UK operators need to improve and broaden the appeal of the loyalty schemes they offer customers, according to retail staff.
Staff identified some key weaknesses in the reward programmes currently available and said that more needs to be done to tempt customers and subsequently build stronger relationships.
The concerns follow research by analyst firm Analysys Mason last month, which revealed that less than a third of UK mobile consumers actively participate in operator reward schemes.
Meanwhile, only 27% of consumers who participate in schemes increase their spend.
One of the main reasons why mobile operators fail to gain a significant following for their reward schemes is that they lack broad appeal, according to retail staff.
Staffers say some schemes are too ‘niche’ to appeal to the majority of consumers and called on UK operators to broaden the type of rewards they offer in a bid to attract the two-thirds of mobile consumers who do not participate in any mobile reward scheme.
Independent store staff agreed that Orange’s ‘Orange Wednesdays’ still comes out on top when compared with the other networks’ offerings.
One Carphone Warehouse staffer tells Mobile: ‘Orange Wednesdays is by far the most popular reward scheme. It is such a good scheme that other operators will find it difficult to match it. Orange Wednesdays appeals to 95% of the UK because everyone loves going to the cinema and everyone loves pizza.’
He adds that O2’s Priority Tickets reward scheme ‘isn’t as popular because it just appeals to a small part of the UK that enjoys gigs, concerts and sporting events. It’s a very niche market’.
A Phones 4u staffer says: ‘T-Mobile’s half price weekend and Vodafone’s VIP gained a bit more publicity because of the adverts but they still struggle to rival Orange Wednesdays.’
The operators’ failure to capitalise on their loyalty schemes to further boost handset sales was also noted by store staff, who claim that good mobile reward schemes often help them close contract and pay-as-you-go deals on the shop floor.
A Carphone Warehouse staffer tells Mobile: ‘It’s a shame that there are not better rewards on offer. They act like a little sweetener that we give customers to help close the deal.’
One T-Mobile staffer adds: ‘It helps close a deal. Some customers even choose a BlackBerry Bold because it comes with six months free internet. We promote our reward schemes in store but they could possibly benefit from more adverting like O2 Priority or Orange Wednesdays.’
Retail staff say that contract customers are particularly interested in the rewards schemes and benefits on offer to them when upgrading their phones.
An Orange staffer says: ‘We usually push the rewards schemes with all customers, although there is a higher concentration on contract rather than pay-as-you-go customers. They want to know what they will get out of it apart from a new phone and a monthly bill.’
Staff also point out that even though most consumers are aware of current reward schemes, operators need to optimise their programmes and what they have to offer.
The Analysys Mason study reveals that earning points for a guaranteed prize and reward schemes that offer occasional high value gifts were most appealing to consumers.
One Orange staffer agrees. He says: ‘It is very important that better reward schemes become available to customers across all networks. It is an essential part of our customer service process as better rewards motivate consumers to remain loyal to the network.’
A Phones 4u staffer adds: ‘Operators need to incentivise reward schemes more. Customers would benefit from better offers, like free top-up vouchers or early upgrades for contract users maybe. If it’s something that they really want, they will sign up.’
Key operator loyalty schemes
O2 – O2 Priority tickets
O2 Priority offers O2 customers the chance to be the first to get tickets for gigs, festivals, sporting events and live events at O2 venues across the UK
Good Customers can get tickets up to 48 hours before they go on general release.
Bad The offer will only appeal to customers who attend live events.
Vodafone – Vodafone VIP ticketing
Vodafone customers can get tickets into some of the season’s hottest events such as fashion shows, festivals and Formula 1
Good Customers can win tickets and also get exclusive discounts for various events and high street offers.
Bad Winners are chosen at random, so there is no guarantee that customers will get the tickets that they want.
Orange – Orange Wednesdays
Orange customers can get 2-for-1 on cinema tickets and at Pizza Express
Good The 2-for-1 discount is available for any film, at any cinema, at any time, every Wednesday.
Bad Customers need a discount code to get the cinema or pizza discount. There is a charge of 35p for Text tickets.
T-Mobile – Night In movie offer with Blockbuster
Customers can rent a movie and a game or two movies for two nights and some snacks for just £5
Good The offer is available to T-Mobile customers every week.
Bad Customers need to be a Blockbuster member for the discount to apply. The offer is only available from Monday to Thursday.
Virgin Media – V Festival Early Bird offer
Virgin customers can get tickets to the V Festival before they go on sale to the general public
Good Gives customers the chance to purchase up to four tickets before they go on general sale.
Bad The offer won’t appeal to customers who are not music fans.
No loyalty scheme as yet