The loyalty card as we know it is dead. While the likes of Tesco Clubcard has been a fixture in our wallet for many years, its time has passed and it’s time for the smartphone to take over. Weve has been beavering away at becoming a point of contact for advertisers to reach the customers of members EE, O2 and Vodafone – more than 17 million opted-in people at last count. Now its staff are trialling a new loyalty card scheme, testing rewards and redemptions at an unnamed retailer.
Why? Because the loyalty card is broken, according to CEO David Sear. ‘We think there’s a problem with loyalty,’ he says. ‘One; nobody is loyal. Two; even if they are, there’s a high potential for them to have left their card at home. Three; people really don’t use rewards. Maybe that’s good for retailers as they never have to redeem them but it doesn’t create the kind of loyalty that they are striving for. Four; the technology for doing retail is different at every retailer, so how can it work?’
The solution is in a smartphone. While stressing the tests are at an early stage, Sear says the plan is to place all of a customer’s loyalty cards into one app. ‘How much better would it be if you had one simple container and not a dumb piece of plastic?’ he says. One app would mean you could still get Tesco points when you inevitably forget your Clubcard, for example. Points would be earned and redeemed by using NFC and by placing all of the loyalty schemes into one place, it would remove the need to sift through pages of apps at the tillpoint.
But wouldn’t retailers object to having their rivals’ loyalty cards in the same place? ‘We need to put loyalty through a common interface. That’s the big sell of it. The very best loyalty programmes can only hit around 40% penetration. A lot of them do a lot less.’
Sear argues greater convenience will make loyalty cards an easier sell, with retailers still having access to the same data they historically did. ‘It wouldn’t change the way you shop. They keep their data and it runs on their rails. The data is protected between competitors and it replicates the way consumers operate.’
New ways of shopping
As things stand, it is only mobile marketing that is happening in earnest at Weve. The company is on the verge of launching its 350th campaign. Referring to it as ‘narrowcasting’, Sear says mobile has an advantage over television because you are guaranteed what market you are advertising to – while data is anonymised, the more information a consumer allows its operator to access, the better the advertising they will get.
Sear says fast moving consumer goods from companies such as Unilever and Proctor and Gamble have used mobile marketing for consumer awareness purposes. Handset manufacturers have also got into the game and Tesco has geofenced certain stores, targeting people outside those areas with vouchers if they spend a minimum amount. Sear claims out of the top 250 brands, Weve is working with 175 of them. He says: ‘It’s companies who are coming to us and surprising with ideas that is piquing our interest. They are thinking about this capability and the kind of data that we hold that is relevant to their business. The companies that will make the biggest impact are the ones who figure out how it will work with their business model.’
Weve’s CEO is an enthusiastic cheerleader for the possibilities of mobile to change the retail experience. After years of being decimated by internet competition, it could be devices connected to the web that could bring people back to shops. He says: ‘We want to streamline the customer experience to make them much happier to be in shops. This could be the saviour of the high street. If retailers want people to do more physical browsing, what better way than to use the messages they have got and send them to mobiles?’
The mobile payments poser
Dubbed the next big thing for years now, mobile payments still seem far from a mainstream proposition. It is hoped EE’s announcement of Cash on Tap (see page 3), following the launch of O2 Wallet last year, could kickstart the market.
While David Sear (pictured) isn’t explicit, he does hint the banks have dragged their heels in making this happen and urged the financial sector to engage with mobile operators. He says another issue is the technology not being there. He says: ‘People have got very cynical about contactless but it’s just happening later than what people said. There are a quarter of a million locations that take NFC payments. This isn’t something that is going to be used in Cartier to buy a watch but a big number of retailers are getting behind this, Marks & Spencer being one of the latest.’
Sear says the focus is on building a wallet that only holds one card, for now at least. Sear says: ‘I would argue people were focused on the wrong thing. They were saying we need to build a wallet, then put cards in it. Loyalty is creating a container. With payment, we need one card, we need to make it work and that’s what the focus is on.’