

Case study:
IKEA has inked an agreement with KonsultaMD, a telemedicine service provider in the Philippines. As a result, each local IKEA Family loyalty program participant — and even his or her family — can now enjoy a whole month of free medical services from KonsultaMD.

The program covers up to five close kinsfolks of each IKEA Family member. They all can consult a licensed medical doctor as many times as they need, and from anywhere in the world. The free services range from issuing drug prescriptions and sick leave certificates to managing lab tests.

In a nutshell:
Making such partnerships is no easy task, as both companies expect to bring home the bacon from an alliance. If at the end of the day both are happy, their customers will be the happier as they will have unique value — and yet another reason to think of their favorite brand with great affection.

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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