Having a credit card is becoming increasingly more accessible across the Middle East, with more issuers expanding their portfolio of cards and lower minimum requirements as the region grows towards a cashless society. This is making it increasingly competitive, and the use of reward programs on the cards also stands out as a differentiating factor for banks to lure new credit card seekers to their program. It is already proven that loyalty programs increase spend and engagement, so how do you stand out?
Although reward programs didn’t change much, the way consumers interact with those programs has seen a huge shift in the past years. Here are the top 4 trends for the new generation of cards and rewards:
More customers are on the move, and credit card issuers are harnessing user behavior data like never before given the tools available. Instant point earning on the one hand is key to keeping the user informed about the growth of their rewards account, and just as important is the ability to instantly redeem those points or benefits. It is a tremendous opportunity to be able to use that data on making the offers personal, gone are the days where a gift voucher is satisfying enough for the entire member base, especially since consumers left $3 Billion worth of gift vouchers last year unredeemed according to Mercator Advisory Group.
This has taken center stage with the rise of the apps and eCommerce platforms, where the customer expectation of a seamless experience has become the norm. Many reward programs across the MENA region don't control the user experience but rather rely on third-party providers that rarely update their interfaces or have a one size fits all corporate template. Not having a good user experience especially at redemption is a recipe for losing users or the appeal of the reward program, and should a clear focus of the reward managers. This includes clear and regular communication, access to the account through a seamless interface, and most critical being able to redeem directly and instantly online and at points of sale. E-commerce companies are the best at this, and utilizing their experience and methods is an easier path to a seamless experience than building it directly.
Utilizing digital platforms
Having a digital-first reward program is a must, no longer an advantage. With the users being online much more than ever before, it should be perhaps the only interface to interact with consumers today. The use of mobile apps has given users more access to their rewards accounts and is expected to continue to be the norm. Reward programs are increasingly integrating with other third-party apps or dashboards, and this is a big advantage as users can easily access their accounts, follow on their progress and redeem.
Freedom of choice
Giving reward program members the choice of redeeming what they want, when they want it is most likely going to be the single biggest differentiator among reward programs along with the user experience. Reward programs should use API’s to connect to the many redemption options available today and not limit their options to the main catalogue or the few gift cards on their platform. The opportunity for personalizing rewards based on behavior is huge, and the growing trend towards open redemption to increase engagement, is expected to directly impact the increase the spend on the brand, and with many merchants willing to offer discounts for such members, liability can also be reduced with open redemption.
Value to consumers in 2020 and beyond is all about choice and being there when they need it and on their own terms. This is where reward programs can win, and this is where the use of the digital channels can increase the engagement with users and truly result in loyalty.