Loyalty & Reward Co recently attended LoyaltyLive in Chicago, the world’s first blockchain and loyalty conference. There we mingled with some of the brightest minds on the planet who were all seeking an answer to the question, ‘does blockchain have a meaningful role to play in loyalty?’
Loyalty & Reward Co interviewed Tom to hear more about his perspective.
- Wonder Rewards is an online affiliate rewards program, which now appears to be expanding into bricks and mortar retail earn. Can you tell us about the journey Wonder Rewards is on?
Certainly, our journey is based on a phased approach. Phase One of Wonder Rewards allows our members to earn points when they make purchases at major US online retailers. They can redeem those points for eGift Cards or for cash deposits to their Paypal accounts. We have tapped into the affiliate networks to get up and running in a sort of “soft launch” way. This allows us to prove our points system runs properly, that the customer experience is smooth and intuitive, and allow for back-end operations optimization. Plus, the affiliate network model provides us a revenue stream.
Like any new venture, there are three steps on the road to success. 1. Build it. 2. Prove it works. 3. Prove it’s scalable. Since the beginning of this year, we have built it. Now we are proving that it works. The next phases are to prove that it’s scalable.
We are now in Phase Two. Here, we are bringing traditional, brick-n-mortar retailers and brands onto the program. Our US-based direct sales team has quietly been building out a coast-to-coast ecosystem of earn and burn partners.
Also in Phase Two, we are launching with thousands of restaurants and other businesses. Our members can earn points for dining out and for making in-store purchases when they link a credit or debit card to their Wonder Rewards account. Then they simply use that linked payment card when paying, and the points earned appear directly in their account.
From a technology standpoint, we’ve partnered with Salesforce to integrate Marketing Cloud as our CRM platform. Integration with Marketing Cloud is happening now. The actionable insights derived from the transactional data we collect with provide intelligence-based targeting for future marketing campaigns.
Phase Three is bringing all countries and all members together in a global coalition loyalty marketing program. This is where blockchain technology comes into play.
- How many countries does Wonder Rewards operate in? What is the 2 year vision for global expansion? How many members do you have?
Cloud Union currently operates in areas such as China, Malaysia, Taiwan, New Zealand and the United States. We expect to continue our expansion in other Pacific Rim countries in the next several months. Today, Canadian members can join Wonder Rewards, but we have not marketed the program there yet. Within 2 years, we will be in Mexico, and other Central and South American countries.
As far as members, we have a head start given that the program in China launched over 4 years ago. There are just under 10 million members globally, with 8 million of those being highly engaged in the program.
- You attended the recent LoyaltyLive blockchain and loyalty conference organised by Untraceable. Where do you see blockchain playing a role in the future of Wonder Rewards?
I came to the conference a hardened skeptic of how blockchain technology could help Cloud Union with our loyalty and rewards platform. What drove me to attend was the fact that my Chinese-based IT team had previously identified blockchain as a solution for us. They are pretty adamant about it, so I thought it a good idea to find out why. The Chicago conference connected all the dots for me. I am now a believer.
Throughout my 20-year career in CRM and loyalty marketing, there have been a few “epiphany” moments – times when you see a demo on a new technology and you immediately realize the impact it’s going to have in our industry. I recall the first time I saw “load to card” technology how blown away I was. And sure enough, it dramatically changed rewards programs.
I was also excited the first time I saw QR code technology (I was partially wrong on that; American consumers did not adopt QR codes as completely as the rest of the world did). I also recognized how mobile phone usage would forever change consumer interaction with loyalty programs, and it has.
The capabilities of Blockchain technology is a revelation for me. I see it as a game-changer.
- You mentioned that Wonder Rewards is a coalition loyalty marketing program, some in the industry say that coalition doesn’t work in the US, citing the recent failure of Plenti from American Express as an example.
There are many reasons why Plenti failed, but the reasons are not the ones that people suspect. The main downfall of Plenti was that it was built on a shaky and unreliable back end system. That back end system was originally built as a system to send targeted offers in the postal mail to German consumers. Rather than buying a reliable and proven off-the-shelf CRM system as Cloud Union as done with Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Plenti tried to use an old technology for a new application. It didn’t perform as needed and the result was a bad user experience, mis-fired marketing campaigns and unhappy retail partners.
Of course, Plenti did some things right – they created a great brand and branding design, brought ExxonMobil onboard, and best of all, leveraged partnerships with some of the largest advertisers in the US to introduce the Plenti coalition concept to their partner’s huge customer bases.
Another example of failed coalition program is Aeroplan. The cause of that was a business dispute between Aimia and Air Canada, not an inherent problem with the coalition model. Aeroplan by all accounts, was very successful.
As far as a successful coalition model in the US, look no further than Fuel Rewards from Excentus – that’s an excellent program used by millions of US consumers everyday with many places to earn and many places to redeem. To me, that’s an example of a successful US coalition loyalty program.
- Your sign-up process is very simple, requiring just a mobile number to get started. This is very different to other rewards programs which often demand personal data. What is your philosophy on this approach? How does this tie in with blockchain loyalty approaches where brands are focused on handing back control of personal; data to their members?
All we require is your mobile phone number and zip code. We can do everything we need to do with those two bits of data. Your mobile phone number is now a more powerful identifier than your social security number. Your mobile phone number is the number that you keep throughout life. It’s how companies prove that you are actually you (with text code verifications). All our geo-targeted marketing campaigns are done using postal codes. We don’t need your name and mailing address, we are a 100% digital, mobile-first program. We will never mail you anything – too expensive.
Members can also provide email address as an option. We do not make email address mandatory. We’ve found that by making email optional, the quality of the email addresses that we get are better with much higher than average open/click through rates.
As we move into Phase Three – the full blown global coalition phase, we will explore using blockchain as our backend. We will assess a quiet move from our current cloud-based server infrastructure to blockchain. All our members will notice is that they now have fabulous new ways to earn and redeem reward points across borders and peer-to-peer.
In an increasingly globalized world, the time has arrived for global coalition loyalty, and Cloud Union will lead the way. To do this, blockchain serves as the solution. we see the potential to deliver significant value to our platform by reducing duplications in transactional data, and improving reconciliation and authentications. Points and currency transactions can occur faster, more easily, and with more security through distributed ledger technology.
To find out more about Cloud Union visit www.cloudunionrewards.com
To join Wonder Rewards visit www.wonderrewards.com
Connect with Tom Haley on LinkedIn
Philip Shelper is a loyalty management consultant based in Sydney, Australia who obsesses about everything to do with loyalty and rewards. His company Loyalty & Reward Co are a leading loyalty consulting firm.
Phil is the author of Blockchain Loyalty: Disrupting loyalty and reinventing marketing using cryptocurrencies. Buy the book.
www.blockchainloyalty.io is a global resource centre for everything blockchain loyalty.